The origins of Chablis go back to the 2nd century B.C. when it existed as a Gallic village situated at the south gate of the present town. The first vines were probably planted in the 1st century A.D., but were never really developed until two centuries later under the auspices of the Roman Emperor Probus (276-282).

In the year 510 A.D., Sigismond, the first Christian king of the Burgundians, founded a monastery dedicated to St Loup, where the present Church of St Martin now stands.

During the 8th century, the monastery of St Loup and the borough of Chablis became the property of Charles Martel and his successors.

In the year 854, the monks of Tours, fleeing from the Viking invasions, took refuge in the Abbey of St Germain of Auxerre, bringing with them the relics of their patron St Martin.

 
photo « Saint Martin »



In the year 867, Charles the bald, gave both the borough of Chablis and the Monastery to these displaced monks, where they duly installed the relics of St Martin.

It was really the monks from the Abbey of Pontigny, fifteen kilometres away from Chablis, who developed the vineyards. These monks had already tried to grow vines in Pontigny but the soils of Chablis bore better fruit. Thus, in 1118, they came to an agreement with the monks of Chablis allowing them to plant 36 arpents (22 hectares) of vines around the village of Chablis. It was also around this time that the Cistercian monks founded the legendary Clos Vougeot.

 

In order to make and store their wine the monks built the “Petit Pontigny”. These are cellars which exist to this day and now host many wine events as well as being the headquarters for the “Bureau Interprofessionel des Vins de Bourgogne” in Chablis.
    photo « The Petit Pontigny »


photo « the St Martin Collegical Church »    
In the 12th century, many new buildings were added : the parish church of St Pierre, the lepers hospital, the Hotel Dieu, the Priory of St Cosme as well as the Collegial Church of St Martin. This last was finished at the end of the 13th century and is a small scale replica of the cathedral of Sens.




Chablis was part of Champagne region until 1274, when it became part of the royal demesnes.

In 1328, 1536 arpents of vines were cultivated by 450 owners.

In 1478, Louis XI gave the Lerouge brothers the right to work in Chablis. This was only the fifth printer to set up in France.

The 15th century saw Chablis at its height, with the village fortified by a wall, 29 towers, and three gates all with drawbridges.

 
photo la « Poivričre »



By 1537, records show that the land under vines had grown to 1200 arpents and supported 750 vignerons.

This period of prosperity came to an end in February 1568 when protestants invaded the town, burning and pillaging as they went. Two centuries passed before Chablis regained its former prosperity.

 
photo “Chablis seen by Israël Sylvestre in 1610”



During the French Revolution, the best parcels of vines, which up till then had belonged to the Clergy, were put up for sale and thus became accessible to any vigneron.

In 1850, with 40 000 hectares of vines and an annual production of a million hectolitres, the Yonne was the most important wine producing region of France.

However with the arrival of the phylloxera epidemic of 1887, the vines of Chablis were totally destroyed. Ten years later they were replanted thanks to American graft stock but also thanks to the courage and tenacity of Chablis’ winegrowers.

The 1914-18 war saw the deaths of numerous young vignerons in the trenches of Northern France. Over this four year period the vineyards were tended by their mothers and wives.

On the 15th of June 1940, Chablis was bombed by German aircraft causing 90 deaths and substantial material damage. A large portion of the old town was destroyed.

 
cartes postales Chablis



By 1919, five parcels of Grands crus Chablis were mentioned on the labels. In 1938 the Chablis AOC and Grand Crus were defined, and in 1967 the Premiers Crus were officially classed by decree of the INAO. It was in 1943 that a decree fixed criteria for the Petit Chablis AOC.

During the 70’s wine growing developed considerably thanks to the uprooting of other crops in favour of the Vine as well as to the improvement of techniques against frost damage.

In 1976, Chablis organised the “Grande St Vincent Tournante de Bourgogne".

 
photos « The Brotherwood of the Pilars of Chablis”

 

In 1999, after several years of preparation, it was once again Chablis turn to organise the Saint Vincent ... The wine of Chablis flowed and despite the bitter cold, 150 000 people attended.


photo “The St Vincent in Chablis in 1999”



Today, Chablis is composed of 4308 hectares of vines of which 569 ha are Petit Chablis, 2895 ha of Chablis, 743 ha of Premiers Crus and 101 ha of Grand Crus.