Chablis tells left from right

Chablis showed that a single grape variety does not mean a single style at an event designed to highlight the difference between the region’s right and left banks.

Photo credit: BIVB/GESVRES J.

Photo credit: BIVB/GESVRES J.

The showcase formed part of “Bourgogne Week”, a new initiative by the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) to tie in with the surge of Burgundy trade tastings held in London during January to present the region’s 2013 vintage.

“We wanted to make an event about Chablis here because it’s a huge market for us but a difficult market – prices are not as high as we want,” commented Françoise Roure, marketing & communication manager for the BIVB.

As for the focus on this distinction between the region’s right and left banks, Roure told the drinks business: “Chablis is very easy to understand – one grape and one colour – but the wines can be fruity, stoney, flinty or flowery. That’s why Chablis is magical. We want people to understand the differences and the versatility of Chablis.”

Outlining the main differences between the right and left banks of the Serein river, Sébastien Gay, export manager for Jean-Marc Brocard, explained: “The left bank sees the sun in the morning; it’s colder and windier. On the right bank where the grands crus are located, these are all fully south or south-west facing.”

However, he pointed to the “16 valleys, 40 climats and 79 lieux-dits” within Chablis to emphasise the additional influences that can exist even before any winemaking approach is factored in.

On this subject, Gay picked out one common vinification distinction between the two banks, saying: “Most of the left bank, certainly us, will use stainless steel.”

However, even here the difference was not clear cut. Xavier Ritton, export manager for La Chablisienne, offered two notable examples of exceptions to this rule, observing: “Domaine Francois Raveneau in Montmains uses oak and Domaine Louis Michel is on the Montée de Tonnerre but uses 100% stainless steel.”

Despite this warning of generalising too much, Ritton echoed the broad distinctions offered by Gay. In particular he highlighted the tendency for wines from the predominantly south-east facing slopes of the left bank to be “sharper with big purity and very straight.”

While acknowledging the scope for similar purity on the right bank, Ritton suggested that these wines, which include all of Chablis’ grands crus, “have more volume and opulence.”

For wider comment about the Chablis region’s most recent 2013 and 2014 vintages, click here.

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