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24 September 2016 Posted by 


Greatest vintage of the last 20 years

By Darren Harris

HUNTER River Chablis. If you are as old as I am you may remember this (as well as glorious Hunter River Riesling and White Burgundy) made by Lindemans in the 1960s and 1970s.

But they all had one thing in common. They were not made from the classic grape varieties that spawned their names. Times have changed and now protectionism and labelling laws require wine labelling to be accurate.

Chablis is, of course, a wine region in France. Here the grape variety is Chardonnay, not Semillon that made up most of Lindeman’s Hunter whites of yesteryear.

Chablis is at the northern extremity of the fabled Burgundy region of France, not too far south of Paris.

It is a charming town whose vineyards date back almost a millennium with the Cistercian Monks of Pontigny Abbey thought to have planted the first Chardonnay grapes in the 12th century.

The wines are known for their fresh, mineral, saline palate often with mouth puckering acidity in their youth. That makes them the perfect wine to match with oysters.

But when they age, Chablis can take on a new dimension finding a honeycomb and nutty richness that marries well with seafood like scallops and lobster.

The 2014 Chablis have started arriving in Australia and I can tell you it is an outstanding vintage. Many are saying the best of our lifetime.

It is certainly a classic vintage full of the mineral and citrus characters that make Chablis such a wonderful food wine. The acidity is quite high adding a lip-smacking saline freshness that is hard to resist.

Chablis has three levels. Villages are the generic wines of the region. These wines are 100% Chardonnay and can be a blend from different sites within the region.

Premier Crus are the next level up. There are 17 different which can be further broken down into smaller groups.

These vineyards are the mainstay of Chablis. Their location is on the lower hills and each site produces a wine of slightly different style depending on the aspect, slope and microclimate.

Premier Crus can only be form a single vineyard and aficionados can recognize the style of each vineyard from vintage to vintage.

At the top of the tree are the Grand Crus. There are 8 Grand Crus and these occupy a crown of land on the high hills on the right bank of the Serein River.

These are wines of depth, concentration and power. Once again they are all 100% Chardonnay and all from a single vineyard. The most famous is Le Clos – a wine of serious power and ageing potential.

Normally, serious Chablis drinkers gravitate to the Grand Crus but 2014 is such a terrific vintage that the Premier Crus are really where I find the sweet spot.

The wines are mostly in the $45-$65 range and for thaat you get a stunning bottle with almost a thousand years of history behind it!

You’d have to try hard to go wrong in 2014 but a few makers producing hard-to-find and  exceptional wines are Domaine Collet, Domaine Alain Geoffroy and Vignobles Dampt.

All three have a range of Chablis vineyards with several different Premier Crus to allow you to taste and compare.

I’d suggest you try two different wines side by side to really get an idea of what Chablis is all about. With summer around the corner now is a great time to stock up.

What you don’t drink this summer will age gracefully in the cellar for at least a decade.

Darren Harris is managing director of Grand Millesime, specialist importers of fine French Wine.





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