What is a Chablis wine?
A very northern vineyard (150 km below Paris and 150 km above Beaune) and nicknamed the Golden Gate of Burgundy, Chablis is a name with a worldwide reputation which also refers to a style of wine that has been copied all around the world. Fortunately, the Union of Chablis winegrowers and producers introduced the Chablis Certificate of Origin in 1908. This initiative led to the implementation of strict regulations, including the controlled appellations of origin system signed in January 1938. This certification system laid the foundations for a long struggle against the sale of fake Chablis wines, which persisted in some parts of the world until the 21st century. When we talk about Chablis, we are referring to a vineyard that stretches over some twenty kilometres along the banks of the Serein river. The name of this appellation can be traced back to Clovis and its vines were cultivated during Roman times.
What is the difference between Chablis and Chablis Village?
Chablis Village (or simply Chablis) refers to a tier in the hierarchy of Chablis wines. "Chablis" can refer to two different entities: Chablis as a vineyard (or sub-region of Burgundy) and Chablis as an appellation, which is poised behind Chablis Premier Cru and in front of Petit Chablis in the hierarchy of appellations. Indeed, 4 appellations distinguish the wines of Chablis: Petit Chablis, Chablis (Village), Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru.
A terroir with a unique geological formation
Few wines in France express the strong identity of their terroir quite like this white wine from the Burgundy region. Its soil, which gives these wines their unique character, comes from the Jurassic period (150 million years ago) and is divided into two types of soils: Kimmeridgian and Portlandian.
Portlandian refers to a soil with little limestone, which produces fruity, pure wines with a subtle minerality. This soil formation can be found predominantly in the Petit Chablis appellation.
Kimmeridgian offers dense layers of limestone composed of oyster shells which lends a unique and distinctive expression to the wines. Kimmeridgian is inseparable from Chablis Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru.
To qualify as a Chablis Village, the wines must be produced from grapes harvested from vines planted in a specific 3630-hectare area spreading over 21 communes around the village of Chablis. Within this area, some ‘’climats’’ are renowned for their exceptional and unique character and are designated as a Chablis Premier Cru.
Are red wines produced in Chablis?
The specifications of the appellation do not authorise the production of red wine in this part of Burgundy.
A single grape variety, Chardonnay
Chardonnay is the only authorised grape variety to grow in the Chablis Village appellation, just as it is in the three other existing appellations. It is locally called Beaunois.
The profile of the wines
The wines made from Chardonnay in the Village appellation are characterised by their rather light golden colour with green highlights. These wines are famous for their freshness, their tension, some would say their liveliness. Green apple, lemon, flint and even liquorice and freshly-cut hay complete the aromatic bouquet.
Food and wine pairing ideas: what food goes with these Burgundy wines?
Indeed, you can enjoy this type of fresh white wine as an aperitif, especially during the summer season.
With its distinctive tension, pairing seafood and oysters with a Chablis wine will lead to a perfect food and wine pairing experience. Village is home to bold, pure wines that will complement iodized and rich products. Note that a 1er cru or a Grand Cru will not lend themselves as well to seafood as a Chablis village wine.
Umami-packed dishes and ingredients such as asparagus and mature cheeses (Beaufort, Comté, Gruyère, Appenzeller, etc.) will accompany an array of dishes.
Serving temperature and storage
A Chablis Village is best served at a temperature between 10 and 12°C. Below this temperature, the aromatic bouquet and the flavours may be muted, and above this temperature, the unique and pleasant tension will not express itself fully.
Although it is recommended to wait 2-3 years after the vintage to enjoy a well-crafted wine, there is generally no point in letting a Chablis Village wine age.
The importance of the vintage in the region
Unlike the rest of Burgundy, the effect of the vintage is less significant in Chablis. Obviously some vintages are more famous than others but the quality and style of the wines remain consistent, especially in the village appellation. Beware however, in recent vintages, climate change has become a real challenge for the producers of this famous Burgundian wine. The profiles of the wines tend to be richer, warmer and the Chablis village winegrowers must be diligent and vigilant in order to preserve the freshness, tension and minerality that have contributed to the legendary reputation of this AOP.
The most famous estates of Chablis Village
Many estates produce this wine using the Chardonnay varietal in the village classification. But if one had to choose the most emblematic estate, Domaine de la Chablisienne would be a rather obvious choice.
Founded in 1923 by an abbot and some farmers whose husbands were killed in the war, La Chablisienne is the largest winemaking cooperative in France. It spreads across a quarter of the vines grown in Chablis and also owns Château Grenouille. This estate has become the spearhead of these Burgundian dry white wines.
Billaud-Simon is another illustrious estate. It was created in 1815 and comprises 17 hectares of vines that are 50 years old on average.
Domaine Laroche wines from Chablis promise to express a bold expression of the terroir... and to do so, the estate has a near holistic approach to wine production and implements agro-ecological viticultural practices and minimal intervention both in the vineyard and cellar.