Why chablis is one of the most coveted wines in the world

Many drinkers are confused about the difference between chablis and chardonnay.
Many drinkers are confused about the difference between chablis and chardonnay. Photo: iStock

Why everyone is drinking the increasingly coveted white out of France.

As international wine goes, chablis is up there with the most coveted in the world. It's as famous as the Kardashians but with way more class.

What is chablis?

Many of us are drawn to chablis when we spot it on a wine menu (such is its reputational pull) but what and where is it?

A bit like champagne, chablis is a specific geographical area in France, part of what we also know as burgundy. Only the wines from this area can be called chablis.

But wait, there's more. Chablis must be made from the chardonnay grape which lends itself to dry-style wines; sometimes rich but always dry.

The chalky sensation and unique minerality means chablis speaks of place, in the deepest sense of the term.

Crown Cellar & Co sommelier Matt Brooke serves the good stuff in Melbourne and is often asked whether there are any differences between chablis and chardonnay.

"White wines from the region of Chablis must be made using the chardonnay grape, so they're one and the same really," Brooke says.

"The French just don't list the grape variety on the label. There, you're supposed to know what grows where and tell by understanding the label terminology. It's much easier in Australia."

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Best food pairings

As food pairings go, Brooke looks to the sea. "Chablis has a unique soil type that makes it special," he says. "It is composed mostly of fossilised oyster shell, making oysters a classic food match. Being chardonnay, it can lend itself to all sorts of food, like fresh seafood, but my favourite is roast chicken."

The chalky sensation and unique minerality means this wine speaks of place, in the deepest sense of the term. Chablis is known as particularly good value for a drop out of Burgundy but the increased popularity is reflected in price.

Where to find chablis

The best place to find them is on wine lists in France but if your thirst is more immediate, there's a decent treasure hunt to be had on local turf. Most restaurants worth their salt these days pour it by the glass (thanks Coravin).

"Many restaurants have at least a small representation from Chablis these days," Brooke says. "The best selection I've found are at Nobu and Bistro Guillaume [both in Sydney and Melbourne]."

Local spots

In Melbourne, The Lucas Group has an amazing cellar that goes back many years. Society (Collins Street) has an impressive offering, as does The European. Further afield is France Soir (South Yarra). Meanwhile, in Sydney, Merivale Group restaurants are a sure bet. Try Felix, Mr. Wong and Mimi's. Sommelier Nick Hildebrandt also makes sure Bentley Restaurant + Bar, Monopole and Cirrus are well-stocked.

Independent wine stores are also a great place to start, as are online retailers. Online retailer Different Drop is currently slinging a "Chablis Level Up Pack", which delivers a variety of three chablis to your door. At $170 for a three-pack, it's a steal. See differentdrop.com

Pro tip Keep your eyes peeled for Domaine William Fèvre drops. "They have some very nice holdings from Petit Chablis through to Grand Cru with a few different vintages currently on offer," says Tim Evans, national business manager, Imported Wines for Negociants Australia. Find it at: negociants.com