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An ABC wine drinker often wears the badge proudly while earning the derision of others. Woe is the wino who shuns Chardonnay in others eyes!Anything But Chardonnay – according to our good friends, often accurate occasionaly way out there, WikipediaAcronym for “Anything but Chardonnay” or “Anything but Cabernet“. A term conceived by Bonny Doon‘s Randall Grahm to denote wine drinkers’ interest in grape varieties.

Guilty as charged! Unoaked Chardonnay can be palatable for my taste but I can hardly choke down the oaky California version of one of the world’s most widely planted grapes. I’ve tried, I’ve failed.

Until …… I visited Chablis. Many will argue Chablis is the greatest white wine in the world! And yes, for the dearly uninformed – you guessed it, Chablis is Chardonnay! But you would hardly recognize her, particularly if your a novice, and no one tipped you off to the cross-dressing vinifera.

Chardonnay becomes an entirely different wine when grown at the very top of Burgundy. The soils, slopes and limestone create a refreshing white wine of depth with crisp acidity and beautiful minerality.

urlI learned such magic during a fall press trip to Chablis and was reminded again this week with a simple $18 bottle of Joseph Drouhin 2011 Vaudon.

For you real geeks here is all you could ever want to know from the good people at Pure Chablis. That’s also one of the best sites you find for all things Chablis.

How does a little minerality and acid change a wine that everyone knows and everyone has probably tasted? It’s the magic of terrior. I remember the aggravated words of Bernard Billaud who said (and I paraphrase) …’if you are talking Chablis it has to be about the minerality and acidity, and if not …. you are just making Chardonnay.’

Chabis icon Bernard Billaud

Chablis icon Bernard Billaud

He spit out the last five words as though he had swallowed some bitter, over-oaked Chard from some far corner of the world.

Now, why the riff on all this. Aaaa, back to the Drouhin, my $18 bottle of France I enjoyed with Chicken Lyon. The dish is essentially braised then baked chicken with lots of garlic in a cream and red wine vinegar sauce.

Drouhin’s Vaudon is aged in old oak barrells and comes from Valley of Vauvillien, nestled between the Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru vineyards. The name “Moulin de Vaudon” comes from the watermill nearby, owned by the Drouhin family and straddling the Serein River. (from Drouhin website).

For you geeky folks there is lemon and lime and restrained minerality and acid. I love it because it’s a finessed wine with a full mouth feel. It is one of the mostly wonderfully round and balanced white wines I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time.

Wine critics and other popular sites consistently rate this wine around 88-90 points. It doesn’t have the two traditional characteristics of mineral and acid to please a purist. But for wine newbies and people looking for great wine under $20, I’d give Drouhin Vaudon a 91-92. I paid $17.99 for the bottle at Kahns, Indianapolis. On the net, I found a price range of $18-$25.

For more on my October 2012 visit to Chablis click here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.