What color is Chablis
Interesting facts about wine from Chablis - Chablis wine-growing region
Viticulture in the Chablis area in Burgundy
The city of Chablis gives the famous wine-growing region in Burgundy its name. The cultivation area is north and clearly separated by the Morvan Mountains from the other cultivation areas of Bourgogne in the department of Yonne. This means that the Chablis appellation is much closer to Champagne than the other growing areas in Burgundy, such as the Côte de Beaune or the Côte de Nuits.
The white Chardonnay variety is cultivated on the limestone slopes of the region on a total area of over 4500 hectares. The wine that is pressed here is green-golden in color and fruity, mineral in taste; its refreshing acidity makes it particularly lively.
Although Chablis is undoubtedly one of the most famous wine-growing regions in France, the region was not doing well in the middle of the 20th century. In 1961, the growing area had almost completely disappeared, as a large part of the vines was destroyed by late frosts - a danger that the winemakers in Chablis are still struggling with today.
In the meantime the situation has calmed down again, investments have been made in vineyards and wine cellars in many places, so that today many very good Chardonnays from this part of Burgundy can be found on the market again.
Climate and soil in this part of Burgundy
The climate in this part of Burgundy is largely continental. Winter is long and cold, but usually quite dry. There is a risk of late spring frosts, which can occur well into May. In May, as in October, there is often heavy rainfall. The summer is relatively short, but sometimes there can be very high temperatures.
The subsoil on which the vines thrive in the Chablis wine-growing region consists of limestone, which, depending on the location, comes to the surface with varying intensity. In the best locations, the limestone is rich in fossil remains and alternates in layers with marl.
Denominations of origin and appellations in Chablis
In the Chablis wine-growing region there are four quality levels, each of which is assigned appellations. The subdivision of the levels is based on the different soil structures and microclimatic conditions.
Chablis Grand Cru
There are seven Grand Cru sites in Chablis, which represent the top quality of the region and cover a total area of around 100 hectares. The vineyards are named Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Les Grenouilles, Les Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir. These individual layers are all located on a hillside on the right bank of the Serein, a little north of the town of Chablis.
Chablis Premier Cru
There are a total of 40 Premier Cru vineyards in this part of Bourgogne. Wines of this quality level can therefore either use the name of one of these individual layers on the label or the name of one of the so-called layer groups. The best and most famous Premier Crus in Chablis include Fourchaume, Forêt, Montée de Tonnerre and Vaillons.
This quality level accounts for a total of around 750 hectares of vineyards in 15 wine-growing communities.
The area in which medium-quality wine can be produced is very large at around 3000 hectares. The locations are often on slopes facing north or east, which is not ideal. Nevertheless, in good years, remarkable wines can be produced that live up to the name Chablis. The indication of individual layers on the label is not permitted.
This quality level accounts for around 60% of all wines made in the region, which underlines their importance.
This is the lowest quality level in this part of Burgundy. A total of 1,800 hectares of vineyards are shown on which Petit Chablis can be grown. However, only about 600 hectares are actually used. The wine is quite acidic and does not have a long shelf life than the wines of the higher quality levels.
It is currently being considered whether the name, which has a somewhat belittling effect, should be changed or this quality level should be completely abolished.
Chablis - Land of Chardonnay
Without a doubt, Chardonnay is THE grape variety in Chablis, all wines that come on the market under the various denominations of origin associated with the name Chablis must be made from precisely this white grape variety.
However, the winemakers are allowed to market their wines under the regional appellations of Burgundy, such as Bourgogne or Cremant de Bourgogne, to name just two common variants. In this case, it is permissible to forego Chardonnay and instead use the grape varieties Aligoté, César, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Sacy and Tressot. Of course, these varieties are only cultivated to a limited extent, since a Chablis can be marketed much better just because of its name.
A look into the history of viticulture
Already at the time of the Gauls, in the 2nd century BC. the place Chablis was settled. Viticulture then came to Burgundy through the Romans. At that time, however, viticulture around Chablis could only be described as modest.
This should only change under the influence of the monasteries. Not far from the municipality of Chablis, a Cistercian abbey was established in 1114. The local monks soon cultivated several hectares of vineyards and built a wine cellar that still exists today.
At the beginning of the 14th century a survey was carried out which showed that 500 hectares of vineyards were cultivated in Chablis. The wine produced here was not only drunk on site, but also transported to Paris by ship.
Large parts of the vineyards were destroyed by the Huguenot Wars in the 16th century, but this should not lead to a decline in viticulture in Chablis. Viticulture recovered relatively quickly and quickly gained in importance, mainly due to its proximity to Paris.
The French Revolution also brought about drastic changes in viticulture. If the wine market was previously largely controlled by the nobility and clergy, this supremacy has now been broken and land ownership has been redistributed. The result was an extreme fragmentation of the agricultural land, including the vineyards.
However, this did not result in any disadvantages for viticulture in Chablis. Problems arose from the middle of the 19th century, when the railroad conquered France more and more and the transport of wine from more distant growing areas to Paris was made easier. In addition, there was powdery mildew and phylloxera, which hit the winemakers in Chablis heavily. Later the two world wars followed, which brought with them political unrest, caused poor harvests and made it difficult to sell the wines.
In 1958 there were only 224 hectares under vines in Chablis. And this area was to be further decimated by devastating frosts in the following years.
But in the 1960s, attempts were made to combat this danger and move the region forward again. Ovens and windmills for heat distribution were set up in the vineyards or the vines were iced up with spray water - in this way it was possible to counter the frost and the vineyards in Chablis grew again. Today there are around 4,500 hectares under vines and Chablis is highly valued all over the world.
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