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The fall colors of gold sweep the Chablis Valley

For the average consumer the idea of a negocient or wine cooperative just fogs over the moment the words are used.

And part of the haze is understandably for sub-par wines. There are exceptions around the world and perhaps one of the leading cooperatives is La Chablisienne, in business since 1923.

Tucki pours Chablis for us to taste

It all started back then during economic hardships. A group of winegrowers decided to partner as a way to sell their wines as a group wholesale to the wine trade. That model didn’t change much until the 1950s when the La Chablisienne leaders decided to make the wine themselves for a consistent style.

La Chablisienne was the final stop of a brief trip to Chablis. Herve’ Tucki is called an Ambassador and shared some of the organizations thoughts on winemaking and the history of the coop.

As with previous stops the discussion revolved around mineralilty and acid. And here comes a side note: One of the things that happens on these press trips is wine journalists have a certain story or angle they are pursuing. A couple of the journalists on this tour were interested in those two oft-discussed topics and it’s highly appropriate in a region like teChablis. Though, the horse did seem to be tiring by the last stop.

But each time I have the opportunity to hear winemakers in any region talk about their craft I gain knowledge if not different perspective.

“La Chablisienne loves minerality. We love acidity,” Tucki said. “We are not afraid to say that and we want to make wines that last a long time. The La Chablisienne approach to making Chablis is very classic.”

Total production runs more than 150,000 cases a year. The discussion opened on oak even before the first pour. For the record, and there is no record on this topic, generally the Petit Chablis and Chablis see no oak and are produced using stainless steel. The Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines see varying percentages of oak barrel aging – and that’s usually older oak which leaves less impression on the wine.

You understand ‘minerality’ if you look at vineyard floor

“Sometimes I don’t understand my colleagues,” Tucki said. “Oak is one way to make wine. I know some very good producers who only oak and sometimes that’s becausee that producer doesn’t have a good way with the oak.”

Now, if that sounds confusing in type, that’s because it probably is. The written word has no intonation particularly from someone who speaks English only as a second language. I interpreted that to clearly mean that some producers just know the old way. The current generation or younger generation of Chablis winemakers have had the benefit of college wine-making educations which have radically changed winemaking in the world world regions.

But what came through at La Chablisienne, as it did at every other stop, is that there are many styles of Chablis. Every slightly different terrior in this beautiful valley, covered in vineyard up and down steep slopes has slightly different terroir.

La Chablisenne, for example, makes two Petit Chablis, five Chablis, thirteen Premier Cru and five Grand Cru wines. Keep in mind what wine educator Erik Szablowski said about terrior. There is only one Grand Cru appelation but it has 7 distinct regions  – Bourgros, Blanchot, Les Clos, Les Preuses, and Vandesir.

French can make their terroir and wine regions confusing but when you are there, see the vineyards and taste the individual wines it all comes into focus.

These are elegant and sophisticated wines which just might be the best white wines in the world, You need to taste a Premier or Grand Cru and judge for yourself. It’s a test worthy taking!

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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