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Chablis wines, 21 centuries of history

Chablis wines

Although Chablis bears the traces of a village dating from Neolithic times, its true origins date back to Roman times. The name comes from the Latin word “caplum,” meaning “ford.” The vines were pulled up under Emperor Domitian (81-96), but saw real growth in the third century after being revived by Emperor Probus.

The River Serein plays an important role in regulating the climate in the vines, and was also a useful commercial route allowing wines from Chablis to be shipped to Auxerre and Paris, and from there to other countries, in particular Flanders and England.

But it was the Cistercians who were behind the rise of Vinegrowing, thanks to the nearby Abbey of Pontigny. The phylloxera epidemic destroyed the vines at the end of the 19th century and they were replanted with Chardonnay. During the 1970s, mixed farming gave way to vines, which took off spectacularly. Moreover, winegrowers began adopting more efficient protection of the vines against the spring frosts through measures such as vine heaters, candles and spraying.

The appellation covers 5,000 hectares spread over 19 communes, and has four levels of appellation:

  • Petit Chablis
  • Chablis
  • Chablis Premier Cru
  • Chablis Grand Cru

The commune-level Chablis appellation covers 3,055 hectares.

The latest list of premier crus dates to 1986.

79 lieux-dits are classed as producing premier crus, with a total surface area of 775 hectares. The winegrowers of Chablis have grouped these lieux-dits into 17 climats which are now used to classify the wines. Chablis’ premier cru vineyards are found either side of the River Serein in the communes of Chablis, Fontenay, Maligny, Chichée, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Courgis, Fleys and Beines.

Seven grand crus

Since 1938, 111 hectares spread in a crescent shape on the right bank of the River Serein and facing south/south-west for optimal sunshine, have been classified as Chablis grand cru. Seven climats carry the worldwide reputation of the great white wines of Chablis: Les Clos, Vaudésir, Valmur, Blanchot, Les Preuses, Grenouilles and Bougros.

Discover the main dates of the Chablis winegrowing area