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The ultimate guide to Chablis Chardonnay: From terroir to cellar

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Chateau of Chablis with vineyard
Chablis winery

Are you a fan of Chardonnay? Have you ever tried a Chablis Chardonnay? If not, you're missing out on one of the most unique and exquisite expressions of the Chardonnay grape. Chablis Chardonnay is a world-renowned wine that is produced in the Chablis region of Burgundy, France. In this ultimate guide, we will explore the history, terroir, winemaking process, styles, tasting notes, food pairings, aging potential, and much more about this fascinating wine.

Introduction to Chablis wines

A brief history of Chablis

The history of Chablis can be traced back to the Roman era when the region was known as "Cabilliacus." However, it was not until the Middle Ages that the first vines were planted in the region. The wine produced in Chablis gained popularity in the 12th century, and by the 14th century, it had become one of the most sought-after wines in Europe.

Why Chablis Chardonnay is unique

Chablis Chardonnay is unique because of its terroir, which is characterized by Kimmeridgian soil and a cooler climate. The Chardonnay grape grown in this terroir produces a wine that is unlike any other Chardonnay in the world.

What is Chablis Chardonnay?

Chablis Chardonnay is a white wine made from the Chardonnay grape grown in the Chablis region of Burgundy, France. It is known for its bright acidity, minerality, and citrus notes.

What makes Chablis Chardonnay different from other Chardonnay wines?

Chablis Chardonnay is different from other Chardonnay wines because of its terroir, which gives it a unique taste profile. Chablis Chardonnay is also unoaked, which means that it does not have the buttery or vanilla notes that are often associated with oaked Chardonnays.

Chardonnay grapes
Chardonnay vine

Understanding the Chardonnay grape

Variety Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. It is the most widely planted white grape in the world and is grown in almost every wine-producing region.

The history and origin of Chardonnay

The origin of Chardonnay is not clear, but it is believed to have originated in the Burgundy region of France. It is also believed that the grape is a cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc.

Chardonnay grape varieties

There are many different varieties of Chardonnay, including the Mendoza clone, the Wente clone, and the Dijon clone. Each variety has its own unique characteristics and is used to produce different styles of Chardonnay.

Chardonnay flavor profiles

The flavor profile of Chardonnay can vary depending on the terroir and winemaking techniques used. Generally, Chardonnay has flavors of apple, pear, citrus, and tropical fruit, with hints of vanilla and buttery notes in oaked Chardonnays.

Chablis Terroir

Chablis wine map

Overview of Chablis Terroir

Chablis has a unique terroir that sets it apart from other wine regions in the world. The region is characterized by a cool continental climate, which is moderated by the nearby Serein River. This river provides moisture to the vineyards, which is crucial for the growth of the grapes. Chablis has a relatively short growing season, which results in high acidity and lower alcohol content in its wines.

Soil types in Chablis

The region's unique soil composition plays a significant role in the quality and character of its wines. Chablis is famous for its chalky and mineral-rich soil, which is the result of millions of years of geological activity.

Petit Chablis is the lowest classification of Chablis wines, but it still offers a great drinking experience. The soil in Petit Chablis is a mixture of clay and limestone. The soil is relatively shallow, which means that the vines have to work hard to access water and nutrients. This results in wines that are crisp, fresh, and acidic. The mineral notes in Petit Chablis are less pronounced compared to the other classifications.

The soil in Chablis is composed of a mixture of Kimmeridgian limestone, clay, and marl. This unique soil composition gives Chablis wines their signature minerality and flinty flavors. The soil is rich in calcium carbonate, which gives the wines a distinct chalky texture. Chablis wines are known for their crisp acidity and bright citrus notes.

Chablis Premier Cru wines come from vineyards that are located on slopes that face southeast. The soil in Chablis Premier Cru is similar to the soil in Chablis, but it is more complex. The soil is made up of small oyster fossils and is rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. This results in wines that are more complex and flavorful. Chablis Premier Cru wines have a rounder and more velvety texture compared to the other classifications.

Chablis Grand Cru wines are the most prestigious and expensive wines produced in the region. The soil in Chablis Grand Cru is composed of Kimmeridgian limestone, which is rich in marine fossils. The soil is deeper and has more clay than the other classifications, which allows the vines to access more water and nutrients. The wines produced from this soil are rich, complex, and full-bodied. They have a distinct flinty and smoky character, which is the hallmark of Chablis Grand Cru wines.

The impact of the climate in Chablis

Chablis experiences four distinct seasons throughout the year, each presenting its own set of climate challenges to the vineyards and winemakers.

Petit Chablis, the lowest appellation in the Chablis hierarchy, faces climate challenges such as frost, hail, and rain during the spring. These weather events can reduce grape yields and impact wine quality. In the summer, heat waves can cause sunburn to the grapes, affecting acidity and balance. Fall is typically a mild season, but heavy rains and high humidity can increase the risk of disease in the vineyards. Winter brings the risk of frost damage to the vines, which can lead to significant crop losses. Petit Chablis producers must be vigilant and implement preventive measures to protect their vineyards throughout the year.

Chablis, the largest appellation in the region, faces similar challenges to Petit Chablis, including spring frost, heavy rain, and summer heatwaves. The fall harvest season is particularly crucial for Chablis producers, as early rains can cause rot and affect wine quality. In winter, cold temperatures and frost can damage the vines. Some Chablis producers have implemented shade cloths and drip irrigation systems to regulate water supply and reduce the risk of sunburn during the summer months.

Chablis Premier Cru, the intermediate appellation between Chablis and Chablis Grand Cru, faces climate challenges such as frost, rain, and heatwaves throughout the year. Fall is a critical time for Premier Cru producers, as the grape harvest must occur at the optimal time to ensure the highest quality wine. The winter months present a risk of frost damage to the vines, requiring advanced frost protection measures in some vineyards. In the summer, shade cloths and other measures are used to protect the grapes from sunburn.

Chablis Grand Cru, the highest appellation in the region, faces similar climate challenges to the other appellations throughout the year. The unique terroir and exposure of the Grand Cru vineyards, however, create distinct microclimates that affect the wine's character and quality. Grand Cru producers must navigate spring frost, summer heatwaves, and fall rains to produce the highest quality wines. In the winter, frost protection measures are essential to prevent significant crop losses. Despite these challenges, the expertise of Grand Cru producers and their use of innovative measures have helped maintain the quality of the wines produced in this appellation.

How the terroir affects the taste of Chablis Chardonnay

The unique terroir of Chablis gives its Chardonnay wines a distinct flavor profile that sets them apart from other Chardonnays in the world. The wines are typically high in acidity, with notes of green apple, lemon, and lime. They also have a distinct minerality, with flavors of wet stone and flint. The absence of oak allows the purity and expression of the fruit to shine through, resulting in a clean and crisp finish.

Winemaking techniques in Chablis

Chablis Chardonnay is a complex wine that is made using traditional winemaking techniques that have been perfected over the centuries. In this section, we will explore the winemaking process of Chablis Chardonnay, from harvesting the grapes to the final aging process. We will also examine the impact that the winemaking process has on the taste and quality of Chablis Chardonnay. The winemaking process plays a crucial role in determining the taste and quality of Chablis Chardonnay. The use of natural yeasts, the gentle pressing of the grapes, and the stainless steel aging process all contribute to the unique flavor profile of this wine. Chablis Chardonnay is known for its crisp acidity, minerality, and notes of green apple and citrus. The winemaking process in Chablis is unique because it focuses on preserving the natural flavors and characteristics of the grapes. Chablis winemakers use minimal intervention during the winemaking process to allow the wine to express its terroir. This means that the wine is not heavily manipulated or flavored with oak, as is the case with many other Chardonnay wines.

Grape harvest Chablis
Grape harvest

Harvesting the grapes

The first step in making Chablis Chardonnay is the harvesting of the grapes. The grapes used in Chablis Chardonnay are hand-picked to ensure that only the best and ripest grapes are used in the winemaking process. This process usually takes place in September or October, depending on the weather conditions.

Pressing the grapes

After the grapes have been harvested, they are taken to the winery where they are crushed to release their juice. In Chablis, the grapes are usually pressed using a pneumatic press, which gently squeezes the grapes to extract the juice. The juice is then transferred to stainless steel tanks where the fermentation process will take place.

The fermentation process

The fermentation process is a crucial step in winemaking as it is during this stage that the sugar in the grape juice is converted into alcohol. In Chablis, the fermentation process is carried out using natural yeasts that are present in the grapes. This process can take up to three weeks to complete, depending on the temperature and other environmental factors.

The aging process

After the fermentation process is complete, the wine is left to age in stainless steel tanks. This allows the wine to develop its unique flavor profile and gives it time to mature. In Chablis, the aging process can last from several months to several years, depending on the quality and style of the wine.

Oak barrels wine
Oak barrels Chablis

The importance of oak in Chablis Chardonnay

While oak is not typically used in the winemaking process of Chablis Chardonnay, some winemakers do use oak barrels to add complexity and richness to the wine. The use of oak is a delicate balance in Chablis as it can easily overpower the delicate flavors of the wine. If oak is used, it is usually done in a subtle way, with a small percentage of the wine aged in oak barrels.

The use of stainless steel in Chablis Chardonnay

Stainless steel is the preferred aging vessel for Chablis Chardonnay as it allows the wine to retain its crisp acidity and minerality. Stainless steel also does not impart any additional flavors or aromas to the wine, which allows the wine to express its natural flavors

Chablis wine you should try

And now we have so many dishes to choose from to pair, what shall we drink? Down below I made a few suggestions you can buy. Chablis Villages

Chablis Domaine Gautheron Chardonnay 2021

Chablis Domaine Gautheron Chardonnay 2021

This wonderful Chablis has a very fresh taste of citrus, flowers, and green apple. A fantastic long, buttery finish and relatively much body for a fresh white wine. Serve with lobster, shellfish (particularly oysters and scallops), and fish.

Order this wine here

Petit Chablis

Petit Chablis Les Ammonites Chardonnay 2020 - François Martenot

Petit Chablis Les Ammonites Chardonnay 2020 - François Martenot This wine is bright, crisp, and clean with lemon zest, bright apple, flinty mineral, and stony flavors on the palate. "Les Ammonites" refers to sea creatures that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period and whose fossilized remains are an important characteristic of the soils of Chablis and for the distinct mineral flavors in this region's wine. Order this wine here

Petit Chablis William Fevre Chardonnay 2017

Petit Chablis William Fevre Chardonnay 2017 This wine has floral notes on the nose, with fruit-driven hints enhanced by intense mineral notes and lightly smoky touches. Very rounded on the palate, but also full-bodied yet elegant. Les Preuses is probably taken from the word "Perreuse" (stone), the name given to the ancient Roman road which ran below the current vineyard. Made for aging thanks to dense, compact, clay-rich soil resting on a limestone bed. Order this wine here

Chablis Premier Cru

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2018 - Domaine Jean Goully

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2018 - Domaine Jean Goully This wine has an intense mineral nose followed by fresh vibrant fruit, crisp acidity, and citrus notes. Beautifully balanced, pure, and round on the palate, with a creamy texture and a long, salivating finish. The grapes were harvested at optimum maturity and were fermented with natural yeasts in temperature-controlled vats using organic principles. Order this wine here

Chablis Premier Cru AOC Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2019

Chablis Premier Cru AOC Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2019 This wine opens with intense aromas of yellow fruits, with delicate sensations of exotic fruits. In the mouth, it is fresh and fleshy, with a pleasant mineral aftertaste. The grapes are picked by hand. Fermentation takes place in underground tanks at a controlled temperature of 17-21°C. The wine then ages on the lees for 12 months before being bottled.

Order this wine here

Chablis Grand Cru

Chablis Gran Cru L'Obediencerie Reserve - Domaine Laroche- 1998

Chablis Gran Cru L'Obediencerie Reserve - Domaine Laroche- 1998

This flagship wine is Laroche's selection from the best wines of Les Blanchots. At this stage, it is young, its aromas mineral and crisp, but its future generous richness is very evident. It will be an intensely powerful expression of Chardonnay, touched by wood, and leaving great concentration.

Order this wine here

Chablis Chardonnay around the world

Chablis Chardonnay is one of the most renowned and highly valued white wines worldwide. It is produced in a small region located in northern Burgundy, France, and is characterized by its unique minerality, high acidity, and freshness. Despite its geographical limitations, Chablis Chardonnay has gained immense popularity in many countries worldwide.

How Chablis Chardonnay is viewed in different countries

Chablis Chardonnay is highly esteemed in many countries across the globe. In the United States, Chablis Chardonnay is often associated with classic California-style Chardonnays, which are typically oaky and buttery. However, Chablis Chardonnay stands out for its lean and mineral-driven taste, which is often appreciated by wine enthusiasts.

In Asia, Chablis Chardonnay has gained immense popularity, especially in Japan and China. Its mineral-driven taste and crisp acidity pair well with traditional Japanese cuisine, making it a favorite among many Japanese foodies. In China, Chablis Chardonnay is often considered a luxury item and is highly sought after by the growing middle class.

The global influence of Chablis Chardonnay

Chablis Chardonnay has had a significant influence on the winemaking industry worldwide. Its unique taste profile has inspired many winemakers to experiment with different winemaking techniques and to produce wines that showcase the characteristics of their own regions. Chablis Chardonnay's high acidity and mineral flavors have also become a trend in the wine world, with many winemakers striving to produce wines with similar attributes.

Chablis Chardonnay and sustainability

Sustainability is a growing concern in the wine industry, and Chablis Chardonnay is no exception. Many producers in the region have implemented sustainable farming practices, such as organic and biodynamic viticulture, to reduce their environmental impact. The use of cover crops, reduced tillage, and natural pest control methods are just a few of the ways in which Chablis Chardonnay producers are working towards a more sustainable future.

The Future of Chablis Chardonnay

Overview of the current trends in Chablis Chardonnay

The current trend in Chablis Chardonnay is towards a more terroir-driven style, emphasizing the unique characteristics of the region. Producers are focusing on expressing the mineral-driven taste and high acidity that are characteristic of Chablis Chardonnay while reducing the use of oak and malolactic fermentation.

Another trend in Chablis Chardonnay is toward a more sustainable future. Many producers are implementing sustainable farming practices and reducing their carbon footprint to create a more environmentally friendly product.

Chablis wines rock the world

Chablis Chardonnay is a unique and highly valued white wine that has gained immense popularity worldwide. Its minerality, high acidity, and freshness have made it a favorite among wine enthusiasts, and its influence on the winemaking industry is significant. As the demand for sustainable and terroir-driven wines continues to grow, Chablis Chardonnay is well-positioned to meet these needs and to continue to be a leading player in the wine world.


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