Since all seven of these tiny plots are strung along a single narrow hillside, their wines have, to say the least, a marked family resemblance, and even the most expert tasters would find it hard to distinguish, unfailingly, a Chablis Vaudésir, for example, from a Chablis Preuses. This is particularly true since none of these vineyards is owned outright by a single grower; more than a dozen different producers have holdings (often of half an acre or less) in Chablis Les Clos, for example, and it is therefore possible to buy authentic and estate-bottled Chablis Lea Clos under at least a dozen different labels. And they will be, in truth, a dozen quite different wines, some made from grapes picked earlier than others, pressed, fermented, clarified, and bottled independently, and under different conditions in different cellars. In general, although not by any means always, the best of them are bottled by their producers, and carry on their labels the words “Mise du Domaine.” And this, by the way. is equally true of Chablis Premier Cru.
Although it is certainly not possible to set down in any specific, precise fashion the distinctive qualities of each of the seven Grand Cru Chablis wines, we can perhaps do so in a general way, for they do have their separate personalities and their differences. Here, then, is an attempt, at least, to define them:
- Chablis Vaudésir. Almost always ranked at the top. this is the fullestbodied wine that Chablis produces, usually a shade higher in alcohol than the others, a big, splendid, forthright wine of obvious distinction and class.
- Chablis les Clos. Another big wine, generally a little more austere and developing more slowly, harder, flintier, very long-lived; it has been called the “Chablis-lover's Chablis.”
- Chablis Grenouilles. Very small production, a great rarity. Perhaps a little more “feminine” than the others, charming, fragrant, with extraordinary delicacy and breed.
- Chablis Valmur. Very close to Vaudésir in quality and much the same sort of wine, full, well-balanced, faultless.
- Chablis Blanchots. A rather hard wine that develops slowly, “classic,” somewhat comparable to Les Clos but less attractive and certainly less fine.
- Chablis Preuses. An interesting wine, rather different from the others, hard when young, developing a special “hazelnut” bouquet and flavor as it matures.
- Chablis Bougros. Not the greatest, but a charmer; spicy, soft, fragrant, soon ready. Of all the Grand Cru Chablis, it is perhaps the one that the average wine-drinker will find most pleasing.
- Chablis Moutonne. This is not a legally classified vineyard but a Grand Cru wine, coming from an individual property partly in Vaudésir and partly in Preuses. It is entitled to the appellation “Grand Cru,” but the word “Moutonne” is registered and is more or less in the nature of a brand.