The origins of Chablis village and Chablis wine
The foundation of the Chablis village and its first wines dates back to the Romans. The name "Chablis" might derive from Celtic words meaning "the slope of the ford".
In the year 510, the Christian King Sigismond founded a small monastery dedicated to Saint-Loup, around which the village slowly expanded during the Middle Ages. In the ninth century, the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint-Martin de Tours, fleeing the Vikings invaders who sailed up the river Loire, settled in Chablis. In the early 12th century, the foundation, a few leagues from Chablis, of the cistercian abbey of Pontigny, was an other major event for the extension and the fame of the vineyard. Then, vineyards were offered to the religious orders, among other donations. They became important owners.
In a few decades, the reputation of the Chablis wine extended beyond the frontiers of Yonne and Auxerre. The planting of the Chardonnay grape variety in the terroir of Chablis resulted from the monks' meticulous work. Through their impetus, the vine-trade got organized: the wine was exported and mainly to Great Britain. In the same period, it was served to the kings of France.
From the middle-Ages to the Renaissance, the culinary arts became more and more refined and Chablis wines accompanied the most delicate meals. The 17th and 18th centuries were also prosperous times because of the improvement of the means of transport and the development of European trade. The sudden stop to the expansion dates from the late 19th century when phylloxera and mildew destroyed the vineyard.
It was necessary to start again from square one, to exploit the soil, to replant the wine with Chardonnay plants grafted on resistant rootstocks. Then the most prosperous years of the Chablis wine began. It gained an international reputation and took part in the most beautiful stories of the Burgundian wines. In Great Britain, in the United States, in Northern Europe and in Russia, Chablis was synonymous with dry white wine. To meet the great demand of the export trade, the vineyard enlarged and benefited by news viticultural techniques and by protection against the spring frost.