The enjoyment of wines of Burgundy come hand in hand with in-depth, detail-oriented understanding of the terroir of Burgundy. Today Team WWX takes you to look at the best climat (vineyard site) within Chablis Grand Cru: Les Clos.
- One of the most famous wine names in the world, Chablis has suffered from numerous imitators. Fifty years ago there were just 400ha of vineyards in Chablis, but today there are 4,900ha. Both the generic and Premier Cru vineyards have doubled since the early 1970s,.
- The grand cru vineyards sit across the Serein River from the village of Chablis. The vineyards have southern exposure, ideal for ripening Chardonnay, and the slope has clay marl soils (the same vein of Kimmeridgian soil as the Cliffs of Dover). Grand cru Chablis vary widely in taste, depending on the climat and winemaking.
The classic Burgundy learner’s trick question is: how many Grand Cru is there in Chablis? The legally correct answer is one, and within that one Grand Cru there are 7 officially recognized climats, and one that is relatively more “unofficial” parcel La Moutonne. Among these 7 climats, it is the climat of Les Clos that claims the throne of being the best among all in terms of balance, complexity, concentration and ageability. This largest climat (26.71 hectares) in Chablis Grand Cru produces wines that are powerful and intense, filled with ripe stone fruit and nuanced honeyed tones. It is the masculine neighbour of the more feminine, floral-laced Valmur. Rather like Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru in the Cote de Nuits region, Les Clos does not belong to any monopole ownership but sees criss-crossed ownership by some of the most revered names among Chablis producers.
The wines fall into four appellations: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. For an overview of Chablis wines, see Jancis Robinson's article in our Wine Region section. There is evidence of the town’s lasting prosperity all around.
Nestled at the heart of the south and southwest-facing amphitheatre Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos is historically recognized for its superior vine-growing potential since the 1200s by medieval monks. The wall that once gave this climat the reference of “Les Clos” does not exist now. Yet it was indeed the historic existence of this wall that proved the elevated status of this particular climat against rest of the climats. Across all French winemaking regions, all superior sites are often traditionally protected by stone walls as a means to prevent theft of fruit from those superior areas.
Les Clos proudly sits on a bed of Kimmeridgian limestone, which is the source of marine fossils and chalk soil, long credited for bestowing that distinctive saline minerality typically associated with classic Chablis. That, together with its mid-slope southwest facing aspect, composes the fundamentals for the making of a majestic whilst well-defined, rich whilst racy, top quality Chardonnay with longevity. The best time to enjoy a Les Clos comes often after the wine has seen a minimum of 10 years of bottle ageing.
Map and Vineyard Holdings Highlights Credit: Fernando Beteta Master Sommelier.
Get an interactive overview of which other producers hold the rest of Les Clos, you may visit this page: https://fernandobeteta.com/blog/2017/3/3/interactive-map-of-chablis-grand-cru-les-clos-by-parcel-with-all-owners
Textbook expression: William Fevre
William Fevre holds a total of 7 parcels of vineyards within Les Clos, covering 4.14 hectares total, with over half of them planted to vines of 60 years of age or older. This makes this producer a benchmark to go to when it comes to Les Clos expression. Expect some oak involvement in William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – it’s a stylish touch added by the producer to add further complexity to the power and intensity of this Grand Cru. If you like great white Burgundies, this is a go-to classic.
Other notable producers with holdings in Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
Some other best producers include the legendary Dauvissat and so on. What we seek to feature below are producers that offer great quality for value for money. In the following selection, you will find more stylish expressions say from Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin. Not shy of oak application (compared to other Chablis producers), JP & Benoit Droin’s Chablis are fast earning ardent following from white Burgundy fans. Their Les Clos often see a maximum of 10% new oak and take on a more stylish, suave yet unmistakably focused expression. If you want to go for more traditional expressions, Pinson will be the one to go for. The entire winemaking process is handled by hand, and all their wines do not see any new oak at all.
The Grand Auxerrois covers a multitude of very old small plots which are today sorted into four terroirs:
• The Auxerrois covers around a dozen communes to the south and southeast of Auxerre
• Farther to the east, beyond Chablis, the vines of the Tonnerrois are found in the valley of the Armançon, the river that runs through the little town of Tonnerre.
• In the south of the Grand Auxerrois region is the Vézelien, which covers Vézelay, Asquins, Saint-Père and Tharoiseau
• The slopes of the Jovinien look down over the town of Joigny, to the north of Auxerre
On these limestone soils, the wines are mainly produced from the traditional Bourgogne varietals of Chardonnay and Aligoté for whites, and Pinot Noir and Gamay for the reds. César for reds, and Sacy or Melon for whites are used in smaller quantities. César, which is a very old Bourgogne varietal, sometimes makes a minor appearance in certain Irancy wines.
There is an exception in Saint-Bris, where the winemakers produce very aromatic whites from the Sauvignon grape.
The Grand Auxerrois brings a wide palette of appellations to the Bourgogne winegrowing region, mainly specific appellations Régionales:
Map Of Chablis Grand Cru
- Appellations Villages: Irancy, Saint-Bris, Vézelay
- Appellations Régionales specific to Grand Auxerrois: Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Côte Saint-Jacques, Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Bourgogne Epineuil, Bourgogne Tonnerre,