In north-central France surrounding the charming town of Chablis, the highest-quality of dry wines known as Chablis Grand Cru are born. The distinction for this appellation, grown on only 250 acres of perhaps some of the most impeccable vineyards, these wines are all from 7 very distinct pieces of land that all slope southwest on the east side of town.
A little river known as the Serein runs through this region which enjoys an outstandingly sunny location. On the surface, it might seem ordinary but the terroirs, which were formed around 150 million years ago in the Upper Jurassic era, are truly unique. Made with limestone and tiny oyster fossils, it puts it a cut above other spectacular French wines.
This is the secret to why these wines have such a crisp and fresh minerality to them. The acidity and sugars are beautifully balanced. Spread across these regions, called Climats, they each have a distinct impact on Chardonnay. The sub-regions are Bougros, Blanchot, Grenouilles, Les Clos, Vaudésir, Preuses, and Valmur.
The wines denoted with the Chablis Grand Cru appellation follow strict regulations. They have a lower maximum yield permitted and they have a higher minimum alcohol content. Another rule these wines must abide by is that they have to be matured until March 15th of the year after a harvest with a consistent temperature that never rises above 77F. It can never be released for sale until March 30th of the year after its own vintage.
As implied, Chablis Grand Cru is an outstanding wine for aging. It’s something that can endure being bottled up for 10 or even 15 years. While each subregion has something to lend, you’ll generally find them to have a delicate aroma of sweet lime with very distinctive mineral flavors.
Discovering the 7 Subregions of Chablis Grand Cru
Each of the subregions has its own distinctions that make them all worth tasting. Here, we explore each of them a little further.
This vineyard can be found at the northern portion of the Grand Cru where the Kimmeridgian soils and sunny position create an ideal terroir. The moderate temperatures in this area give the grapes a perfect ripeness while holding onto firm acidity. This means the wines here tend to be a bit softer and rounder than others in the appellation. Wines from Preuses are quite elegant and rich despite being less aromatic than the others. A nice one to try is William Fevre Les Preuses Chablis Grand Cru.
On the northwestern edge of the hillside of Grand Cru sits Bougros. These wines are more rounded and a bit less rigid in taste. Solid, yet youthful in flavor. Because it’s closer to the river, there are more clay deposits in the soil which give Bougros a nice subtle earthiness. These wines are quite balanced with very intense minerality. An example of one to try is Domaine Servin Bougros Chablis Grand Cru.
On the Grand Cru hilltop with Chablis below, exclusively for Chardonnay, Vaudesir offers a softer, more elegant wine. Distinctive floral characteristics play quite nicely with the minerality of this subregion. Thanks to the climate and the steep slopes, the grapes get a nice ripeness and acidity that feels incredibly balanced. Interestingly, Vaudesir is where La Moutonne vineyard can be found which is often referred to as the 8th Chablis Grand Cru but is not an official part of the AOC. One of the many delightful wines from here is Domaine Louis Michel & Fils Les Clos Chablis Grand Cru.
This is the smallest subregion sitting just above the river banks of the Serein. With these wines, you get a riper Chardonnay, one that features that fruity taste of orange peel and stone fruit. It’s a softer flavor, one that balances quite well even as it ages. With fossil-rich soil, the vines in the Grenouilles have an incredible minerality to them. La Chablisienne Chateau Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru is a fine example for one to try.
Some claim that Valmur Grand Cru is the best of the best for it has a very dense, uniquely powerful quality, one that bodes well for aging. Because of the angular topography in this subregion, the wines tend to be less consistent, yet it is one of the most sought-after Chablis Grand Cru wines because of the terroir. It features topsoil of clay and limestone populated with fossilized oyster shells that give the finished wines an incredibly expressive minerality. Taste it for yourself and see. One to look for is Domaine Francois Raveneau Valmur Chablis Grand Cru.
- Les Clos
Of the 7 subregions, Les Clos is the largest. The Chardonnay grapes here turn into powerful, very intensive wines. They have a youthful quality, one that makes them famed for long-term aging. Les Close Chablis Grand Cru has an impeccable balance of strength and perfection that is hard to beat. The stony white soils brimming with limestone and clay while allowing for ideal drainage is why these wines have such an intense minerality. An example of Les Clos is Rene et Vincent Dauvissat-Camus Les Clos Chablis Grand Cru.
The southernmost subregion, Blanchot features a distinctively lighter quality in flavor. Think lime and grapefruit with accents of minerality. Because of its unique location that gives it access to the morning sun rather than the afternoon, the grapes ripen at a slower pace giving it a nice acidity. Blanchot Grand Cru wines aren’t as commonly aged as the others because they have a lighter profile, however you can easily enjoy one right now. Try looking for Domaine Francois Raveneau Blanchot Chablis Grand Cru.
Clearly, there are many good wines to taste from these 7 sub-regions.
Which sub-region will you sample first?