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Chablis Premier Cru

Chablis Premier Cru is a classification of the Chablis white wine appellation of Burgundy, in northern-central France. Wines made under this title are from vineyards identified as producing wines of higher quality than those classified simply as Chablis, but not of sufficient quality to be grand cru.

There are 40 named Chablis Premier Cru climats (vineyard sites), located on the mostly south-facing slopes of the Serein river valley near the historic town of Chablis. Many have a number of sub-vineyards (called lieux-dits in French) within them, bringing the total number of named Chablis Premier Cru vineyards to around 80.

For two reasons, the names of specific vineyards do not necessarily appear on wine labels. Firstly, producers in Chablis have the option of using either the vineyard name or the phrase premier cru. Secondly, the appellation laws permit producers to label their wines with the name of the climat – rather than the sub-vineyard – where the grapes were grown. Additionally, if a wine is made from the grapes of more than one climat, it must be labelled as premier cru rather than taking a climat or vineyard name.

Chablis Premier Cru wines are made under quality controls that sit between those of Chablis and Chablis Grand Cru. In order to keep the production focus on quality rather than quantity, there are strict limits imposed on maximum yields. Additionally, the required potential alcohol level is 0.5 degrees higher than for plain Chablis wines, which forces producers to harvest their grapes only when the fruit is fully ripe.

Unlike most Burgundian white wines, Chablis is only rarely oak-aged. The defining characteristic of the style is its purity and light, clean crispness. Just a few Chablis producers use barrel maturation in their winemaking, and this is generally restricted to premier cru and grand cru wines; their extra complexity and depth mean that they are not overpowered by oak flavours.

The soils of the Chablis Premier Cru vineyards are of Kimmeridgian type, rich in limestone and clay and famous for the visible presence of fossilised sea shells. The local belief is that this soil is a key factor in producing the unique flavours and aromas of the wines, providing their characteristic flinty, mineral character. The local climate and topography is the second important element of the Chablis terroir. The relatively cool climate here means that the grapes take longer to ripen and thus enjoy all the benefits of extended hang-time. Also, the south-facing slopes of the Serein Valley offer the vines extended exposure to the sun's rays in the afternoon, helping to bring full ripeness to the grapes. The wines benefit from bottle-ageing of between five and ten years.

Chablis Premier Cru is a collection of 40 differents climats, of which 17 are the main flag bearers for the appellation. The Chablis Premier Cru vineyards lie on both the right and left banks of the River Serein, a tributary of the Yonne which flows through the region from south to north.

The main premier cru climats of Chablis are:

- Mont de Milieu
- Montée de Tonnerre
- Fourchaume
- Vaillons
- Montmains
- Côte de Léchet
- Beauroy
- Vaucoupin
- Vosgros
- Vau de Vey
- Vau Ligneau
- Les Beauregards
- Les Fourneaux
- Côte de Vaubarousse
- Berdiot
- Côte de Jouan
- Chaume de Talvat

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