Chardonnay - France - Chablis
In the Chablis region, only the Chardonnay grape variety is authorized to produce wines that are known all over the world. Because of this, the term Chablis is often used generically to refer to any type of dry white wine, regardless of the grape variety used.
In the European Union, the name “Chablis” is protected for wine sold within the EU and corresponds exclusively to chardonnay wine made in the region of the department of Yonne. The area is located on the outskirts of the Parisian basin and, on the other side of the English Channel, the English town of Kimmeridge gives its name to the land of Kimmeridge, which is also located in Chablis.
The composition of French soil is called clay-limestone and consists of clay, limestone and fossilized mollusc shells. The most expensive versions of Chardonnay de Chablis are produced in the seven Grand Cru vineyards located on the southwest side of a hillside along the Seine River, near the town of Chablis. These vineyards, about 100 hectares, are called Blanchots, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir.
Chablis wine is known for its “flint quality”, also known as goût de pierre à fusil, which is usually present in wines produced in this region. Chablis wines tend to capture this specific characteristic.
According to historical data, the Cistercians of the Pontigny Abbey planted Chardonnay as the first grape variety in the Chablis region in the 12th century. Nowadays, the Chardonnay wine produced in Chablis is famous for its unadulterated expression of the character of the grape, which is attributed to the simple winemaking techniques preferred in this area. The wine producers of Chablis try to highlight the calcareous terroir and the colder climate conditions that contribute to maintaining the high acidity of the wine.
Chablis wines are not usually subject to malolactic fermentation or exposure to oak, but there is an increasing tendency to use it. The acidity of Chablis, which is reminiscent of that of green apples, is a defining characteristic that can be detected in the cluster. This acidity can soften over time, and Chablis wines are among the most enduring chardonnays.
Chablis is known for its earthy and wet stone flavor, which can sometimes make it musky. As you age, you may develop mellow notes. The use of oak in Chablis is a matter of debate among winemakers, as some choose to avoid it in order to maintain the style and terroir of Chablis. However, others use oak to some extent, although not as much as is common in New World chardonnay.
Winemakers who prefer to use oak often opt for a type of oak that does not give off the vanilla flavor characteristic of American oak. These oak barrels are usually slightly charred, which limits the amount of roast that can be seen in the wine. As a result, the wine softens and takes on a more reserved flavor, with an acidity similar to that of Chablis wine, similar to that of young wines.