A controversial plan would have kept producers of Chablis from labeling their wine as Burgundy.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated February 11, 2020
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For white wines, Chablis has always felt like a Burgundy outsider. In fact, many casual wine drinkers might not even realize that Chablis is a part of the prestigious region. The reasons behind this confusion are straightforward: First, though Chablis—like the rest of the Burgundy region—uses mostly Chardonnay grapes, Chablis tend to be brighter than the more traditional oaked Chardonnays from other Burgundy AOCs. And second, many Chablis wines don’t even include Bourgogne on their label, probably as a way to hammer these differences home. But removing Chablis from Burgundy entirely? Though Chablis producers appreciate their differences from the AOCs to the south, getting the ax from one of France’s top regions wasn’t something they were willing to tolerate.

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Last week, producers from across Burgundy traveled to the outskirts of Paris to protest a meeting of the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO)—the people who handle France’s AOC system—in opposition to a plan that could have significantly redrawn Burgundy’s official map, leaving dozens of communes on the outside looking in, according to The Guardian. Chablis would have been significantly affected by this change, preventing producers in the area from using the Bourgogne AOC label on their wines if they wanted to.

In the INAO’s defense, since many Chablis producers don’t label their wines as Burgundy anyway, the belief was that the change wouldn’t necessarily be that impactful. But obviously, the French wine industry is deeply rooted in tradition, and in the end, the INAO ceded to the protestors. “I will not be the president who takes Chablis out of Burgundy,” Christian Paly, the president of the committee, affirmed afterward.

Helping Chablis’ cause was the Burgundy federation of AOCs itself. According to the AFP, Thiebault Huber, president of the group, came out in defense of his Burgundy brothers. “It's totally unacceptable,” he was quoted as saying. “We don't understand how you can exclude producers who have been part of Burgundy for centuries.”

Damien Leclerc, head of the Chablis growers’ association, also spoke to the importance of tradition. “By this logic, the INAO could also decide that Cremant de Bourgogne is a Champagne, or that a Luberon is a Cotes du Rhone,” he was quoted as saying. Whoa. Let’s not say anything we can’t take back, Leclerc!

Regardless, for now, toast a Chablis to Burgundy. The wines are staying in the region.