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by Fred McMillin
for May 2, 2000

 

Black and White


Prologue

Black-robed Benedictine monks were granted land at Chablis in 867 A.D. by King Charles the Bald.

White-robed Cistercian monks buy the land from the Benedictines about 1110 A.D., and are said to have introduced Chardonnay vines to Chablis.

1904—J. Moreau purchases "the first vineyard in Chablis cultivated by monks back in the 1l00s." It is 100% Chardonnay.


The Rest of the Story

J. Moreau & Fils, Chablis, France So, you can't get closer to Chardonnay origins than purchasing a Chablis by J. Moreau et Fils. "Et Fils" means "and Sons"; there were plenty of them. Dijon barrelmaker Jean Joseph Moreau married Olympe Ducard, daughter of a vinegrower. In 1814 he founded J. Moreau, today the oldest of all Chablis producers. Successive generations, the fils, kept buying vineyards, so that Moreau's 173 acres is the most held by any Chablis firm today.


What Wine to Try?

Three million years ago Chablis was covered with sea water and oyster shells. Today the salt water is gone but the fossilized oyster shells remain, contibuting a flinty tang to Chablis Chardonnay. Furthermore, the region is dangerously near climates too cold to reliably ripen grapes. Low temperatures = high acids = tartness. Last, Moreau does not use oak with Chablis; they both cold-ferment and store in stainless steel so you taste Chardonnay, not wood. All of this means we are talking crisp, not California vanilla-spice- toasty Chardonnay. Since it's different, let's not start with the most expensive category. Instead, listen to this expert...

Terry Robarts in the Wine Enthusiast: Petit Chablis, although the lowest in the four Chablis quality tiers, "offers superb bargains at less than $15." He was talking about the 1996 vintage. Today's wine is a 1998...meant to be drunk young with your favorite fish dish.


Wine of the Day

1998 Petit Chablis, $12
J. Moreau & Fils, Chablis, France, (pictured)
Importer—Boisset, U.S.A.
Composition—100% Chardonnay; no oak contact
Contact—Lisa Heisinger in San Francisco, Ph. (415) 979-0630, FAX (415) 979-0305, e-mail: lisah@boissetusa.com


Postscript

Another endorsement of the Petit tier. Critic Hugh Johnson notes that the Paris cafe trade is very happy with Petit Chablis.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created May 2000

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