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Focus on Chablis

The Burgundy region of France produces some of the finest and most lauded wines in the world. Considering the relatively small size of the region, and the fact that most of the wine is produced from only two grape varieties (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), the different characteristics found in the wines are vast. Burgundy is conveniently split into 6 sub-regions; Chablis, Côte de Nuit, Côte de Beaune, Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais from north to south. So, for our 'Focus on' blogs we're going to begin by looking at Chablis in more detail. [caption id="attachment_1114" align="aligncenter" width="189" caption="Map showing the sub-regions of Burgundy"]Burgundy map - Chablis[/caption]

Chablis

The wine region of Chablis is named after the town around which it lies. The vast majority of the wine from here is made with the Chardonnay grape producing a light, clean, fresh style of wine. The soil is different here compared to the majority of Burgundy, made up of a limestone rich clay known as Kimmeridgian clay. This specific type of clay is full of fossilised marine animals, especially oysters, so it is no surprise that Chablis pairs particularly well with seafood. Originally all Chablis was grown on Kimmeridgian clay but as the area has expanded it now includes some areas of Portlandian clay (50 years ago plantings numbered 400 hectares, now there are 4900 ha). This clay does not have the mineral content from the prehistoric shells and so the wine lacks the finesse that the best Chablis is known for. All Premier Cru (1er Cru) and Grand Cru vineyards grow on Kimmeridgian clay with much 'basic' Chablis and Petit Chablis found on Portlandian clay. It is this variation in soil that gives the wines individual characteristics and is a crucial element of 'terroir'. [caption id="attachment_1115" align="aligncenter" width="280" caption="Looking out to the Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis"]Chablis Grand Cru Vineyards[/caption]

Premier & Grand Cru Chablis

As discussed above there are certain areas in Chablis that have the superior Kimmeridgian clay soils. Add to this considerations such as aspect to the sun, position on a hillside or how well the soil drains and we can categorise the vineyards of Chablis further. The Grand Cru Vineyards are the very best vineyards and wine from here commands the highest prices, has the best longevity and the most classic Chablis characteristics. There are 7 Grand Cru vineyards that form a strip across the hillside overlooking the eponymous town; vineyards are named BlanchotsBougrosLes ClosGrenouillesPreusesValmurVaudésir. To carry the prestigious name of a Grand Cru vineyard on the label, a wine must be sourced entirely from stated vineyard. Premier Cru vineyards are those that are considered better than 'basic' Chablis, but not as good as Grand Cru. There are 40 1er Cru vineyards and winemakers are allowed to blend between them. Labels will therefore state the 1er Cru status only. A wine made solely from one 1er Cru vineyard may carry the name of the vineyard too. The most popular are Mont de Milieu, Montmains, Fourchaume and Vaillons. [caption id="attachment_1116" align="aligncenter" width="275" caption="Winemaker Charly Nicolle with his Chablis"]Charly Nicolle smelling his Chablis[/caption]

Chablis Style

Chablis has often been described as the purest expression of the varietal character of  the Chardonnay grape thanks to the simple style of winemaking favoured in the region. Chablis is rarely oaked so the style is clean and fresh with smells and flavours of green apples, citrus and white blossom. It has brisk acidity and a distinctive 'flinty' or wet stone character and therefore works really well with fish and seafood dishes. Premier Cru and Grand Cru Chablis can be fermented and/or matured in oak barrels but it is usually old oak which adds texture rather than flavour. Wines of this style have great longevity and with time will become more honeyed, peachy and rounded. One of our best selling wines at the moment is Charly Nicolle Chablis 'Mont de Milieu' 1er Cru 2011 and we'll be highlighting in a blog very soon. Come back and find out more.        

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