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Chablis (Municipality, Yonne, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-19 by ivan sache
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Flag of Chablis, current and former versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 19 June 2021, and Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 6 March 2010, respectively

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Presentation of Chablis

The municipality of Chablis (2,240 inhabitants in 2018; 3,883 ha) is located 20 km west of Auxerre. The center of a renown producing areas of white wines, therefore its nickname of "Golden Gate of Burgundy".

Chablis appeared in the history as "cella capleiam", a monastery transferred in 887 - together with its church, houses, vinyards and peasants - by king Charles the Bold to the canons of the St. Martin abbey of Tours; expelled by the Norsemen, the canons had settled in 854 in the St. German abbey of Auxerre.
In 1367, Chablis was incorporated to the royal domain by Charles VI, with the rank of Royal Town. Chablis was then ruled by two provosts, appointed by the abbot (St. Martin grand provost) and the the king (Kkng's provost), respectively.

Chablis wines (official website), highly prized in the French royal court and mentioned in Tolstoi's Anna Karenin, were already famous in the Middle Ages, being exported to England via Rouen and to Flanders via Compiègne. The logbook of the Compagnies françaises, dated 1455, lists 67 barrels of Chablis wine purchased by a merchant "from Maubeuge or Hénault [Hainaut]". A map established in 1537 shows 700 wine growers, while they were only 450 in 1328.
Chablis developed as a wealthy town, made of the upper town, built around the St. Peter church, the Hôtel-Dieu and the St. Cosmas priory, and of the lower town, built around the St. Martin collegiate church. The whole town was surrounded in the 15th century by a wall defended by 29 towers, three gates and three posterns. In 1478, printer Pierre Lerouge was granted the privilege of setting up a printhouse, the fifth allowed in the kingdom of France. The first Gilded Age of Chablis ended in 1568, when the town was seized, partially burned and ransomed by the Huguenots.

The phylloxera crisis and the First World War nearly suppressed wine- growing in the region. Severely damaged by a German air raid on 15 June 1940 (90 lives were claimed and more than 100 houses were destroyed), the town was rebuilt after the Liberation. Reorganized, wine trade resumed in 1949. In the 1960s, systematic protection against spring frost, which had destroyed all the production in 1957, was implemented, allowing the boost of the Chablis wines. The outstanding 1970 vintage confirmed the rebirth of the Chablis vineyard.
The Chablis vineyard covers 6,830 ha spread over 24 villages; only Chardonnay grapes are allowed. The top wines, called Chablis Grand Cru are produced exclusively in Chablis and Fyé, on seven "climates" (Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésirs; 103 ha) mentioned on the bottle label; yield is limited to 54 hl/ha. Chablis Premier Cru wines are produced on 40 "climates" (745 ha), with yield limited to 58 hl/ha. The yield of Chablis (4,420 ha) wines is limited to 60 hl/ha, as it is the case for Petit Chablis (1,562 ha) wines.

Ivan Sache, 6 March 2018

Flag of Chablis

The flag of Chablis (photo), is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Per fess, 1. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or, 2. Gules a St. Martin riding cutting half of his cloak to give it to a poor, all or", in the center. The coat of arms is surmounted by a mural crowb and supported by grapvine leaves, all or. The name of the municipality is written in black capital letters above the shield. The former flag of Chablis (photo, July 2005) was simiular, with a bigger coat of arms lacking ornementations and the municipality's name inb a different font.

The arms of Chablis are modelled on the ancient seals of the municipality, recalling the share of the power between the king of France and the St. Martin monks.The two provosts exerted the power in turn and used a common seal. Before reincorporation to the royal domain in 1367, the dexter part of the seal showed the arms of the lord of Chablis.

Olivier Touzeau, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 19 June 2021