I’ve been fascinated with Chablis. So when the French #Winophiles chose this region as our focus this month I was on board. (You can scroll to the bottom for links to the pieces by my colleagues). Jill Barth of L’Occasion is our leader on our journey into this beautiful and delicious region.
In Chablis, they make Chardonnay that is oh so different from the butter bombs of California. Chablis is bright and sharp and energetic. The geography and the soils have much to do with this.
Chablis is considered part of Bourgogne, but it actually sits closer to Champagne than the Côte de Noirs, the Northern part of the main region of Bourgogne. There is but one grape that shines here and that grape is Chardonnay.
This non-aromatic grape is grown around the world and comes in many styles. It can be rich and ripe from warmer regions or leaner and more angular from cooler regions. Winemakers can leave an imprint on these wines, choosing to pick earlier or later, or using Stainless Steel or oak for fermenting.
Malolactic fermentation is often used to provide a softness and lees stirring can add texture. Aging in oak can further add flavors. Chardonnay is a malleable grape for making wine.
Here in Chablis, it is something special. The cooler climate so far North in France combined with the unique soil make steely Chardonnays that vibrate with energy.
Spring Frosts in Chablis
These wines are special, but even more so this year. Bourgogne has been hit hard with frost this year and vignerons are still waiting to see what they will have as far as crops. Jill Barth did a recent piece for Forbes detailing the difficulties in the region.
The photos on Instagram of all the vineyards filled with candles (large cans of burning paraffin), were beautiful and eerie. The candles are lit to keep the air moving so that the frost will not settle on the vines.
These issues are directly tied to climate change. The frost comes at about the same time each year. In April, growers all around the Northern Hemisphere hold their breath and have sleepless nights watching the temperature and rushing to the vineyards to use whatever methods they have to keep frost from the vines.
How does climate change tie in, if the frosts are at the same time each year? Well things warm up sooner in the spring and vines don’t care about the calendar, they care about the temperature, when it gets warm enough, they bud out.
Those fragile buds and tiny shoots are coming out earlier and earlier, so when the frost comes in April, they are very susceptible to damage.
Jill spoke with Julien Brocard at Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis who said that the frost destroyed on average 80% of the crop. They will have to see how the secondary buds do.
Setting the candles takes manpower and is expensive, so most of the vineyards focused on their Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, so the Chablis and Petit Chablis likely will see the most damage.
Quick overview on Chablis
There are 4 levels of classification for quality in Chablis. These are based on the location, including soils, altitude, and aspect, with Grand Cru being the highest quality classification
- Petit Chablis
- Chablis Premier Cru
- Chablis Grand Cru
Our wine was a Premier Cru which you can see in the orange color on the map.
The soil here is Kimmeridgian Marl. It is a chalky white soil, the same soil as the White Cliffs of Dover. This soil dates back 150 million years. It is a sedimentary rock that alternates with limestone.
Vau de Vey
There are 47 “Climats” in Chablis.
“A Climate is an area which, due to its physical and weather characteristics, is particularly advantageous with regard to winegrowing” (Chablis-wines.com The Climates of Chablis)
These can be named on the wine label.
The specific Climat that this wine comes from is Vau de Vey. Located between Poinchy and Milly, his climat sits on the left bank of the Serein River. Vau de Vey has south and east exposure so it gets the morning sun, which is less harsh than the afternoon sun. Because of this and the north wind that comes down the valley, it is considered a cool Climat and the grapes need more time to ripen.
Hillsides are extremely steep and the sub-soil is a thick layer of Kimmeridgian marl. Wines from this Climat tend to be pure and restrained.
Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard
Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard has been making wine in Chablis since 1973. In 1997 this family Estate began farming an 11-hectare plot in Chablis organically and biodynamically. They were one of the first in Bourgogne.
Today they have 60 hectares that are certified organic and 40 biodynamic. This is not to be taken lightly. In this region, biodynamic farming is difficult due to the climate.
The ammonite on the label is a natural spiral a symbol of life force and a sign of their commitment to healthy agriculture.
Jean-Marc started with a hectare of vines from his father-in-law. His knowledge and respect for this craft is due to the wisdom imparted by Louis Petit, who was a vigneron in St-Cyr les Colons. Louis Petit taught Jean-Marc respect for nature and the balance of old traditions and modern methods.
Julien Brocard, Jean-Marc’s son now runs the company, in addition to having his own label.
Jean-Marc Brocard 2018 Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey
When we first tasted this wine, there was something on the nose, possibly from a little reduction. It opened up beautifully with lemon peel, dried flowers, unripe peach, lemon, chalk, and wet stone. It has a soft finish.
As I sipped this Chablis I realize that the 2021 vintage will likely be small and bottles will be more expensive with supply and demand. So I savor this glass and we prepared an elegant pairing to do the wine justice.
Seared Scallops on butternut apple cider puree with a fennel apple salad
Our dish was based on a recipe from Tasting Table.
I have a fear of butternut squash. Not eating them, but cutting them. Usually, I relegate this job to Michael, but on this occasion, I toughed it out, reviewing a YouTube video on how to cut butternut squash. A sharp knife, a sharp vegetable peeler and I made short work of this squash! Perhaps, I have conquered this fear.
The recipe calls for scooping out the seeds and the pulp and roasting them to make a topping. Garlic, onions, ginger, and shallot cook in butter then the cubed squash is added with apple cider and a bunch of fresh sage and thyme. When it is cooked, the thyme and sage are tossed and the rest goes in the food processor to puree. This is the base of our dish.
The salad is thinly sliced fennel and julienned green apple with lemon juice salt and pepper.
In between the two, you have seared scallops, and the dish is topped with the toasted pulp and seeds, ground up in a spice grinder. It’s beautiful and delicious and paired wonderfully with the Chablis.
Of course, I can’t go without something green on my plate so I roasted green beans and broccoli rabe in butter and garlic for a side dish.
We sipped and savored the Chablis with dinner, then retired to the shade of the backyard to finish enjoying this bottle. I hope that there will be some 2021 vintage to taste, but I fear, there is not likely to be much.
The French #Winophiles
In the meantime, we can savor the descriptions of the various Chablis that my fellow wine writers have tasted and paired this month. If you are reading this in time, join us on Saturday, May 15th at 8 am Pacific Time as we chat about Chablis on Twitter. Use and follow the hashtag #Winophiles to join the conversation.
Find a bottle of Chablis and have a read of the other wonderful pieces by my fellow French #Winophiles.
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing gives us All Things #PureChablis with an Assortment of Seafood Snacks’ by Chinese Food and Wine Pairings
- Camilla looks at The Dual Role of Chablis: Cut Through or Complement the Richness of a Dish + Gougères at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen makes A Poke Quartet Paired with a Duo of Chablis
- Jeff at Food Wine Click will be Remembering a Walk in Chablis over Dinner
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass is Keeping it simple with #pureChablis
- Chablis and Grilled Shrimp; Summertime must be near for Wendy at A Day In the Life On the Farm
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares The Singularity of Chablis.
- Scallops with Pesto and Chablis are in the kitchen with David at Cooking Chat
- Jane is Tasting Chablis: Food and Wine Pairings over at Always Ravenous
- Nicole at the Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Aged Drouhin Vaudon Grand Cru Chablis with Swordfish Sandwiches
- Rupal the Syrah Queen explores The Elegance of Chablis – Pure Terroir, Pure Joy, Pure Chablis
- The Sea in Chablis and the Tragedy of Premox #Winophiles is the topic at Wine Predator with Gwendolyn
- Terri at Our Good Life declares Let’s Talk About Chablis.
- Jill our leader this month at L’Occasion, will give you the scoop on Here’s How I Know It’s Chablis
Creamy subtly sweet butternut squash puree with bright but warm flavors of apple cider topped with buttery seared scallop a fresh crunchy bright salad of fennel and green apple then topped with a savory powder of roasted butternut squash seeds and bright fresh fennel fronds. This is delicious with a beautiful Chablis! We paired it with a Vau de Vey 2018 from Jean-Marc Brocard.
This was inspired and adjusted by a recipe by Tasting Table
- 1 small butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ cup of butter
- 1 onion (yellow or white) roughly chopped
- 1 shallot (finely chopped)
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons of fresh sliced ginger
- 2 cups of apple cider (or unfiltered apple juice)
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh sage
- 1 bulb of fennel (can be called fresh anise)
- 1 green apple (granny smith)
- ½ lemon juiced
- 6 to 8 large scallops
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300° F
- Peel and cut your butternut squash in half (top to bottom)
- Scoop out the seeds and pulp
- Spread on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast 25-30 minutes.
- While that is in the oven, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
- Melt ¼ cup of butter (4 tablespoons) in a medium-sized pot.
- Add the onion, shallot, ginger, and garlic and cook over medium heat to soften (5 minutes)
- Add the cubed squash, apple cider or juice, and your thyme and sage (I tied the thyme and sage together). Cook until tender (15-20 minutes)
- By now your seeds are cool. Put the dried seeds and pulp in a spice grinder (I used my coffee grinder) and pulse to a coarse mixture. Set aside
- Pull out the herbs and toss them.
- Put the rest into the food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and put back in the pot over low heat to keep warm.
- Core and finely slice the fennel (maybe with a mandoline). Reserve the fronds for garnish.
- Peel, core, and julienne the green apple. Toss these together with the juice of ½ a lemon, salt, and pepper. Cover with a wet paper towel to keep this from browning and set aside.
- This is the time to prep your plating. Get your plates out have the salad close by and your seed mixture.
- Now to the scallops. Heat a skillet with olive oil and a bit of butter. Cook the scallops for 3 minute on the first side. Turn and baste with the butter and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Place a pool of the squash purée on the plate (or in the bowl) top with a scallop (or if you are like me 3), make a small pile of the salad on top, then sprinkle with the seed and pulp mixture and garnish with fennel fronds.
- Serve immediately!
Amount Per Serving Calories 275Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 48mgSodium 301mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 3gSugar 13gProtein 5g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Sometimes you need a quick flavorful green side dish. This will do the trick. The broccoli rabe and beans are vivid green and so delicious with the extra roasted flavor.
This recipe was inspired and adjusted from one from Robin Miller Cooks!
- ½ lb fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1 bunch of broccoli rabe, trimmed
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 tbs garlic minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat or foil
- Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil
- Add the beans and broccoli and boil for two minutes.
- Return the pot to medium heat and the butter and melt.
- Add the garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds (avoid browning)
- Toss the veggies back in and toss to coat.
- Spread on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper
- Roast 5 minutes.
Amount Per Serving Calories 54Total Fat 4gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 10mgSodium 88mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 2gSugar 1gProtein 1g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.