Chablis Grand Crus

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.

Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Côte Bouguerots 2014

This is from the upper part of the Bougros slope and has peachy and floral notes. Rounded, juicy and full. It expands across the palate and the ripe and generous fruit is well balanced with fresh acidity. A reasonably powerful finish. Score 71


Preuses lies above Bougros, facing south. There are 11.43 hectares. It should have a silky textural quality, rich, but subtle. It has a certain purring elegance and harmony. It does not have the density and presence of Les Clos or Valmur or the minerality and floral notes of Vaudésir. There were three to taste.

Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses 2014

Surprisingly a high toned aroma with white flowers. Alluring silky texture. There is a richness to the texture. Firm mineral core which carries to the finish. Texture, elegance and a touch of tension. Score 74

Domaine Simonnet Febvre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses 2014

Spicy aroma with white pepper notes. It has a tangy minerality to the nose. It is quite delicate. A subtle Preuses showing some finesse. The minerality is smooth. The texture is not as rich as the previous wine, rather it glassy. The palate has a has a fine long line. I particularly like this wine. Score 80

Domaine Jean-Marc Broucard, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses 2014

The oak is immediately apparent on the nose. It is made in two year old Fudres palate is heavier. Quite rich fruit, which is cut through by the minerality. Score 66


Vaudésir lies west of Preuses. I particularly like Vaudésir, but beware it has a split personality. The vineyard (14.49 hectares) forms a small amphitheatre. The two slopes meet in the middle, giving them different exposures. One is colder – turning more towards the north/west, while the other is south/east facing. It’s a top notch grand cru.

Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne 2014

Moutonne straddles Vaudésir and Preuses and is a vineyard monopole. This has a ripe aroma with hints of orange zest. There is richness on the palate with a density to the middle and smoothly rounded edges. It has a wet stone minerality. It has a persistent, elegant, fresh and richly mineral finish.There is a sense of completeness and equilibrium to this wine. It should age beautifully. Score 82

Domaine des Malandes Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014

This comes from the cooler facing slope – ‘the moon slope’ as Lyn Marchand, who makes this wine, describes the situation. Intriguing hints of aniseed on the nose combined with floral notes. The palate is surprisingly full and generous. Given the cooler aspect, I was expecting something more reserved. There is a note of oak here too – a slightly toasty aspect. The white peach fruit is underscored by cool white minerality and it finishes on a lively floral note. It’s a pretty wine. Score 75

Domaine Gerard Tremblay, Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudésir 2014

This has an appetising lactic note on the nose – hints of parmesan. It pounces on the palate and races on keen and mineral line. This is an oyster shell saline minerality. Pacy and well edged. Plenty of intensity and a rapier finish. A stylish wine. Score 80


Grenouilles is down the slope, abutting the river. It means frog. There is a ‘no mans land’ between the bottom of the slope and the river which used to be a favoured froggy haunt a generation ago. This is a rather bad place for frost. As it is lower down the slope the soil is deeper and there is more clay. It tends to be grouped in the third league of Grand Cru.

Domaine de Château, Chablis Grand Cru, Grenouilles 2014

This is a little more reserved. One would expect it to be less mineral as it is from the bottom part of the slope. Fairly spicy and rich but and closed down in the mid palate. Showing some oak on the finish. However the finish is fresh and energetic after the more reserved mid palate. Score 68


Moving eastwards the next grand cru is Valmur. This is a top league grand cru. I tend to think of it as combining some of the character of power of Les Clos with some of the floral notes and elegance of Vaudésir. Of course this skewed by oak treatment and the tendency is often to put Valmur in more oak.

Domaine Collet, Grand Cru Chablis, Valmur 2014

This has obvious, but rather flattering oak on the nose. The palate is rich, compact and well defined. This is aged in 100% oak and then removed to stainless steel. It is rich and the oak gives it an extra creamy density, but it balances this with stern, darker mineral bite. The freshness and the minerality define the finish. Score 74

Domaine Louis Moreau, Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur 2014

This is a good example of a Valmur which combines the best features of Les Clos and Vaudésir. It is very floral… so enticing and there is also marked density in the mid palate. This is matured in 100% oak, which is used to enhance this density. Score 80

Les Blanchots 

Blanchot is faces more towards the east. It is a cooler exposure benefiting from the morning sun, but losing the advantage as the day progresses. Hence it can ripen 5 to 6 days later then the sunnier climats. There is not so much limestone in this climat. There is rather more clay, which becomes pebbly at the bottom. In style it can be quite ‘tender’. I find it a bit like Bouchères in Meursault; get it right and you have something full, light and lacy, but it can easily lose definition. It can be very expressive, but lacks the steely backbone of the better grand cru and as such rates in the third rank. It matures more quickly – a good choice in restaurants, where the vintages are always too young. It is a similar size as the previous grand cru 12.8 hectares, which are cultivated by fewer than 20 producers.

Domaine Laroche, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Blanchots 2014

This is a well managed Blanchots. It has a soft aroma. It is rounded and charming. Alluring floral characterics and there is plenty of freshness. It has 40% oak (only a fraction is new) and this seems to support the structure the wine. The finish is decent, firm and spicy. Score 73

 Les Clos

Les Clos is arguably the finest grand cru vineyard. Les Clos has greater density and power than the more elegant Vaudésir It is a deep and compact wine. The strong mineral core is of polished steel and this is enveloped in a luscious depth of fruit. If Vaudésir is the queen of the grand crus, Les Clos is the king. It ages wonderfully – a minimum of 10 years. It’s a large sunny vineyard, (28.39 hectares) facing south.It is quite rocky and has a higher level of limestone.

Domaine Servin, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014

A rather citrus aroma which is carried to the palate. It has a rich texture, juicy and a muscular density. It has substance. It is aged in 100% of of 1 to 6 years old and packs a punch on the finish. Score 79.

Ageing Chablis Grand Cru 

Grand Cru Chablis ages very well even from challenging vintages. I have some Domaine des Malandes, Les Clos 2003 which has been sitting in my cellar since 2005 and I had all but forgotten it. My expectations given the heat of the vintage were not high, but I was curious. I opened a bottle a couple of years ago and found rather lack lustre. However the bottle I tried a bottle a few days ago was very pleasant. It was a deep straw colour with a honeyed nose. Really quite rich with notes of ripe apricots and caramel. The palate was full and buttery – warm buttered toast and roasted almonds. It’s quite thickly textured, but not too heavy. It tastes of a sunny vintage. The finish, which I expected to be rather sweet was actually just slightly saline. Score 68.