There’s good news and bad news about the 2021 vintage in Chablis. The good news is the ’21s are flush with all the qualities that made us fall in love with Chablis in the first place: crisp acidity, loads of stony minerality, and plenty of pleasure. The growing season was long and cool (a rarity these last few years), which did wonders with older vines such as these. Savary’s Vieilles Vignes, with its combination of brightness and depth, is akin to what I imagine Chablis enthusiasts were drinking decades ago. As for the bad news, a devastating frost struck Chablis in April 2021, resulting in the smallest harvest in modern history, so there’s not much, and it won’t be here long.
The Savarys have earned the recognition for their hard work, and are highly regarded in the appellation. The clay-limestone hillsides of the Kimmeridgian chain are excellent for growing dazzling, complex Chardonnay. However ideal the soil, Olivier brings his own brilliance to the table. The grapes from his vineyards throughout the Chablis appellation are blended into one fabulously complex village wine cuvée. He also bottles an extraordinary premier cru from Fourchaume, as well as a separate cuvée of old-vine fruit in heavy, wax-sealed bottles after élévage in demi-muid. These exquisite wines are quintessential Chablis, with unmistakable aromas of ancient crushed shells and a pronounced, racy mineral structure.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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