The appellation, named after the town of the same name and classified in 1938, is situated to the north and is delimited by the Burgundy wine region in the so-called Basse-Bourgogne in the department of Yonne. Southwest of it lies the area of Saint-Bris, which was included before the appellation regulation. Chablis is separated from the Côte d'Or by the Morvan mountains and is much closer to Champagne than the other Burgundian areas. The Romans already cultivated vines here in the 2nd century and later the monastic orders of the church took over the cultivation. The Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, whose monks supposedly introduced Chardonnay here, was particularly active in this area. Once this was the largest wine-growing region in France, with 40,000 hectares surrounding the town of Auxerre. Sales difficulties and damage caused by phylloxera led to a conversion to other agricultural products.
In addition, the area was and still is extremely endangered by hail and frost until May, which is why entire harvests were repeatedly destroyed. All this contributed to the fact that in the mid-1950s only 500 hectares were planted. From the beginning of the 1960s, various measures were taken to successfully combat the risk of frost. Very effective is the installation of oil-fired ovens in the rows of vines, whose heat is distributed in the vineyard by windmills. In addition, the vines are sprayed with water, whereupon the resulting ice film forms a protective cover around the young shoots. Today there are again around 4,500 hectares of vineyards in Chablis and 19 other communes.
The pale yellow wine with a greenish shimmer is produced from the Chardonnay grape variety (Beaunoise in this case) and is dry-matured. It has a typical mineral aroma of flint stone (French "Goût de pierre à fusil") and, despite its strong acidity, tastes mild and fruity, which is due to the predominant clay and lime soil. Traditionally, the wine matures in concrete cisterns or steel tanks, but many producers are increasingly forcing the ageing in oak. Most wines today undergo malolactic fermentation. A top wine from the Chablis has an enormous storage potential of up to several decades.
Four-level quality hierarchy
The quality hierarchy corresponds to the four-level system of the Burgundy Classification (as opposed to Bordeaux) which is valid throughout the region. In addition to the Chablis appellations of origin, winegrowers are free to market their wines under the regional appellations of Burgundy. Other grape varieties are also allowed to do so.
Chablis Grand Cru: The top appellation covers around 100 hectares in seven top sites on a southern slope north of the city of Chablis. These are Blanchot (12 ha), considered the best, as well as Bougros (12 ha), Grenouilles, Les Clos (27 ha), Les Preuses (11 ha), Valmur (13 ha) and Vaudésir (14 ha). Another vineyard called La Moutonne, although not listed as a Grand Cru, is allowed to mention the name on the label because 2.3 hectares of it are located in the two sites Vaudésir and Les Preuses. The yield limit is a maximum of 45 hl/ha. The wines represent only 5% of Chablis production.
Premier Cru: These wines may bear either the name of one of the 40 individual sites or the name of a so-called group of sites on the label. Predominantly the latter is used, these are (in brackets the sites that may carry the collective term): Côte de Jouan, Côte de Léchet, Côte de Vaubarousse, Beuaroy (Troesmes, Côte de Savant), Berdiot, Chaume de Talvat, Fourchame (Côte de Fontenay, L'Homme Mort, Vaulorent, Vaupulent), Les Fourneaux (Côte des Prés-Girots, Morein), Les Beauregard (Côte de Cuissy), Les Landes et Verjuts, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnere (Chapelot, Côte de Bréchain, Pied d'Aloup), Montmains (Butteaux, Forets), Vaillons (Beugnons, Chatains, Les Epinottes, Les Lys, Mélinots, Roncières, Sécher), Vaucoupin, Vau de Vey (Vaux Ragons, Vau Ligneau and Vosgros (Vaugiraut) The yield limit is 50 hl/ha. The total area is 750 hectares in 15 communes (not including the commune of Chablis itself) and provides about 30% of the production.
Chablis: This appellation covers a very large area with around 2,300 hectares of vineyards. No location may be indicated on the label. The yield limit here is also 50 hl/ha. These wines account for about 60% of the production. In good vintages this can be an excellent, classic Chablis.
Petit Chablis: This appellation covers 1,800 hectares of vineyards in the poorer soils and locations around Chablis, but only a small part of it is used. The yield limit is also 50 hl/ha. Efforts are being made to change the somewhat trivialised name or to abandon this class altogether.
Well-known producers with Grand-Cru and/or Premier-Cru sites in the Chablis appellation include Barat, Bichot (Domaine Long-Depaquit), Billaud-Simon, Pascal Bouchard, La Chablisienne, Michel Cobois, Jean Collet, Jean Dauvissat, René & Vincent Dauvissat, Jean Defaix, Jean-Paul Droin, Joseph Drouhin, Gérard Duplessis, Domaine Marcel Duplessis, William Fèvre Domaine de la Maladière, Château Grenouilles, Jean-Pierre Grossot, Michel Laroche, Domaine des Malandes, Domaine des Maronniers, Domaine de Meulière, J. Moreau & Fils, Sylvain Mosnier, Gilbert Picq, Domaine Pinson, Jean-Marie Ravenau, Guy Robin, Philippe Testut, Jean-Marie Raveneau, Château de Viviers, Robert Vocoret & Fils and Domaine Vocret