Although (only?!) 71 percent of Earth’s surface is now water, once upon a time the globe was completely covered with vast oceans, a waterworld teeming with minute calcareous marine life. As the seas receded, mountains emerged, exposing the sedimentary layers of their finely ground and compressed shells, creating what we now call limestone, a ridge of which runs through many of France’s great wine-growing regions, from the Loire to Champagne and finally Burgundy, but most abundantly in Chablis.
Limestone is so important to the character of Chablis that the region’s different levels of classification are mainly determined by which type of limestone runs through its various slopes and valleys. Petit Chablis is situated at the top of the hills on Portlandian limestone, while Chablis grows in Kimmeridgian limestone (characterized by many more fossilized shells), with premier cru vineyards oriented southeast and grands crus on the most ideal steep, south-facing slopes.
It’s as if the fossil-laden chalky soil running through Chablis has helped create a wine that is a visceral reminder of our amphibian past, with its bracing smell of waterfalls and oncoming rain, wet stone and coastal citrus groves. Briny, crisp, chiseled, and mouthwatering, it refreshes and invigorates. We can thank all those marine fellas for giving their lives (and honor them by eating more of their descendants) by raising a glass in oceanic salute.