Geography & Climate
Located in northeastern France, the Chablis region is considered the northernmost extension of the Burgundy wine region, but it is separated from the Côte d'Or by the Morvan hills, with the main wine city of Burgundy, Beaune, located over 100 km away. This fact makes the Chablis region relatively isolated from other wine regions, with the vineyards in southern Champagne, in the department of Aube, being the closest wine neighbors.
It is believed that Chardonnay was first planted in Chablis by the Cistercians of the Pontigny Abbey in the 12th century and from there spread southward to the rest of the Burgundy region.
In the early 1960s, technological advancements in protecting vineyards against frost minimized some of the risks and financial costs associated with the variability of harvests and the climate in Chablis. The global "Chardonnay boom" in the mid to late 20th century opened prosperous world markets for Chablis, and vine plantings experienced a period of steady growth. In 2004, vine plantings in Chablis reached just over 4,000 hectares.
The Chablis wine region has a lot in common with the Champagne province when it comes to climate, which is semi-continental with no maritime influence. The peak of the growing season in summer can be hot, while winter can be long, cold, and harsh, with frost conditions extending into early May.
Years with excessive rainfall and low temperatures tend to produce wines with excessive acidity and lean fruit that struggles to ripen. Overly hot growing seasons tend to result in flabby wines with too low acidity. Frost can be combated with heaters and sprinkler irrigation to form an ice layer.
The Chablis region is located on the eastern edge of the Paris Basin. The oldest soil in the region dates back to the Upper Jurassic period, over 180 million years ago, and includes a vineyard soil type that is limestone known as Kimmeridge Clay. All Chablis Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on this predominantly Kimmeridgian soil, which imparts a mineral and flinty character to the wines. Other areas, including most of the Petit Chablis vineyards, are planted on slightly younger Portlandian soils with a similar structure. The limestone landscape resembles some areas of Champagne and Sancerre.
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