What foods pair with Chablis? Lucky for us, this region produces some of the most food friendly wines in the world, so we’ll have a lot of choices that span from seafood, to shellfish and chicken. At a recent tweet-up, I had the privilege to taste through and talk with Charlie Bird’s Chef Ryan Hardy and Wine Director Arvid Rosengren on the intricacies of pairing Chablis with food. This post will offer up some tips to find really great matches, based on the four appelations where Chardonnay grows in the northern Burgundy region.
The region is sub-divided into four appellations within the northern district of Burgundy, and each area produces interesting, delicious, food friendly wines.
Petit Chablis wines are tart and acidic, with citrus flavors. They should be enjoyed cold and drank within a year or two after release. Most of the Chardonnay’s from this region are inexpensive gems that pair perfectly with many different foods—from shellfish to fish and chips, to prawns with garlic and butter. Chicken is also a great option, especially when paired with cream and mustard sauces, because the fresh and lively Chablis will cut through the fat. For this category, we tasted a ’15 La Chablisienne Chablis Pas Si Petit:
2015 La Chablisienne Petit Chablis Pas Si Petit ($15)
This Chardonnay is fresh and lively with traditional apple, lemon, and citrus flavors. It finishes lean and clean, and at $15 a bottle, it’s a great bargain! The quality-to-price ratio (QPR) is off the charts. For this wine, both Chef Ryan Hardy and Wine Director Arvid Rosengren agreed that oysters would make a really great match. And yes, the pairing was a hit!
Chablis, on the other hand, has a bit more minerality and richness, often derived from the chalky soils known as Kimmeridgian. The wines pair well with richer seafood dishes, seared scallops or salmon and halibut, or even veal and chicken dishes served with beurre blanc sauces. For this region, we poured the ’14 Domaine Roland Laventureux Chablis Vauprin:
2014 Domaine Roland Laventureux Chablis “Vauprin” ($26)
Vauprin is a vineyard located in the village of Lignorelles and is one of the highest altitude parcels in Chablis. This small, low yielding plot produced a wine that has a lot going on in the bottle—apple and lemon flavors that finishes long and strong with complex mineral notes.
Chef Hardy paired the wine with classic razor clams served in their shells with fennel fronds and neonata sauce, which consists of icefish, extra-virgin olive oil, and some hot and sweet peppers. The clams are steamed briefly with chile, garlic and white wine, and then tossed with fennel, lemon juice, salt and olive oil.
Razor clams served in their shells with fennel fronds and neonata sauce
Enobytes Chef Marc paired this wine with a simple shrimp and tuna salad, which accentuated the minerality in the wine
Chablis Premier Cru makes up for 14% of the Chablis vineyards. They are known for producing reliable buys that need a little airing and aging before consuming. Aromas are highly complex and are rich in fruit that often consist of lemon, flint and starfruit flavors. Once again, you can’t go wrong with fish or chicken dishes, as well as sausages, ham and snails. Chablis Premier Cru really showcases how versatile this wine is when paired with food. We tried two different wines in this category. The first was a ‘15 Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons:
2015 Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis Premier Cru “Vaillons” ($32)
This is a smooth and clean Premier Cru with luscious quince, almond, apple and mineral notes, finishing with a tinge of bitterness on the end. Lovely! For pairing, we seared some scallops and added a fava bean puree. The apple notes really jumped out of the glass with this pairing.
Chef Marc’s scallops with fava bean puree
Chef Hardy made a wonderful Fluke Crudo with espelette, lime and tangy olive oil. This pairing really accentuated the zesty, almond bitterness in the wine
We tasted a second wine from this appellation, a ’14 William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume:
2014 William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume ($45)
This wine had layers of melon, apple, lemon and spice that danced on a stony, mineral backbone. It’s a spectacular representation of what Chablis is and should be! Buy it, drink it, and love it. We paired this wine with two completely different dishes, both pairing magnificently well. Chef Hardy went for a little neck clam pizza, and Enobytes Chef Marc made grilled halibut served with lightly dressed greens.
Grilled halibut served with lightly dressed greens
Chef Hardy’s little neck pizza combined briny and umami-rich clams with cream and broccoli rabe baked in a 900 degree oven
CHABLIS GRAND CRU
The appellation Chablis Grand Cru is a single entity but divided between seven plots. The vines grow on Marls and Kimmeridgian limestone vineyards, which are located across the Serein River from the village of Chablis. The region produces wines with vitality, and are vastly different in flavors—from fresh and transparent to racy, dense, savory and elegant. Sampling the wines are exciting, because styles differ from producer to producer. Broad culinary applications include simple boiled or grilled lobster to fish or chicken in cream and mushroom sauces, to foie gras, veal and sweetbreads.
For this pairing, we went with a ’14 Jean-Claude Bessin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur and tried three different food preparations: a traditional steamed lobster, a French inspired à la meunière with capers and cauliflower, and a nontraditional dish—an Asian inspired grilled tuna with mango chutney, and Napa cabbage slaw. The Grand Cru wine really shined when paired with the intense Asian flavors, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch. The key was finding a food that could live up to the wines’ vitality. And guess what? Unconventional won this time! Here are the tasting notes and pairings:
2014 Jean-Claude Bessin Chablis Grand Cru, “Valmur” ($54)
Many consider the Valmur vineyard site to represent the best expression of Chardonnay in Chablis, often showcasing steely and dense wines that are made for ageing. This 2014 vintage showcases this expression with beautiful vitality. The citrus plays in unison with delicate mineral notes playing in the background.
Chef Hardy made a beautiful French inspired à la meunière with capers and cauliflower
Traditional steamed lobster is a great match with Grand Cru Chablis. You’ll be thrilled with the pairing
The grilled tuna dish with mango chutney, and Napa cabbage slaw went equally well, playing off the wines’ vitality and mineral notes
The bottom line is to pull some Chablis corks and experiment with pairings. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many combinations work!
Cheers until next time.