The crowning glory of Chablis is the slope of the grand crus. The grand crus represent just 2% of Chablis; a tiny sliver maybe, but one hundred and five hectares producing a wonderful diversity of expression. Chablis Grand Cru is the actual appellation and this is divided into seven climats which cloak the South West facing slope just north of the small town of Chablis.
Although the slope faces south west, it ripples giving different aspects within this. The vineyards lie between 100-250m and at the foot of the hill snakes the River Servin, a moving body of water which subtly influences the microclimate. The soil is a mix of marl and Kimmeridgian limestone formed in the Upper Jurassic period (150 million years ago) abundant with fossilised oysters, called exogyra virgula. It’s the same band of limestone which resurfaces in Kimmeridge in Dorset.
Several grand cru producers grouped together to form the Union de Grands Crus de Chablis which has a quality charter. This includes following a lutté raisonée approach, hand harvesting into 500l bins and using triage tables to make a selection of fruit.
The group were in London recently to show a selection of their 2014 vintage grand crus. It was a good opportunity to taste the grand crus side by side, although the expression of terroir is influenced to a certain extent by the winemaking practices, most notably by the use of oak, albeit barrels which have been used at least once.
The 2014 is a lovely vintage in Chablis. It is elegant, precise and energetic; sufficiently ripe without being rich. The wines are well balanced and the varied expressions of minerality are clear to see.
Les Clos is widely considered the grand cru of the highest calibre. Vaudésir can vie for this position for stylishness, although not in ageing capacity or presence. Valmur also makes it into the top echelon.The second tier includes Preuses and Bougros. Grenouilles and Blanchots bring up the rear.
Before the tastings notes for each grand cru I have given a brief description of the terroir and the profile of the wine I might expect.
Let’s start with Bougros at the east end of the slope and work westwards. Bougros covers 15.79 hectares on the lower half of the slope down to the river. I expect the wine to be quite sturdy and fuller bodied, but not without elegance. It is one of the more accessible grand crus.