Chablis is located south of Champagne and at the northern tip of the Burgundy region near Auxerre in the region of the Yonne. The vineyards are gathered around the small town of Chablis with the peacefully sounding Serein River running through its center. As in much of Burgundy, the Cistercian monks first developed the vineyards in the 12th century. The soils of the region date from the hot Jurassic era or more precisely the Kimmeridgean age (150 million years ago). Deposits of shells and fossils are still found in the hardened chalk soils.
There are just over 5, 400 hectares of vines in Chablis divided into four categories: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. Chablis wines are made with the Chardonnay grape and are characterized by their crisp fruit, freshness, flavours of orchard fruits and minerals and their long, pure finish. About 40 million bottles are produced each year and there are around 300 wine estates.
The four appellations are broken up as follows: Petit Chablis can come from any of the communes in the region; Chablis (or Village Chablis) comes from a closer defined area around the town of Chablis and accounts for 65% of total production with a vineyard surface of just over 3,500 hectares; Chablis Premier Cru comes from 40 different climats, although many are not used these days: the most famous being Montée de Tonnerre followed by Fourchaume, Vaillons and Montmains and finally Chablis Grand Cru with its 7 climats, located on the right bank of the Serein River at an elevation of 100 to 250 meters with a southwestern exposure.
Most Chablis should be enjoyed young, although Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru can age impressively in great vintages and become richer and more complex with time.