The sleepy village of Chablis, about midway between Beaune and Paris, possesses the cool continental climate and fossil-strewn limestone soils that imbue Chardonnay with unique traits not found even in other iterations from the vine’s Burgundian homeland. Within the Chablis growing zone, authorities have delimited the top sites: generally, these are sunny, south-facing slopes and give the most powerful wines. Sites conducive to lighter, earlier-drinking styles take the Petit Chablis designation. For the Lavantureux family, whose mouthwatering wines we have imported for over thirty years, the line is not so clear. An imaginary boundary through the vines divides their Chablis from their Petit Chablis, meaning this humble bottling has the character of a more pedigreed appellation. “Petit” or not, this wine provides bracing refreshment while bearing the mark of its terroir: notes of lime, seashells, white flowers, and an energizing acidity for your apéritif or a shellfish feast.
Les Truffières was the first Kermit Lynch wine I ever tasted, back at Cloverleaf Fine Wine in Royal Oak, Michigan, and it spurred my incredible journey into the world of wine. At the time, I was heavily into craft beer and could hardly discern a Chardonnay from a Sauvignon Blanc, let alone the subtle differences within a wine region. But in that moment, this Chablis taught me the importance of terroir and how wines must be true to their sense of place. As we watch many wines of the world trend toward uniformity, sterility, and safety, Les Truffières seems fearlessly authentic. While its steely minerality and focused acidity are expected in any good Chablis, the subtle hint of black truffle and the waxy texture clearly reveal this wine’s unique sense of place.
Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a domaine by how they spend money. Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent spend their precious euros on labor—skilled workers who harvest their fruit in multiple passes, bunch by bunch, to get each grape at the perfect moment of ripeness. That ain’t cheap. The Vincents can’t command Meursault- or Puligny-level prices for their beautiful, stony Santenay blanc from the premier cru Gravières vineyard, but they make it with that level of quality anyway, and that tells me all I need to know.
The premier cru vineyard straddling the line between Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet in the tiny Hameau (or hamlet) of Blagny boasts a terroir that exhibits the ideal characteristics of both worlds. Warm days and cool nights on the steep, east-facing hillside create the interplay that produces a truly harmonious wine. Chérisey’s offering displays Meursault’s power and richness as well as Puligny’s chiseled flintiness and minerality. Silky-textured, laden with fresh spring acacia blossoms, sea and smoke, and a finish longer than some eighteenth-century novels, it is at once charming and vibrant, supple and velvety: the perfect balance.
Having lived for a year in the town of Mâcon, I am partial to wines from this lesser-known Burgundian region. Wines from the Mâconnais are often overlooked, and whenever I’m defending my uncouth preference, I turn to the wines of Domaine Robert-Denogent to argue my case—to highly pleasing results. Case in point: their Pouilly-Fuissé La Croix. From a vineyard of eighty-year-old vines on blue schist soil comes this complex and chiseled wine with a striking mineral backbone and lush, round body. Bright acidity from the soil, warm suppleness from the sun, and depth of flavor from the old vines—what more can you ask for?
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