Located about 70 miles north of the heart of Burgundy, the Chablis region has a cool climate and chalky soil more like its neighbor region Champagne. Its unique geography helps make Chablis distinct among the Burgundy's great Chardonnay-based whites; where Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet are revered for their lush, oak-edged richness, Chablis has an electric acidity, mouth-watering green apple and citrus flavors and a distinctive minerality.
Unfortunately, many Americans don't associate Chablis with these extraordinarily crisp, flinty wines. Much of the Chablis we encounter isn't Chablis at all, but fat, oak-chipped jug wines produced in California and found at the liquor store on the bottom shelf next to the California "Burgundy" and "Chianti." It's a shame: The real thing is one of the France's most food-friendly whites. Its bright citrus flavors act like a squeeze of lemon on light fish and poultry dishes, and its bracing acidity can cut through richer, cream- and butter-based sauces. Chablis's telltale mineral flavors make it a classic pairing for shellfish-in part, some say, because the chalky soil of the vineyards is loaded with fossilized oyster shells.