chablis vs chardonnay

Chablis Vs Chardonnay: Terroir, Winemaking, Flavors, Food Pairings

by Vinovest Council

Chablis Vs Chardonnay - how are they different from each other?

Though Chablis is a 100% varietal Chardonnay wine, it differs in winemaking, style, and flavor from a traditional Chardonnay.

But does that mean Chablis is a better choice than Chardonnay? Or is Chardonnay a worthy Chablis substitute?

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions, including what makes Chablis so unique and the four key differences between Chablis and Chardonnay.

Further reading

What is Special About Chardonnays Made in Chablis?

Chablis region of Burgundy

Chablis is a wine region in Burgundy, producing an exceptional varietal white wine from the Chardonnay grape variety. 

There are four appellations in the Burgundy region that produce this French wine: 

  • Chablis
  • Chablis Premier Cru  
  • Chablis Grand Cru 
  • Petit Chablis

Chablis wines are typically unoaked Chardonnay with a distinct salinity, low residual sugar, good minerality, and unique terroir expression.              

Chablis Vs Chardonnay: Main Differences and Similarities


Here are the key differences between Chablis and Chardonnay:

1. Region and Terroir

The Chardonnay white wine grape is greatly influenced by the terroir where it grows. 

The cooler climate in Burgundy produces dry (low residual sugar) wines with high acidity and minerality.

Chablis derives its sophisticated character from the unique Kimmeridgian (gray marl with limestone) soils that can be found in the Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations.   

On the other hand, the Chardonnay wine from warmer vineyard regions is less acidic with enhanced tropical fruit flavors. Chardonnay wines are typically produced in France, North America, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand.

2. Winemaking Practices

Chablis wine is always unoaked. It is fermented exclusively in steel tanks, which enhances the wine’s fruit and earthy nature.

Chardonnay can be both oaked and unoaked but most traditional Chardonnay wines are oaked. A traditional Chardonnay is fermented in an oak barrel and also undergoes malolactic fermentation that lends it a creamy texture.

3. Wine Style and Flavor

Is Chablis sweeter than Chardonnay? 

No. A basic Chablis is a crisp, dry wine with citrus fruit flavors, good acidity, and minerality. It is similar in style to a Chenin Blanc or Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris.)

In contrast, Chardonnay from other regions is heavier, full-bodied toasty wine with apple, melon, peach, and fig flavors, elevated by hints of oak, spice, and hazelnut. It is available in a range of styles, from dry to sweet.

4. Food Pairing

Chablis wine works wonderfully with chicken, quail, trout, seafood, and Asian cuisine. This delicate French wine is also an excellent complement to rich dishes and is an ideal palate cleanser.

The heavier oaked Chardonnay pairs well with grilled meats, roast chicken, cheese, and heavier cream sauces.

Is Chablis Really Better Than Chardonnay?

chablis vs chardonnay

We won’t be able to pick one over the other, really. 

It all depends on your preferences.

The refined texture of a Chablis wine offers a refreshing mouthfeel compared to the denser Chardonnay. So, if a lighter white wine with zesty citrus notes excites you, go for a Chablis. 

But if you prefer the toasty flavors of a traditional white, turn to an oaked Chardonnay like the California Chardonnay.

Can Chardonnay be Substituted for Chablis? Chablis Alternatives

chablis vs chardonnay

The Chablis region is prone to hail and frost, which often adversely affects the Chardonnay grape harvest. This often impacts the production and supply of Chablis wine. 

Because of the limited supply, it’s not always easy to find a Chablis dry white wine bottle. In such cases, you could try other alternatives.

Is Chardonnay a good substitute? 

As the flavor and texture of Chablis and Chardonnay are so distinct, a heavier oaked Chardonnay may not be a good replacement for Chablis. 

Some other worthy alternatives you can try instead are:

Chablis Vs Chardonnay: A Sophisticated White Vs An Oaky, Elegant Wine

chablis vs chardonnay

If you like lighter dry white wine, the citrusy Chablis is a great choice. But if you’re a fan of creamier and more oaky wines - go for a rich Chardonnay at your next dinner party.

And if you’re in search of some investment-worthy Chardonnay, Chablis, and other fine wines, check out the Vinovest website that lets you buy, store, and sell authentic bottles from around the world.

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