Why is Chablis? One reason is, the vicinity of the French capitol (it’s Paris, you do not have to Google it: Paris). This meant that in pre-railway days wines could be transported using barges along the rivers from Chablis, which was the closest vineyard area (Montmartre does not count, as it was a very limited area of production). In long gone days, before the phylloxera, the Chablis/auxerois/tonnerois area produced about 2/3 of the total of what is today produced in Bourgogne (including Chablis).
Of course, cistercian monks started it all in the 7th century CE, but, in France, what vineyard was not started by cistercian monks? And it could have been earlier.
After introduction of railways, Chablis was under stress not only from replanting after phylloxera, but also out-competed by other wine-producing areas in the South, where vineyards gave big yields of hearty and coarse red wines.
Chablis, today, is about white, dry, wines, made (predominantly) from chardonnay which is locally known as beaunois, indicating that it is recognized as imported from the Beaune area.
Predominantly because some ampelographer hiking the vineyards found that lots of vines were, in fact, pinot blanc rather than chardonnay. So it goes.
Sometime in the 50s (1957? 1956?) vineyards suffered cruelly under a very harsh winter – the Grand Cru vineyards were used for skiing and sledging – and many vines died. 1957 was a very small harvest.
SInce then, the vineyards have grown back (though not to their pre-phylloxera strength) and the wines are recognized as among the best white wines in France.
An English author, whose name escapes me, claimed that Chablis should be drunk during the first 3-5 years after its harvest. Possibly, the truly greatvintage Grand Cru wines could be saved up to 10 -12 years. Tops.
My first experience of older Chablis was a magnum 1986 1er cru, drunk with friends back in 2005? or 2006? The only problem was, the second magnum was corked (I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of that now and then).
About a year later, summer of 2006, again with friends, a 1978 Chablis made by a negociant who has since retreated to Chalon-sur Saône, making Bojolpif. Wonderful – nutty, undergrowth, with a distinct and elegant acidity – wonderful.
Today, we have passed another mark. A Chablis, non-vintage, but made during the 1950s, by a Henry Laroche, proprietaire et viticulteur, Maligny (Yonne), bought from a good provider. SLightly brownish as behooves its age, but, fresh, vibrant, with a taste of overripe apples, hazelnuts, a bit of butter, and the clean Chablis acidity that has been likened to a blade of stainless steel … that is of course a metaphor. 10 -12 years? Forget it.