Grand Chablis Tasting At Lucques

Chablis Premier Cru, Domaine Seguinot-Bordet

Recently, I was fortunate to attend an extraordinary Chablis wine pairing dinner at renowned Los Angeles French restaurant Lucques hosted by Pure Chablis and Jean-François Bordet, the current President of the Chablis Wine Board (and legacy winemaker at Domaine Séguinot-Bordet). Guests relished a unique tasting tour through the region’s various levels paired with James Beard award winner Executive Chef Suzanne Goins’ sublime seasonal French/Mediterranean cuisine.

A wine lover with borderline oenophilia in its strictest sense – in other words I don’t consider myself an aficionado or connoisseur who follows strict traditions of consumption and appreciation. (I never follow strict traditions of anything, actually.) Rather I enjoy expanding my knowledge of the wines of the world and savoring food and wine pairings casually, at home or when dining out, as well as at more formal wine pairing dinners. So, to have this opportunity to talk with a respected winemaker and experience in depth one of the great wines of France was incredible.

Chablis Tasting Dinner, Lucques

The evening began with a Domaine des Malandes Chablis 2011 and moved on to William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2011, Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2010, and Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010.  We completed our tasting journey with a La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2009  and Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis Grand Cru Vaudeséir 2009.

Care to test your knowledge of Chablis? The Pure Chablis website is a wealth of information on everything Chablis beginning with the basics like: Chablis is one grape (or varietal) – Chardonnay.

Chablis, Chardonnay grapes

Like champagne, Chablis wines are from only one region in France – northern Bourgogne (Burgundy). Chablis is the exemplar of the unoaked Chardonnay style: chalky, flinty, crisp and focused. Not all producers in Chablis are strict stainless steel devotees—some allow their top wines to spend time in neutral oak barrels or vats. Overall, they are dry white wines characterized by their purity, crispness, sophistication and minerality. The Chardonnay varietal gives results in Chablis unlike anywhere else in the world. It draws its personality and character from Kimmeridgian marl limestone (characterized by tiny fossilized oyster shells), a subsoil that is 150 million years old, and ripens in ideal conditions of the semi-continental climate resulting in a good balance between sugar levels and acidity.

Chablis dinner, Lucques


Part of the confusion with Chablis, especially in the U.S., is the erroneous use of the name Chablis and the difference in French labeling. France does not label by varietal as we do here – therefore their wines, Chablis and otherwise, do not read Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.

how to read a french wine labelThe U.S. market ranks 5th in Chablis consumption following the U.K., France, Belgium, and Germany and is a very important market for Chablis wines. The Chablis region maintains a Appellation D’Origine Controllee system (AOC) with four classifications: Petit ChablisChablisPremier Cru, and Grand Cru. The first two are broader in nature; while the second two consist of specific climats- or micro-terroirs. Petit Chablis and Chablis represent 75% of exports to the U.S. and Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru 25% of exports.

The Pure Chablis tasting dinner at Lucques was the last of eight very special epicurean experiences hosted by Pure Chablis whose objective is to strengthen the image of Chablis wines in the U.S. by showcasing how the elegance and purity of these wines contributed to the cuisine of several famous chefs. Proof and Marcel in D.C. and Bouchon and Lucques in LA provided a rare opportunity to enjoy a culinary experience uniquely featuring hand-selected Chablis wines and I was honored to be in attendance.

Lucques Collage

The Domaine des Malandes Chablis 2011 displayed a classic Chablis nose features notes of green fruit, oyster shell and citrus hints and paired beautifully with Lucques Asian Pear and Autumn Grape salad with arugula, St. Agur cheese and toasted walnuts and the Kampachi Crudo with carrot purée, green harissa and pomegranate salsa. Domaine des Malandes is a family estate combining traditional winemaking (notably, female winemaker Guénolé Breteaudeau) with the best modern equipment. (Suggested retail: $18)

When matching food with Chablis, consider the age, vintage and degree of oak influence, if any. Young, lively, crisp Petite Chablis and Chablis are ideal for enjoying as an aperitif, with seafood or oysters and simply cooked shellfish dishes such as spaghetti alla vongole or moules marinières, fish and chips, escargot, and seafood saladsIt is also a wonderful partner for grilled white fish or roast chicken.

But that’s not all! This unique wine can be enjoyed young, aged two or three years, with fish or fowl terrines (especially the jellied terrines of French cuisine) or with grilled or poached fish. But also with asparagus – a tough dish to match with a wine – or with world cuisine, tandoori or other curry dishes. Chablis is also a perfect balancing act with the melting texture and subtle flavor of sushi. The depth of a Chablis enhances Swiss cheese, aged goat cheese, Beaufort, Comté, Emmental, vintage Cheddar, Gougères and other crisp, cheesy nibbles, and charcuterie.

Next, accompanying Lucques Pancetta-Wrapped Halibut with green cabbage, chestnuts, and grape verjus was the William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2011: rated between 90 and 94, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar declared it “Hardly your typical 2011, this one boasts near-grand cru intensity.” Aromas of lime, mint and crushed stone, distinctly mineral and soil-driven; youthfully tight but dense too, with a long finish. (Suggested retail: $45)

Food pairings with 2-3 year aged Premier Cru which are a bit more intense: fish and seafood in cream based sauces, vegetable based soups, fish stews, goat cheese, sushi and sashimi, goat cheese and aged cheeses. Those with more minerality are delicious with poultry dishes or veal in white sauce. The more open crus are wonderful as an accompaniment to andouillettes (local Chablis sausages) or escargot.

Guests took home a bottle of the Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2011 whose assertiveness and strong minerality was a heavenly match for the savory richness of roasted turkey, cornbread mushroom stuffing, sweet potatoes and chipotle cranberry sauce that was our Thanksgiving dinner! I highly recommend you step out of your comfort zone during the holidays and energize your palate with a lively Chablis.

William Feve Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2011

A full bodied Premier Cru would be a perfect match for ham (such as the local specialty ham in Chablis, Parma ham or, in the U.S. –  Virginia ham) or the full flavors of Lucques’ Pork Scaloppini with sweet potato, dandelion, crushed pepitas, dates and mascarpone that was our third course. Which brings me to my favorite Chablis of the evening – the Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010. (suggested retail $35)

Located in the far north corner of Chablis near the hamlet of Maligny, this is the oldest continually operating winery (since 1590!) in Chablis and the domaine of Jean-François Bordet’s family where he is the 13th generation winemaker. Interestingly, he practiced winemaking in Michigan – learning about Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. When he returned home in 1998,  he became the youngest winemaker in Chablis accompanied by his grandfather who was the oldest.

Jean-Francois Bordet, Chablis Premie Cru Fourchaume 2010Winemaker Jean- François Bordet, Domaine Séguinot-Bordet (right)

The Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010 is a classic Chablis – elegant and intense with fresh aroma of tropical fruits, a palate of restrained citrus and stone fruit balanced by a slatey minerality, and a long, lingering finish. The famous Fourchaume vineyard, which is considered by many to be the finest of all the Premier Cru locations as it is effectively an extension of the great Grand Cru vineyards.

A resplendent evening spent amidst the twinkling lights and greenery of Lucques romantic patio drew to a close with two Grand Crus:  La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2009 and Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis Grand Cru Vaudeséir 2009 paired with a cheese course and dessert. (Suggested retail: $59 and $54 respectively).

Renowned worldwide, the “Chablis Grands Crus” are known by winel overs everywhere as the kings of the appellation. Coming exclusively from the right bank of the Serein River, the vineyards make up a complete ensemble of 100 hectares (240 acres) most of which have a south-west aspect. Chablis Grands Crus are well formed and complete with an affirmed character that is enhanced with time. Before really opening out they need five to eight years of aging and can keep remarkably well. La Chablisienne harvests and vinifies six of the seven Grands Crus, each of which has its own different personality: Bougros: lively and mineral, Les Preuses: with breed and length, Vaudésir: fleshy and big, Les Clos: dry and mineral, Blanchot: supple and aromatic, Grenouilles: elegant and fruity. {Source: Mad Wine}

If you stuck with me through this lengthier-than-usual post, thank you! And Pure Chablis and the winemakers of the renowned Chablis viniculture thank you as well. If you are a novice vinophile, I hope this information contributed to your knowledge of Chablis. I began my wine education in college (and not just drinking it 😉 ) and continued with wine tasting excursions and classes such as “Wines of the World” at UCI (University of Irvine, Continued Education Dept.) which I highly recommend – it was educational and fun and we actually tasted 9-10 wines at each class meeting. And, of course, keep trying new wines – why drink the same, albeit tried & true varietals and vineyards, when there are so many great wines and not enough time!


2 Responses to “Grand Chablis Tasting At Lucques”

  1. Kim - Liv Life December 23 at 6:01 pm #

    Excellent info indeed…! I know next to nothing about wine, other than yes, I like it or no, I don’t. Envious of your day, what an experience!

  2. Ally's Kitchen December 24 at 10:20 am #

    I must say, pretty girl, I’m like you…I’m totally in love w/the taste and feel of wine on my palate, however as for the knowledge of it and the real ‘sophisticated’ stuff…I’m clueless!! Your day was magical, I know, and you’re way ahead of me in knowing some of the spiffy stuff!! Merry Christmas!! xo

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