Burgundy begins about 90 miles southeast of Paris in the Yonne River Valley. Although vineyards throughout the department of the Yonne were once widely known, its modern fame depends upon the world renowned region of Chablis. Chablis' early popularity grew from its accessibility to the Yonne River, which, as a tributary of the Seine, allowed for quick and easy exportation to Paris. Unfortunately, its early success was not without a price as, perhaps more than any other wine region of France, fraudulent outsiders copied the name, labeling virtually any white wine as Chablis.
Today, as wine drinkers have become more sophisticated and European Union legislation has more strictly regulated the naming of viticultural products, Chablis is making a comeback. Yet many are still unaware that Chablis refers only to this well-defined area in north-central France and only to wines made from the chardonnay grape. The Chablis wine region includes not only its eponymous village, but also the vineyards of 20 or so surrounding villages within a 10 - 15km radius. The Chablis vineyards are bisected by the Serein River (a Yonne tributary), with the eastern slopes containing most of the top premier crus and all the Grand Cru hill. Genuine Chablis will have a very pale straw color often with a tinge of green. It is grown on a Jurassic clay and limestone soil called Kimmeridgian that is laden with exogyra virgula (a comma-shaped fossilized mollusk), which lends a defining gout de la pierre a fusil, or gunflint character, to the wines.
Chablis is light- or sometimes medium-bodied, but in any case deceptively powerful. The wines have mouthwatering acidity, almost saline in nature, and can age extremely well with Grand Crus able to last 10 years or more in the best vintages. Grand Cru Chablis include Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudesir.
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