Chablis: This small area in northern Burgundy hasn't had a bad vintage since 1978. But in recent years, chablis, the real thing (which has nothing to do with low- priced blends of the same name from the United States and other non-European countries) has been overlooked by our trade. With reason. The delicate, light-bodied wines became too expensive. Now the prices of other chardonnays, the only grape variety permitted for chablis, have crept up to or overtaken them and the chablis are some of our best buys.
Jean Durup of Ch.ateau de Maligny, president of the federation of Chablis winegrowers, says the '82 vintage is a large crop of exceptional quality. Alcohol levels were above the norm, but there was enough acidity to make wines of true "chablis character." Prices should remain about the same.
When a California chardonnay is just too powerful or a macon doesn't have quite enough finesse, try a chablis. Prices range from $5 to $15, depending on the appellation and on the grower-shipper. The more specific the site, the higher the price: from straight "chablis" to "premier cru" to a top-ranked "grand cru."
The '81 Chablis, Jean Collet, $8 at Mayflower, is a fine example of a lighter-style chablis. In a fuller, softer style, there's the '81 Chablis Bougros (Grand Cru), Michel Robin, shipped by Michel Nathan, $13.50. Real chablis are well-bred wines; don't overchill them.
Alsace: It delights this Alsace lover that the wines of Alsace at last are getting the attention they deserve here. On one particularly happy day recently, I enjoyed a lunch that was eaten along with the wines of Jerome Lorentz, a small producer in Bergheim. Then we had a marvelous tasting-dinner at La Colline, where the wines of Alsace Willm, of Barr in the Bas Rhin, were matched with regional foods: duck liver, trout with a sauce of morels, and chicken poached in riesling.
By Alsace standards, Lorentz's wines are distinctive and full-flavored, not for the fainthearted. The '76 Riesling, Kanzlerberg, Cuv,ee Reserv,ee, $10, with its rich nose, is a powerful, lively, medium-dry wine. A '76 Gewurztraminer of Jerome Lorentz, $12, is full and spicy, whereas the '76 Gewurztraminer of Gustave Lorentz (same family, different vineyard), $12, is crisper and more delicate. All are available at Schneider's and Pearson's. Look for Lorentz's '81 Sylvaner and '81 Pinot Blanc this summer. Both cost $5.
Alsace Willm is an exception to the rule that the best Alsace wines come from the Haut Rhin province. One highlight of the tasting-dinner was the '76 Kirchberg, Riesling, $10, a lively wine with a typically earthy nose. Another standout was the '76 Clos Gaensbroennel, Gewurztraminer, $15, Willm's hallmark that is rich, intense, yet finishing dry. For an inexpensive light wine, try the pinot blanc, Cordon d'Alsace, $4.50. Keep on Talking: WETA and the Wine Institute of California again invite us to drink wine, listen to minstrels and madrigals and support the worthy cause of good radio. This year's benefit-tasting will be at the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City, May 15, from 3 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $12, advance sales only. Write to WETA, Box 2626, Washington, D.C. 20013. California's Good News II: Robert Mondavi, one of the 30 participants in the WETA tasting, has lowered the price of the '81 Fum,e Blanc to $10. Mondavi is the winery that made sauvignon blanc marketable by naming it "fum,e". A large harvest in '82 and a new labor-saving press are reasons given for the welcome decrease in price. Always a safe bet on wine lists, it should be more popular than ever.