- Chablis wines
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- Petit Chablis
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The name Chablis stems from two Celtic words: CAB, signifying “house” and LEYA, meaning “near the woods”. For as long as can be remembered, it seems that man has liked to live in this corner of Burgundy.
There are traces of a Neolithic village then much later, the remains of a fortified farm in the Gaul era when the vines were probably already present.
However, the real beginnings of Chablis seem to be during the Roman era with the establishment of 4 considerable “villas”. Although the vines were uprooted under Emperor Domitian (81-96), Emperor Probus (276-282) restored the cultivation of vines, allowing Chablis to be enjoyed once more. This was 17 centuries ago.
In the V century, the migration period brought amongst others, the Burgunds. Around 510 the Christian King Sigismond founded a small monastery dedicated to St Loup, the second bishop of Sens.
In the IXth century, Charles the Bald had a small church built at the entrance to the valley of Vaucharmes (distortion of Vau Karl: the valley of Charles). This church was dedicated to Saint Mary, to thank God for having won the battle of Fontenoy on June 25th 841…a battle where France “received a birth certificate with its baptism”.
Twenty-six years later, Chablis saw an unexpected arrival: fleeing the Vikings who were coming up the Loire. The Benedictines of Tours found refuge with the relics of St Martin in the famous Abbey of Saint German in Auxerre. In 867, spending Christmas in Auxerre, Charles the Bald gave them Chablis "with churches, houses, rural properties and serfs of both sexes", as the Benedictines still feared the arrival of the Vikings by the river YonneThey soon received donations and inheritances, in particular vines (and became the largest owners), allowing them to ensure the Holy service, to meet their wine needs (the rule of St Benedict authorized a hemina of wine per day, i.e. 0.271 litres) and to welcome the poor and guests.
In 1114, the Cistercian Hugues de Mâcon founded the Abbey of Pontigny (the 2nd of the four great daughter houses of Citeaux) which, soon becoming famous, also received vines from Chablis (there are no vines in Pontigny) to meet its needs. However in 1198, the Benedictines of Chablis limited possession of their vineyard to 36 arpents (around 17-18 ha). The wine sold well, but still suffered from the reputation of Auxerre wine, which received much praise.
In the XII and XIII centuries, Chablis saw the construction of the Collégiale St Martin, the church of St Peter, the Patron Saint of Chablis the Hôtel Dieu, the Priory of St Cosme, the Petit Pontigny and in 1331 the Petite Arche du Pont.
In 1405, the construction of the battlements of the Lower Town with 29 towers, 3 gates and 3 posterns, was financed by taxes on the sale of drinks, known as the “courte pinte”.
In 1478 an important event took place: Pierre Lerouge established France’s 5th printing works in Chablis. In 1537, Chablis counted 4000 inhabitants, and its wines enjoyed a strong reputation throughout France.
On 25 February 1568, Chablis, which was partially Catholic, was attacked by the Huguenots who burned the Faubourg (the Upper Town). The Lower Town, which was well fortified, was taken and pillaged after three days of siege, but avoided fire after payment of a heavy ransom.
Prosperity was not to return for two centuries. Transported to Paris by the port of Auxerre by water coaches or by timber rafting, the wine appeared on the table of the Kings of France… and Chablis wine set off to conquer the world.
At the end of the XIX century, the vineyard was hit by phylloxera and mildew and production was hit harder by the loss of over a hundred young men during the First World War. Everything had to be recreated, but the unremitting work of the winegrowers allowed the vines to flourish once more thanks to a process which involved grafting the Chardonnay seedlings (known as Beaunois) onto American rootstocks, which were resistant to this insect, and to a fungicide known as the “Bordeaux mixture” to combat mildew.
After German bombing on June 15th 1940, when 247 houses were destroyed in the town centre, the first wine festival in 1949 marked Chablis’ renaissance. But it was only after the introduction of mechanization in 1955 and heating in the vines after the big freeze of 1957, that the vineyard began to develop once more; and it was with the generous 1970 vintage that Chablis regained its wealth. The spirit of Chablis was revived and seventeen centuries of great Burgundy wine making was able to flourish.
Credits : bigyouth
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(JL. BERNURY, E. DE BLAY, A. DROUIN D GADENNE J. GESVRES D. GILLET , M. JOLY H. MONNIER JP MUZARD, Image & Associés DR)