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Chardonnay Grapes from Chablis, France

Chardonnay Grapes from Chablis, France. Photos courtesy of BIVB/Joël GESVRES

Chablis is located about halfway between Paris and Beaune. It’s proximity to Paris played an important part in it’s history because of how easy it was to transport the desirable wines via the port of Auxerre up to Paris by boat up the Yonne and Seine rivers. The Romans were present in the area and may have been the first to introduce organized growing techniques to Chablis. We can credit the Cistercians starting in the 12th century with developing an advanced system of planting and winemaking techniques and identifying the best terroirs suited for Chablis winemaking.

Chablis is 100% Chardonnay and even though it’s made from the same grape varietal as the white burgundies of the Cote de Beaune, it has a distinctly different quality. In general, it is known for a pure, dry and pleasantly acidic mineral taste and (except for some grand crus) is usually vinified in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels. There are subtle differing qualities present in Chablis as well as each of the 40 Premier Crus and 7 Grand Cru vineyards that occur due to exposure, geologic conditions and winemaking style. The region has quite a chilly spring which both contributes to the exciting freshness of the wine while at the same time frightening the growers due to the threat of frost.

Chablis Terroir: Geology

Chablis vineyard showing exposed Kimmeridgien rock and soil

Chablis vineyard showing exposed Kimmeridgien rock and soil. Photo courtesy of BIVB/Joël GESVRES.

The limestone and clay soil that Chablis grows in is full of tiny fossilized oyster shells and was formed during the upper Jurassic, or Kimmeridgian period when Chablis was under a shallow ocean. It’s not uncommon for vineyard workers to find fossilized Ammonites or Nautiluses, in addition to the smaller oyster shells in the mineral-rich soil.

Chablis Grand Crus

The Grand Cru Chablis vineyards close to the town of Chablis are steeply sloped and and benefit from good southwest facing sun exposure. All 7 grand crus have distinct qualities and are capable of aging a decade or more and you may discover that they are wonderful to drink younger as well. The Grand Crus from southeast to northwest are: Blanchot, Le Clos, Valmur, Grenouilles, Vaudésir, Les Preuses and Bougros. Le Clos is widely known as the best of the Chablis Grand Cru appellation and is known for a complex minerality and rich developed flavors. Below are some very general differences that you may choose to use to decide which Grand Cru Chablis you might enjoy. Blanchot – delicate acidity with lemon and citrus notes. Finesse. Valmur – Elegant almond and stone fruit. Smooth finesse. May be possible to enjoy younger than other grand crus. Grenouilles – Rich, fruity, forceful. Hint of spiciness in some bottlings. Vaudésir – Floral with mineral acidity. Les Preuses – Light fleshiness, citrus minerality. Ages well. Bougros – More powerful fruit, can be fat. Less minerality.

Chablis Grand Gru Vineyards

Chablis Grand Gru Vineyards. Photo courtesy of BIVB/Joël GESVRES.

Maison Dampt is sourcing some of the best Grand Cru Chablis grapes. We recommend trying Maison Dampt 2012 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur.

Inherited from storied Fèvre family vineyards, esteemed winemaker Nathalie Fèvre makes the Marcel et Blanche Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. You can find this beautiful Chablis Grand Cru on the list at Saison San Francisco and Trois Mec in Los Angeles.
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Notable Chablis Premier Crus

Situated right next to the grand crus is the Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent. Officially part of Fourcharme, Vaulorent has it’s own fine qualities that are more similar to a grand cru than Fourcharme. Try Marcel et Blanche 1er Cru Vaulorent to experience the elegance of Chablis Grand Cru at a greater value.

Chablis vineyards planted in rocky Kimmeridgean soil

Chablis vineyards planted in rocky Kimmeridgean soil. Photo courtesy of BIVB/Joël GESVRES.

Côte de Léchet will become more and more celebrated in the years to come. It has great sun exposure and pebble filled soil, making the vines struggle deep to reach nourishment. Look for strong floral minerality with an easy, more honey fruit finish. Domaine Sébastien Dampt makes a fabulous, critically acclaimed Côte de Léchet from inherited Dampt family vineyards planted over 50 years ago.

Les Vaillons has an east-south exposure with rich geologic history. The vines must struggle through quite a deep layer of Kimmeridgian soil full of the typical tiny oyster shells. The wines are known for finesse and minerality and age very well. See what Jancis Robinson says about the Domaine Sébastien Dampt 2012 Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons.

Mont de Milieu Premier Cru is one of our personal favorites. Located on the southern border of the Grand Cru Chablis, the vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Serein, giving southern exposure for excellent ripening. One of the most well known Premier Crus from Chablis, the Marcel et Blanche Fèvre 2013 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu is one of the excellent range of wines produced by the Fèvre family.

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, one of the most noted Chablis Premier crus, originates from vineyards situated on long slopes facing the sunrise, allowing rapid soil warm up. This helps bring maturity to the ripening grapes. Try the Marcel et Blanche Fèvre 2013 Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume to get a sample of the great mineral, fruit forward flavors known to come from Fourchaume.

Chablis Farmers

Hard work in the vineyards.

Exciting Old-Vine Chablis

Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis is also from an older vineyard – 47-year-old vines – and the wine tastes like a combination of white fruits with a discreet touch of lemon. It is fleshy and polished, with a pleasant tangy finish. Find it by the glass at Petit Trois in Los Angeles.

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Domaine Sébastien Dampt

Sébastien Dampt is a rising star in a long family line of vignerons with over 150 years of experience in Chablis. Jancis Robinson named him a Recommended Producer. Tim Atkin listed Sébastien Dampt as a Top 25 Value Producer.

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Marcel et Blanche Fèvre

An homage to Marcel Fèvre (b. 1876) – a visionary who developed the Fèvre estate in Chablis with passion in the vineyards; a philosophy that has been passed down to grandson Gilles Fèvre and noted winemaker Nathalie Fèvre. Tour their facility and vineyards and their work ethic, and passion for perfection is apparent in their wine.

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