Wine from the northernmost region of Burgandy, called Chablis, has effectively altered my opinion of Chardonnays forever, and Domaine des Malandes is leading the charge.
What comes to mind when you picture your standard California Chard? If I was to attribute human characteristics to it, I’d probably describe it as a well overweight, bit too loud, and extremely social person trying to sit beside you on the bus. Sure, they might not be intending to cause you discomfort, but their very presence is just a bit too much. Flabby, overripe and over-oaked Californian Chardonnays really embody this personification.
On the other hand, Chablis, which is also made with Chardonnay grapes, is a very different person. Instead, I picture a cool, reserved intellectual, permanently overdressed, likely smoking a cigarette. While not necessarily as approachable as the California Chard, Chablis has a bit more mystery to it; a bit more intrigue. And, undoubtedly, I’d rather sit beside this person on the bus.
Domaine des Malandes Chablis is a wonderful example. I picked up the 2011 for just over $20, and in my opinion this is a steal. While Malandes is considered a lower tier Chablis, I found it a nearly flawless, albeit fairly simple, drinking experience.
The Domaine des Malandes is a very pale, straw yellow, possessing absolute clarity. I had it decently chilled, and rarely have I witnessed something that looks more refreshing than a crystal glass, dripping condensation, containing delicious chilled Chablis Chardonnay. It smelled nearly as wonderful, with notes of cantaloupe, lemon zest, hazelnut, and even a metallic steeliness, which sounds odd, but is actually quite invigorating and interesting.
An old survival trick is to suck on a stone if your thirsty. The saliva produced is said to help quench your thirst, temporarily easing the pains of dehydration. While this trick has been largely discredited (I mean, the stone doesn’t ACTUALLY hydrate you), drinking the Domaine des Malandes Chablis might be the next best thing. Aside from flavours of citrus, and fresh cut grass and a bright acidity, this Chablis also has the unique characteristic of possessing a taste quite evocative of wet limestone. The stoniness adds a cool, mineral-like quality to the wine, which only augments its refreshing nature.
All in all, this was no flabby Chardonnay. No, this was a whip thin, highly keen, and seriously reserved wine that took a minute to adjust to. But when I shook off the preconceived notions I had about Chard, this Chablis became a most interesting beverage indeed. On a hot summers day, it’s going to be tempting to put back a bottle of Domaine des Malandes all by yourself. While I can’t advise against this (without being a hypocrite) I most definitely recommend you sip it slow. You’re not going to want to miss a hint of wonderful stone from this intellectual Chablis.