I represent two growers in Chablis, because they both lie in different townships and profit from different soils and exposures. Although Chablis has been a popular white wine name for centuries, it has only really expanded commercially during the last forty years.
Chablis was one of the first appellation contrôlées to be delimited in the 1930s. The deciding factor for land to be authorized for vineyards was the chalk soil known as Kimmeridgean, after the village of Kimmeridge in Dorset, England. This soil type is well established in all of the Chablis Grands Crus, on the right bank of the Serein River, and most of the Premiers Crus, but prior to 1975 only a limited part of the plain Chablis growing area enjoyed Kimmeridgean soils. That made plain Chablis, or Chablis tout court, a relative rarity on the market. In 1975 the I.N.A.O. in Paris decided to redefine the Chablis vineyard area, and eliminated the requirement that it extend only over Kimmeridgean soil. This had the effect of effectively doubling the vineyard area for plain Chablis, a process that took over five years of replanting. Not only did this assist Chablis commercially, but it meant that many Chablis growers had more wine to sell – under their own label. Previously, most of them sold their wine in bulk to shippers, either in Chablis itself or in Beaune, where it was blended to their specifications.
Two growers that specialize in a quality Chablis tout court are Domaine Vrignaud in Fontenay-près-Chablis, and Domaine Vincent Sauvestre in La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne. Vrignaud lies to the east of Chablis, in a picturesque little village that is home to many winegrowers. Dating back five generations, they have holdings in Petit Chablis (on the outer fringes of the district), plain Chablis, and Chablis Premiers Crus Fourchaume and Mont de Milieu. After selling in cask for many years, Vincent and Joelle Vrignaud started direct sales in 1991, and their son Guillaume, the present winegrower and director, took over in 1999. Stylistically, Guillaume prefers a traditional Chablis with some lees but no wood aging; in fact, his plain Chablis is a match for many Premiers Crus. The Fourchaume is available in a regular version and a vieilles vignes, a superior lot that is released after some bottle age.
Vincent Sauvestre is headquartered in Meursault, in the Côte d’Or to the south. Although he does not reside in Chablis, he has a team in La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne that manages the vineyards year round and prepares for the vintage in the fall. Wines are stored both in Chablis and in Meursault, but are only bottled in Meursault. The Chablis tout court is sleek, racy, and has a marked minerality that defines a great Chablis. Even better is the Premier Cru Beauroy, from steep slopes located to the west of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne and profiting from superb exposure and drainage.