It was our last day in bourgogne and we were heading to the Loire Valley to discover the wines of the Tourrain area. So in an unusual cold day for June and surprisingly after a heat wave which characterized our first few days in Bourgogne we decided to stop for a couple of hours in Chablis to taste its version of Chardonnay and to visit its famous Gran Cru vineyards.
As though it were enough to elaborate a slightly dry white wine using special vines in order to create a Chablis\ Land closely bordered by the banks of the Serein is needed; with «beaunois» plants and selected Chardonnay; great care needs to be taken in the pruning, ripening, harvesting and wine-making, the main mysteries of which ten generations of wine-growers are onìy barely able to control. Young Chablis is a crystal green colour and still tastes of grapes; when aged it changes to a clear gold colour with the addition of strong harmonies.
The Confraternity of the «Piliers Chablisiens» holds its assembly on the fourth Sunday of November. It has the confidence of the strong and will do nothing to contest the discovery of other wines from the Yonne area; dry, rich whites from the Chitry and Saint-Pris area; deep, scented reds from around Irancy and Coulanges-la-Vineuse. The Confraternity knows the rarity of its treasure: an average of ten million bottles per year... Here you will make another discovery: a great white wine from Burgundy should be served cool. This means at cellar temperature and not ruined by that loathsome modern invention, the ice bucket.
The northernmost subregion of Burgundy, Chablis sits like an isolated island far north of the Côte d’Or and the rest of Burgundy. In fact, the vineyards of Chablis are closer to Champagne, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, than they are to the rest of Burgundy, more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) away. This far north, Chablis’s harsh, wet, and very cold temperatures are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, and frosts in both spring and fall shorten the growing season. The wines, not surprisingly, are so crisp and racy that they vibrate with spring-loaded acidity.
While Chablis was justifiably famous in the late nineteenth century (its proximity to Paris ensured its reputation as a brasserie favorite), the wine is perhaps less well known today. The area, which suffered tremendously during the phylloxera crisis, had a difficult time regaining financial stability, and with the establishment of France’s major railway systems, cheaper, heartier wines were easily shipped north, weakening Chablis’s position even further. That said, the 2000s saw a resurgence of its popularity, perhaps because the minerally, steely flavors, exuberant freshness, and kinetic feel of Chablis are wholly different from chardonnay made anywhere else in the world, and thus the wine has, in a commercial sense, little competition. The French often call the unique flavors of a good Chablis goût de pierre à fusil—gunflint. When, with a great Premier or Grand Cru Chablis, these gunflint flavors are spliced by edgy minerality, the effect can be sensational. Most Chablis are made entirely in stainless steel to preserve the purity of their flavors. Some domaines ferment in stainless steel but go on to briefly age their Chablis in small, used oak barrels in order to deepen the wine’s flavors. Still other producers (a small number) barrel ferment their Chablis, especially their Grands Crus, which are thought to be intense enough to stand up to the oak’s impact.
Chablis vineyards are located on the slopes of the Serein River Valley; the Grand Auxerrois vineyards are located around the towns of Auxerre, Tonnerre, Vezelay, and Joigny. The vineyards of the Chatillonnais are to the east of Chablis. Chablis's continental climate is influenced by the Atlantic. The landscape is flat and winds sweep inland along the plains. This brings cloud cover which lowers temperatures and slows the ripening process. This results in the high acid wines with a reserved aromatic profile we have already mentioned.
This maritime influence impacts weather patterns in the spring and in fall. Frosts bookend the growmg season, shortening its length.
Spring frosts kill tender shoots and lower pelds, frosts in the autumn result in leaf fall (The leaves fall from the vines and the vines are no longer productive photosynthetically).
The Grand Cru and Premier Cru vinevards of Chablis are situated on Kimmeridgean marl. This sedimentary soil is a special kind of limestone-rich clay formed 160 million years ago and conveys a high-tensile strength and racy edge to its wines. The wines are almost "electric".
The vineyards of the Chablis AOC and Pedt Chablis AOC are situated on Portlandian marl. This sedimenrarv soil formed 140 to 150 million years ago. This soil crafts high acid whites with more broad, less-chiseled flavors than its Kimmeridgean counterpart.
Chablis has numerous Premier Crus and one Grand Cru—a magnificent sweeping hillside of Kimmeridgian limestone and marl covering 247 acres (100 hectares). Somewhat confusingly, the Grand Cru is known by the seven contiguous parcels—climats—situated along the hillside (leading some to imagine there are seven Grands Crus). These parcels are Blanchot, Bougros, Grenouilles, Les Clos, Les Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. A bottle of Grand Cru Chablis will list one of these names on the label along with the words “Chablis Grand Cru.”.
Bougros (crafts an easy-to-approach Chablis with well-balanced fruit and minerality)
Les Clos (crafts lean wines that need bottle age to develop maximum flavor)
Grenouilles (crafts complex, multi-faceted Chablis) Blanchot (crafts powerful, rich Chablis)
Les Preuses (crafts age-worthy wines of intense minerality)
Valmur (crafts rich wines with intense minerality) Vaudésir (crafts powerful, rich Chablis with ripe fruit)
I will publish the proper tasting notes when I will taste the wines purchased in the area.
As we left , we headed to Tours in the Loire Valley.. we knew that 2.5 hours of drive were in front of us.. and looking at the sky with very dark clouds .. the weather wouldn’t cooperate. To the next blog covering the Loire Valley during our amazing journey.