The Climats of Chablis : micro-terroirs

Vaillons, Chatains, Beugnons, Mélinots, Roncières,Sécher, Les Epinottes, Les Lys

Vaillons, a flag-ship Climat

Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons  Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons

The name of this Climat of Chablis Premier Cru comes from the Latin word vallis. Vaillons means "little valley".

 

Vaillons and its neighbors cover a total of 129 hectares, making it one of the largest flag-bearing Climats in the Chablis Premier Cru appellation, with eight Climats under its banner. Les Lys, Sécher, Vaillons, Chatains and Beugnons are on the upper part of the hill, while Les Epinottes, Roncières and Mélinots are on the lower part. Because of its south and east exposure, Vaillons mostly enjoys morning sun. Its shallow soil lets the grapes ripen quickly. The subsoil displays a high concentration of Kimmeridgian limestone with some very compact slabs in some places.

The flag-ship ClimatVaillons

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • Located on the left bank, Vaillons is quite the pioneer, since it is one of the first Climats to be classified as a Premier Cru on this side of the Serein. Known to be hard to work — the surface clays are sticky — taming this Climat is crucial to get the best out of it! The result is outstanding beyond a doubt: controlled balance, intense aromas, elegance and mineral tension — all the necessary ingredients to make Vaillons a great Chablis. Already quite expressive after 2 or 3 years, it will gain in complexity with another few years of ageing.
  •  
  • Latin provides the answer: etymologically, vallis or valles mean "a large space between two areas". Spelled "Valion" in a document dating from 1429, Vaillons ultimately derives its name from this notion of small valley.

Chatains

Climat Chatains

Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons    Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons

Chablis 1er Cru Chatains

This Climat of Chablis Premier Cru has brown earth reminiscent of the color of chestnuts.

 

Vaillons is the flag-bearing Climat of Chablis that encompasses the most secondary Climats. Nestled in the upper strip of this group of vineyards, Chatains sits on either side of the Climat of Vaillons, remaining one entity only due to a narrow strip at the top, as if it holds Vaillons in its embrace! Located at the top of the hill, it benefits from the same south and east exposure. While getting mainly morning sun, its shallow soil gives the grapes an outstanding terroir where maturity comes fast. In some areas, the large quantities of Kimmeridgian limestone in the subsoil are covered with sticky clays. 

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • LThe wines gathered under the flag-bearing Climat Vaillons are emblematic of Chablis’ Premier Cru wines. Like its neighbors, Chatains is perfectly balanced: dense and robust, without being too muscular, nervous without being aggressive, smooth and delicate without ever becoming too buttery.
  •  
  • Among the fanciful theories conjured up to explain the origin of Chatains, some refer to chestnut trees. No record of any has ever been found in Chablis, as they would not do well in this limestone soil! A reference to chestnut-brown seems more plausible, since Chatains distinguishes itself by a chestnut-brown earth from the erosion of the plateaus. So, the geological theory is likely the one!

Beugnons

Prononciation - Climat Beugnons    Prononciation Climat Beugnons

Chablis 1er Cru Beugnons

Uprooted tree trunk or spring? Two explanations compete to provide the origin of the name of this Climat of Chablis Premier Cru.

 

Perched on the left bank, all the way to the top of its flag-bearing Climat Vaillons, Beugnons calls the shots! The grape harvest usually begins here... Its moderate slope and strong south and east exposure make Beugnons a hot and precocious terroir. The subsoil and Kimmeridgian marls are true to the character of Chablis. They are covered by some thin clays that can get quite sticky in rainy periods, with a lot of limestone scree, causing significant water stress.

Climat Beugnons

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • A charming, and even sometimes seductive wine, Beugnons has the temperament of a hot terroir. It must be said that it makes a strong case: very supple, with an incredible aromatic strength and a delicate minerality. As the wines from Chablis Premier Cru Beugnons are warm wines, they can be enjoyed young. They reveal, however, other sides of their personality after ageing 5 to 7 years.
  •  
  • Our ancestors the Gauls might have played a key role in the history of this Climat! At the time, "bugna", "bignon", and "buignon" were all words describing a tree trunk or an uprooted tree stump", so Beugnons may have its origin in the great clearances of the 12th century. Another explanation might be the word "bugnon", the ancient name for a spring. On a map dating from 1705 of the various properties of the Pontigny Abbey, there is a spring flowing there. The Gallic origins of the word "source" are the most likely explanation.

Mélinots

Climat Mélinots

Prononciation Climat Mélinots    Prononciation Climat Mélinots

Chablis 1er Cru Mélinots

The name of this Climat likely stems from the name of ancient families called Mélin or Méline. 

 

In 1978, Mélinots was added to the area covered by the flag-bearing Climat Vaillons. Lying quite a distance from the Serein, it sits discreetly at the bottom of the slopes with a nice south and east exposure and a typical Chablis soil. The Kimmeridgian marls and their small fossilized oysters — the famous Exogyra virgula — are plentiful here. In terms of soil, sticky clays can make the terrain difficult to work in wet weather.

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • Despite its peripheral position, Mélinots does not go unnoticed: its wines are very expressive, with a beautiful fruity aromatic intensity. Their outstanding mineral tension gives them elegance and delicacy. Be patient: they need 2 or 3 years before revealing their true complexity. Their ageing potential can be as long as 6 to 8 years.
  •  
  • In the past, the day before the grape harvest, winegrowers used to use little windmills incorporating iron boxes filled with stones that would turn and keep greedy badgers away! Mélinots might come from "moulinot" (little mill). Another possible explanation: from the name of certain families called "Mélin" and "Méline" who grew vines in the Middle Ages. Mélinots could be the nickname given to "Mélin’s children" who owned vineyards there.

Roncières

Prononciation - Climat Roncières    Prononciation - Climat Roncières

Chablis 1er Cru Roncières

The name of this Climat is no mystery: it comes from the brambles that preceded the vines.

 

Sitting on the left bank, Roncières belongs to the group encompassed by the flag-bearing Climat Vaillons. Located on the lower part of the hill, it delicately runs along the Valvan valley, as an extension of Les Epinottes. Because of a south and east exposure, it benefits from the first rays of the sun. Like its neighbors, its subsoil displays some large Kimmeridgian marls. Its distinctive feature? The clay on the surface becomes sticky after the rain.

Climat Roncières

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • The Climats under Vaillons all show certain similarities, while also developing their own personalities; a perfect example of the great strength of Chablis – one terroir and one grape variety, but such an array of Climats! Roncières has this delicate and buttery texture, counterbalanced by a controlled liveliness. In their own way, these wines are typical of Vaillons.
  • Back in 1429, the word "Roncières" was already spelled as it is now. The origin of this name leaves no room for ambiguity. Brambles are everywhere in this area and have always been part of the landscape. They used to be quite overwhelming and constitute a dense brush! The vineyards planted later on were named after them.

Sécher

Climat Sécher

Prononciation - Climat Sécher    Prononciation - Climat Sécher

Chablis 1er Cru Sécher

From the Latin word secabilis (able to be cut), Sécher was likely a wooded hill that was cleared and divided.

 

At first glance, Sécher almost seems to be one and the same as its flag-bearing Climat Vaillons. Situated on the left bank of the Serein, it benefits from extending the same east and southeast exposure. The morning sunlight and natural ventilation let the grapes ripen slowly but surely. In terms of soil, the Kimmeridgian marls are fewer here and are replaced by white clays. This poor and shallow soil has the advantage of being very well drained.

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • The hill of Sécher is known for being difficult: a poor and dry soil combined with a naturally cold setting constrain the grapes to a slow ripening. This gradual maturation is reflected in the wines through their stony minerality, as well as their fruity and floral notes. Its remarkable power and length on the palate give way to its high purity. A nice tension and a natural freshness give Sécher the means of ageing well. Its cellaring potential is close to a decade, if not more.
  • Prior to the major clearances of the 12th century, Sécher was probably a wooded hill. As such, its name might refer to secabilis (able to be cut). A parchment of the Chapter of Saint Martin of Tours dated 1267 says "dimidium arpentum vinee in loco dicitur sichi", which means "half arpent of vine in a certain place called "sichi".

Les Epinottes

Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Les Epinottes    Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Les Epinottes

Chablis 1er Cru Les Epinottes

Whether brambles, thorns or hedgehogs – either way, the name of this Climat of Chablis Premier Cru is most intriguing!

 

Located on the left bank, the flag-bearing Climat Vaillons encompasses eight Climats, one of these being Les Epinottes. Nestled on the outskirts of the village of Chablis, in the Serein valley, it stretches over the lower slopes of the Valvan valley. Because of a south and east exposure, it mostly gets morning sun. Kimmeridgian marls are predominant, and the soil is mainly clay. The latter can make things quite challenging for winegrowers, especially when they become sticky after the rain!

Climat les Epinottes

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • Les Epinottes is the largest of the 8 Climats under the flag-bearing Climat Vaillons. Brisk without being aggressive, substantial without being too muscular, and smooth without being too creamy, the Chablis Premier Cru wines from this Climat exhibit the distinctive balance of Chablis wines.
  • All the legends behind Les Épinottes have one thing in common: they all have something prickly about them! Spelled "l’espinotte" in 1429, coming from the Latin word spina, it changed into "épinette", pointed secateurs used for harvesting. As for the adjective "spinal", it refers to the backbone or the spinal cord. Other words include the Old French word espinar (hedgehog), espinat (thorn bush) or éspinaie (a place covered with thorns). One thing is certain: thorns and brambles inspired people to name this place once they had removed the brush and planted vines.

Les Lys

Climat les Lys

Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys    Prononciation - Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys

Chablis 1er Cru Les Lys

The explanation behind the name of this Climat of Chablis Premier Cru is the Latin word licium (border).

 

The flag-bearing Climat Vaillons encompasses eight Climats on the left bank, including the Lys, even though the latter seems to want to stand apart. With a north and northeast exposure, it is nestled just behind a hill, proudly perched on a promontory. It is open to the wind and benefits greatly from the morning sun at the coolest hours of the day. These natural assets provide Les Lys with a particularly healthy terroir where grapes mature slowly. The soil consists of sticky, only slightly stony clays that sit on a marly subsoil typical of the Kimmeridgian. 

CHARACTER, STORIES AND LEGENDS

  • Because of its unique exposure, Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys has no equivalent. The wines from this crisp and lively Climat have great length on the palate and a moderate minerality. As the vines take their time to mature, the resulting wines are surprisingly rich and qualify as gastronomic wines. They need a few years to fully express themselves; while their minerality is beautifully developed after 2 or 3 years, they can easily age 7 to 10 years, if not more.
  • No need to go too far back in time since the name Les Lys was only first mentioned in the 19th century. This might come as a surprise, knowing that vines have been growing here since 1267! Whatever the case may be, this name probably comes from the Latin word licium (edge). The Chemin du Lys, that runs above this Climat, still winds its way to the edge of the woods.