Chablis Wine

chablis wine - white wines

Wine naming conventions can be confusing, especially when the wine goes by a growing region and not a grape.

Chablis (shah-blee) wines are made from 100% Chardonnay grapes in north-central France. Chablis is a dry white wine with high acid, green apple and citrus notes. Chablis is typically unoaked with a mineral quality making it distinct from other Chardonnays. Pair Chablis with grilled seafood, salads, or creamy cheeses. 

Here’s what you need to know about Chablis.

What Is Chablis Wine?

Chablis is a white Chardonnay wine made in north-central France. Nestled in the valley of the River Serein, Chablis the town is world famous for making 100% Chardonnay wines that carry the same name: Chablis.

The northerly latitude makes grape growing here challenging, and most vineyards will face south in an effort to capture the sun’s rays and help ripen the grapes. 

By regulation, all wines that have the name ‘Chablis’ on the label are 100% Chardonnay.

Most of these Chardonnays have higher acid, crunchy green fruit, and citrus notes, true expressions of the cool growing environment. 

Chablis wines rarely use oak aging, meaning that they don’t have warm spice, nutmeg, or vanilla aromas or flavors. This no-oak approach is customary in Chablis Chardonnays.

Is Chablis the Same as Chardonnay?

what does chardonnay taste like - chardonnay wine infographic - chablis wine

Technically, Chablis and Chardonnay are the same. Chardonnay, however, comes in two distinctive styles: 1) full-bodied with rich oak, and 2) linear, crisp white wines with no oak.

Chablis falls in the second category of Chardonnay wine styles.

If you enjoy buttery, rich Chardonnays, then Chablis won’t appeal to you.

If you enjoy structured, high acid wines with zippy citrus and green apple, then Chablis is the perfect wine. 

Tip: Check out this helpful post on why your wine tastes like butter, a common tasting note in Chardonnay.

Are Chardonnay and Chablis Similar?

chablis swirling - chablis wine

Cool climate Chardonnays, for example, Chardonnay grown in Mendocino County or the Finger Lakes region, will taste similar to Chablis.

Chablis won’t taste like these Chardonnays from warmer regions.

As a grape, Chardonnay’s wine profile reflects the growing environment. Warmer vineyard locations, for example, Monterey, California, make Chardonnays with ripe yellow peach or even tropical pineapple.

Helpful Tip: Go check out the full post on Chardonnay wines here.

Is Chablis the Same as White Burgundy?

Despite being geographically separate, the vineyards of Chablis are still part of Burgundy, so Chablis is a white Burgundy wine.

Most wine enthusiasts in the wine world simply refer to Chablis as Chablis, not white Burgundy.

This is because if you see the name ‘Chablis’ on the label, you immediately know what the wine style is going to be: a linear, high acid, citrus fruit driven dry white wine.

Do They Still Make Chablis Wine?

white wine poured - chablis wine

Yes, they still make Chablis. Chablis is a well-known and widely distributed white Chardonnay wine. You can find Chablis wines at any specialty wine shop.

Today, there are some 4,800 hectares of grapevines planted in Chablis, France.

This is down from a peak of 40,000 hectares of vines in the 1800s.

The amount of wine made each year varies considerably depending on the growing season. Frost is a significant problem in the region and can damage vines and reduce overall yields.

What Makes Chablis So Special?

Chablis is special because the wine has stayed true to its origins as a 100% pure Chardonnay wine.

No other grapes are permitted in Chablis Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). The grapes struggle in a marginal growing climate, producing crystalline wines with a steely edge. Chablis embodies a sharp elegance in your glass.

Is Chablis the Same as Sauvignon Blanc?

CharacteristicsChablisSauvignon Blanc
HuePale gold to greenish-yellowPale yellow to light green
AromasGreen apple, lemon, flintCitrus, green apple, herbal
Alcohol (%)12-13%12-13%
BodyLight to mediumLight to medium
Key Growing RegionsChablis, Burgundy (France)Loire Valley (France), Marlborough (New Zealand), California (USA)
Classic PairingsOysters, seafood, grilled fishSeafood, salads, light pasta
Price Range$20-$60$10-$30

Chablis and Sauvignon Blanc aren’t the same. They are two different wines made from different grapes. Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grown in the northern most region of Burgundy and makes steely, high acid white wines.

Sauvignon Blanc, also a white grape, isn’t grown in Chablis, but does make high acid, aromatic white wines.

In France, Sauvignon Blanc is more often associated with wines from the Loire Valley. Both grapes are grown in famous wine producing regions around the world.

What Is Sauvignon Blanc?

chablis white wine - white wine on a table
Attribution: New Zealand Wines

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape grown around the world. Sauvignon Blanc makes aromatic white wines that have citrus, stone fruit, grass, or herbal notes. In cooler growing regions, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be more herbaceous with gooseberry.

In warmer growing regions, Sauvignon Blanc bursts with tropical fruit, namely passion fruit and papaya. 

Tip: You’ll probably find Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand on your wine menu or in your local shop. Check out this post on why Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is so good and here’s a complete wine guide on Sauvignon Blanc if you’re just getting started.

Is Chablis Similar to Riesling?

HuePale gold to greenish-yellowPale to medium yellow
AromasGreen apple, lemon, flintCitrus, peach, floral
SweetnessDryRange from dry to sweet
Alcohol (%)12-13%8-13%
BodyLight to mediumLight to full
IntensityModerateModerate to high
Key Growing RegionsChablis, Burgundy (France)Germany, Alsace (France), Australia, United States
Classic PairingsOysters, seafood, grilled fishSpicy cuisine, Asian dishes, pork
Price Range$20-$60$10-$40

Chablis and Riesling do share similarities but are very different wines. Both are high acid white wines, but Chablis is less aromatic than Riesling with dominant lemon, lime, grapefruit, and mineral flinty flavors.

Riesling wines are much more aromatic than Chablis, with citrus, jasmine perfume, and petrol notes. 

Tip: Here’s a post on everything you need to know about Riesling wines.

Is Chenin Blanc Like Chablis?

Chenin Blanc is different from Chablis. Chenin Blanc has less acid than Chablis, and is more aromatic with riper fruits like pear, apple, pineapple, and quince.

Chenin Blanc has more body than Chablis.

Chablis will feel lighter and more acidic in your mouth compared to Chenin Blanc.

Chablis wines dominate with citrus and mineral notes and will be less aromatic compared to Chenin Blanc.

Chablis is always a dry wine. Chenin Blanc can have a little sweetness to it.

Tip: Check out this post on how to tell if your wine is sweet.

Is Champagne Similar to Chablis?

Champagne and Chablis are both high acid wines, however they taste very different. Champagne is a sparkling wine; Chablis is a still wine.

Champagne has biscuit, brioche, and yeasty notes from its winemaking process.

Chablis will only have pure fruit notes like lemon, green apple, and minerality.  Everyday Champagne wines will be more expensive than everyday Chablis wines due to Champagne’s involved winemaking and aging requirements.

Is Chablis Wine Cheap?

Compared to other white Burgandy wines, Chablis can seem cheap. You can find deliciously drinkable Chablis wines for $25 – $50 USD. Expect to pay much more for Premier Cru Chablis wines, around $80 USD per bottle. Grand Cru Chablis wines will cost over $120 USD bottle. 

What Can You Substitute for Chablis Wine?

You can substitute Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio for Chablis wine. If you’re trying to pair a wine for a wine tasting event, then choose a Chardonnay wine made with stainless steel.

If you can’t find a Chardonnay made with stainless steel, pick a Pinot Grigio wine.

Pinot Grigio has similar citrus and green apple notes and is almost always made using stainless steel and no oak, similar to Chablis.

What Foods Pair with Chablis Wine?

chablis wine - fish and chips

Chablis’ high acid will cut through grease and fat in food. Salty foods will help tame the wine’s acidity. Chablis brings freshness to your meal, so treat it as a companion to help balance out rich, savory foods.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about wine pairing and Chablis:

  • Grilled vegetables with olive oil
  • Creamy cheese
  • Fried chicken and french fries
  • Fish and chips
  • Grilled salmon
  • Dark-leafed salad with toasted nuts
  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Fried rice
  • Spring rolls

Helpful Tip: If you’re just getting started out with wine, I put together this helpful overview of food with wine pairing to get you started. Side note – I spend just as much time thinking about food with wine pairing as I do deciding what I’m going to eat every night. Utter hedonism. What can I say?

Thirsty for More?

Love light white wines? Here are other light, dry whites you should be drinking.

Here’s a list of appetizers that are perfect for your white wine tasting.

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