The French have seen better days, and its wine industry is in a bit of a pickle too. There’s plenty of industrial alcohol being made out of vins de table that previously found a market for human consumption. Taken by surprise by the quality of New World wines and overly dependent on EU subsidies, not all French winemakers do their best to create great product.
However, some Appellations are small enough to force better winemaking based on the price of agricultural land. At just 5,000 acres, Chablis in Burgundy is one such area. Tesco’s Finest Chablis Cuvee Claude Dominique promises a lot more than plonk. Being a Tesco own label it’s made from a blend of wines from throughout the region.
It comes in a screw-capped bottle, perfectly sensible and a move being heavily driven by UK supermarkets rather than French producers. The wine is pale, bright and lemon green. It smells fresh and clean with a hint of minerality, there’s an unusual green almost nettle and lemon scent, which will come as a surprise to lovers of big oaky New World Chardonnay.
It’s bone dry with a crisp acidity. It’s tannin free, as it’s seen no oak. This wine has been more carefully protected from oxidation than Maris Crane
. It has lemons and some steely minerality, but not as much as I’d hoped for. For a wine labelled ‘Finest’, this is a little thinner that I’d have expected.
At 12.5% alcohol it’s drinkable with and without food, and the alcohol balances well with the acidity.
Tesco are perhaps misleading their customers by calling this ‘Finest’, as well as doing themselves out of sales. Their ‘Finest Premier Cru Chablis’ is a much better wine, their finest Chablis if you will.
This is Tesco’s quite good Chablis, much better than many of their wines, with just a hint of how could it could be, but when you know the Premier Cru exists, this is a little disappointing and unsatisfying. Rather like comparing the current French team with that of 1998.