For value, think Chablis

France would be the last place most wine enthusiasts would look for great value in wine. The staggering cost of many of the most familiar estates in Bordeaux casts a mighty shadow over the entire French wine business.

The problem with that narrative? It's simply not true. Here in the northernmost village of Burgundy, where the cool climate renders anything but white wine commercially useless, the chardonnay grape is the only game in town.

It produces a white wine, Chablis, that has exceptional complexity, the ability to improve with age and prices that haven't followed the path of its neighbors farther south in the Cote d'Or. It is a white Burgundy that delivers very high quality and just about anyone can afford.

To be sure, there is a hierarchy within Chablis. Vineyards designated grand cru are at the top, followed by premier cru, AOC Chablis and petit Chablis. There is value in all of the classifications compared with the white Burgundies of the Cote de Beaune. The greatest values, however, rest in the wines of AOC Chablis, otherwise known as village Chablis, and petit Chablis.

Retail prices for these wines in the United States typically range from $15 to $25 depending upon the producer and the vintage. The only wine districts of France north of Chablis are Champagne and Alsace.

Grown in the clay soils of this cool region, Chablis is higher in acidity than the chardonnay-based wines of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and the other white-wine zones farther south, in the Cote de Beaune.

The result is a dry, leaner style of chardonnay that is often described as flinty, stony or steely, and expresses exceptional minerality. They are seldom said to be fruity. The village Chablis and petit Chablis wines are typically made unoaked, fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled without oak-barrel aging.

What's most fascinating is that the two lower tiers, Chablis and petit Chablis, are held to very high standards and remarkably good. I recently spent a day in Chablis during the weeklong Grands Jours de Bourgogne, tasting dozens of Chablis from the two lower tiers. The following notes are my recommendations for Chablis and petit Chablis that represent the greatest value.

Caves Jean et Sebastien Dauvissat 

2016 AOC Chablis -- one of the richest from the vintage that has superb minerality. A+

Domaine Agnes et Didier Dauvissat 

2016 petit Chablis -- loads of minerality, very clean. B+

2016 AOC Chablis -- lovely notes of wet stone and flint. A

Domaine Alain Geoffroy 

2016 petit Chablis -- This house lands on the crunchy green apple side of the aroma/flavor spectrum. B

2016 AOC Chablis -- Like the petit Chablis, there is a dominant note of green apple. B

Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils 

2017 AOC Chablis -- This tank sample shows excellent potential with loads of green apple. B+

Domaine Drouhin Vaudon 

2016 AOC Chablis -- attractive flintiness and some crunchy green apple. A-

Domaine Jean Collet et Fils 

2016 AOC Chablis -- shows a note of brioche and a gentle touch of minerality. A

Domaine Jean Dauvissat Pere et Fils 

2015 AOC Chablis -- The extra year in the bottle doesn't hurt. It has excellent minerality with exciting tension. A+

2015 Chablis Heritage -- warm and generous on the palate, with a note of flinty minerality. A

Domaine Long-Depaquit-Maison Albert Bichot 

2016 AOC Chablis -- right in the wheelhouse of flinty minerality. A

Domaine Moreau et Fille 

2015 petit Chablis -- contains a lovely floral note. B+

2015 AOC Chablis -- well-balanced and inviting with a strong note of green apple. A-

Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fevre 

2017 AOC Chablis -- very young, and it tastes it. It's lean with a note of wet stone. B+

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard 

2017 AOC Chablis -- notes of wet stone and crunchy apple. B+

J. Moreau 

2016 AOC Chablis -- has a smokey, flinty character with a hint of slate. A

Maison Louis Jadot 

2016 petit Chablis -- nicely balanced with good minerality and a note of crunchy apple. B+

2016 AOC Chablis -- wet stone, minerals and green apple. A-

Maison Simonnet-Febvre

2016 petit Chablis -- flinty and mineral-driven. A-

2017 AOC Chablis -- notable wet-stone character with green apple. A

Pascal Bouchard 

2016 petit Chablis -- flinty with a note of green apple. B+

2016 AOC Chablis -- flinty with excellent minerality and wet-stone character. A

William Fevre 

2016 AOC Chablis -- a beautiful balance between richness and minerality. A+