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Chablis Grand Cru

Chablis Grand Cru is the appellation for the highest-quality dry white wines produced around the town of Chablis, in northern-central France. Grown on just 250 acres (100ha) of exceptional vineyards, the wines come from seven distinct plots on a single south-west-facing slope to the east of the town. They constitute approximately 3% of the total Chablis output.

The seven named Chablis Grand Cru climats run along the right bank of the Serein river, from north-west to south-east, on gentle slopes of limestone-rich soils. They are: Preuses, Bougros, Vaudésir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. The La Moutonne vineyard, which is divided between the Preuses and Vaudesir climats, is an enigmatic, unofficial eighth grand cru name, historically overlooked by the appellation laws but moving gradually towards acceptance.

The secret behind Chablis Grand Cru wines is the very specific terroir from which they come. In fact, the particular combination of climate and soil type in Chablis is often held as the archetypal example of the influence of terroir on wine. This effect reaches its peak on the grand cru sites, where the Kimmeridgian soils bring crisp, fresh minerality to the wines, complemented by the balanced acidity and sugars created by a cool growing season and extended hang-time. Kimmeridgian soils are rich in limestone formed from millions of fossilised sea shells deposited millennia ago when European topography was vastly different. They are named after Kimmeridge, a village on the south coast of England, where the soil type was first identified. The Champagne and Loire wine regions also benefit from the presence of this soil type, and produce wines not dissimilar in style to those of Chablis.

Wines claiming the Chablis Grand Cru appellation are made under stringent regulations. The maximum permitted yield is lower, and the minimum potential alcohol one degree higher, than for standard Chablis wines. They must also be matured until at least 15th March of the year following harvest, at a consistent temperature below 77°F/25°C. No Chablis Grand Cru wine may be released for sale until 30th March of the year after its vintage.

Chablis Grand Cru wines are characterised by delicately honeyed aromas of lime, complemented by distinctive mineral flavours – a character attributed to the high limestone content in the local soils. The wines respond well to bottle ageing for between 10 and 15 years, with the finest examples improving for 20 years or more.