The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 87 of 124

{ }  87 It's hard to say which is more exciting: the prospect of dis- covering Chablis, or the experience of my first ever ride in a genuine Citroën 2CV. Despite its flimsy appearance, the little car chugs steadily and reassuringly up the slope of the Côte de Léchet, steered nonchalantly by Eric Szablowski. Hes a long time resident of Chablis and accredited by the École des Vins de Bourgogne, and he's traveled this road—or to be more accurate, this track—times without number. Although it's only mid-October, it's cold up here and a damp mist hangs over the valley of the river Serein snaking along some 250 metres below past the little town of Chablis. From this vantage point one can take in almost the entire length and breadth of this world- famous vineyard in one panorama. It's tempting to think one can learn all there is to know about Chablis with just a cursory glance, but as the day unfolds it becomes ever more clear that there's a diversity, a complexity and a fascination about Chablis that keeps going deeper and deeper. Perhaps that's what has made Chablis wines so successful—they offer an endless source of interest for the novice and the expert alike—and successful they certainly have been. In 1955 there were just 544 hectares (1,344 acres) of vines in Chablis; today there are 5,400 hectares (13,344 acres) which produce 40 million bottles of wine per year, 20 percent of the entire production of Bourgogne.* Just the mention of the name Chablis immediately conjures up images of crisp, refreshing white wines with lots of minerality. The name and the style are familiar to wine lovers all over the world, even though some of them find it hard to believe that the only grape grown here is Chardonnay, which all too often is thought to be synonymous only with rich, oaky wines that are altogether heavier. The fact that one variety is planted in Chablis is about the only thing that is straightforward; the numbers go up from here on in. For example there are, in fact, four appellations within Chablis: Petit Chablis, Chablis and then the two more prestigious categories of Chablis Premier Cru (780 hectares, 1,927 acres) and Chablis Grand Cru (106 hectares, 262 acres). The further up the scale, the greater the complexity, finesse and aging potential of the wines thanks in large measure to the fact that the all the Premier and Grand Cru Chablis come from grapes grown on Kimmeridgean limestone formed some 150 million years ago and absolutely full of the fossils of tiny sea creatures. It's this bed of rock that gives these wines their distinct style and extraordinary mineral quality. Petit Chablis on the other hand is found on younger, Portlandian rock. Armed with just this information you can begin to navigate your way around Chablis, but to extract the maximum amount of fun you have to delve a little deeper. Eric Szablowski knows the vineyards like the back of his hand and is the proud owner of the Citroën 2CV. Wines from Gérard Duplessis. C H A B L I S by Jiles Halling / photos by Eric Vandenbossche *The BIVB-Chablis prefers to refer to the region and its wines as Bourgogne, not Burgundy.

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