Best White Wine Region Profile: France´s Chablis
The “Golden Gate” (Port d´Or) of Bourgogne (Burgundy), the Chablis region lies 112 miles from Paris and offers one of France´s (and the world´s) most famous white wines. Chablis is synonymous age-worthy but very fresh white wines, as intense as they are fine. Historically this French wine par-excellence gained its international reputation with the English; it is also one of the best sellers across the English Channel. Today you can buy this white wine easily online in the USA! White Burgundy wines with exceptional qualities, Chablis wines are made from a single grape variety, Chardonnay. There are four appellations you will see on Chablis labels: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. These are distinguished by precisely delimited production areas as well as specific wine growing conditions. The higher you go in the hierarchy—Premier Cru and Grand Cru--the greater the requirements and quality.
Why is Chablis perhaps the world´s finest white wine region?
Chablis wines are dry white wines distinguished by their purity, freshness, finesse and minerality. The Chardonnay grape expresses itself in Chablis like nowhere else. It draws its personality and character from the 150-million-year-old subsoil and matures in ideal conditions, in a semi-continental climate, achieving a perfect balance between richness in sugar, acidity, and freshness.
Today, the Chablis vineyards contain around 5800 hectares. In 1955, after the phylloxera crisis of the 19th century that ravaged French vineyards, followed by two world wars, Chablis only had 550 ha of vines remaining! That said, even today not all the appellation area has been replanted: the demarcated area covers 6,800 hectares spread along the Serein valley, the river that crosses the vineyard from south to north before flowing into the Yonne.
The volumes produced have evolved in line with the increase in surface area, with variations linked to the vagaries of the weather. Between 2017 and 2021, the harvest was just over 279,202hL on average, the equivalent of 37.2 million bottles. Modern Chablis can trace its roots back to the 12th century. The monks of the nearby Abbey of Pontigny spread cultivation of the Chardonnay grape variety at this time.
The Chablis vineyards only produce dry, aromatic white wines made from the single grape variety of Chardonnay, which expresses itself in different ways depending on its exposure and soil composition. A recognized appellation (AOC) since 1938, the Chablis wine region, between Auxerre and Tonnerre, includes 20 municipalities and villages. Chablis is in the northernmost part of the bigger wine region of Bourgogne (Burgundy). The region is cool, though the vineyards have good sun exposure and receive shelter from the wind. Chablis soils are mainly composed of limestone and marl, along a large valley formed by local rivers dating back thousands of years. The white limestone soils resemble those of nearby Champagne. The region and the terroir allow the production of wines with exceptional qualities. They are above all very fine wines, fresh, pure, and with great mineral expression, a rarity that you will not find anywhere else.
Is Petit Chablis the Same as Chablis AOC?
Petit Chablis is its own appellation. It is the most recent appellation of the four in the Chablis region and represents 18% its wine production. The region of the Petit Chablis denomination is located on both sides of the Serein valley on the highest part of hill land and at the beginning of the plateau. It features a hard, brown limestone soil or, occasionally, sandy soils, generally between 230 and 280 meters above sea level, with different sun exposures. A full-fledged Chardonnay, Petit Chablis is, in fact, not “small” at all in terms of flavor and aroma! A pale gold colored wine, with silver or green reflections, is has characteristic aromas of white flowers (hawthorn or acacia) mixed with citrus notes (grapefruit and lemon) on a mineral background. On the palate it is a very light wine with a good balance of acidity and alcohol. It is a wine to be enjoyed young; it does not need to age to be pleasant to drink, though a wine with two years of age is ideal. To sample this white wine for purchase online, try the 2019 Domaine Vincent Dampt Petit Chablis.
Is Regular Chablis a Good White Wine?
Although the pinnacle of expression is in the Premier and Grand Cru wines, Chablis AOC wines are extremely good, full of complex aromas and flavors that differ substantially from, say, most California Chardonnay wines. Chablis is the denomination of Burgundy located between the two banks of the Serein and which extends over twenty municipalities. This is the majority production of the vineyard and represents more than 64% of all the wines produced. Chablis is a very dry white wine, of perfect finesse with a very light color, pale gold or green gold and emerald or gray reflections. With a very fresh perfume, the wine has aromas of flint, lemon, green apple, accompanied by a scented touch of undergrowth and mushrooms. On the palate, its aromas maintain their freshness and purity for a long time. Dry and perfectly fine, Chablis has a unique and easily identifiable personality. During aging, the color of the white wine turns golden and its spicy aromas are accentuated. It has a storage time that varies between 3 and 5 years.
What are the Higher End Chablis Wines?
Chablis Premier Cru is a village appellation produced in the communes of Beines, Chablis, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Chichée, Courgis, Fleys, Fontenay-Près-Chablis, Fyé, Maligny, Milly and Poinchy. Today 40 Climats (named vineyard plots) can be associated on the label with Chablis Premier Cru, but there are just 17 main or flagship Climats.
The different Climats have their own typicality and character, depending on the soil and the exposure; they are finely structured and long in the mouth. From the most mineral, closed in its youth, to the most floral, which develops aromas of finesse and subtlety, the Climats of Chablis Premier Cru enchant the palate. Beneath a pale gold color, the nose does not immediately express its full potential. It needs a bit of aeration; Premier Cru is a wine that benefits from ageing, sometimes 5 to 10 years. To sample a Premier Cru, consider the 2019 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent.
Chablis Grand Cru is the king of the hill. The Chablis Grand Cru appellation possesses seven Climats: Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, Vaudésir.
Grand Cru wines are produced mainly in the village of Chablis, but also in Fyé and Poinchy.
Pure gold-green when young, these great white wines evolve towards light yellow with age. This wine keeps well (10 to 15 years, sometimes more) and the flavors mature with age. On the nose, the mineral aromas (flint, gunflint) are intense, giving way to linden, dried fruit, honey, and almond notes, even fresh wild mushrooms. On the palate, the balance is perfect between freshness and body with all the charm of an inimitable and authentic wine. Grand Cru wines are the most beautiful jewels in the crown of Chablis, rich in nuances expressed through the distinct Climats. Bottle Barn offers a few Grand Crus online, including the 2019 Patrick Piuze Bougros Chablis Grand Cru.
Written By: - Charlie Leary
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