What’s the Difference Between Petit Chablis and Chablis?

Foreground white wine being poured into a glass; background blurry white wine glass

Is it a grape or a place? 

By Erin Henderson

I spend a good deal of my work week leading wine tastings and teaching wine classes. In fact, that's kindof the whole point of The Wine Sisters.

Lately, students have been asking me quite a bit about the difference between all the Chablis labels. Petit, Premier, Grand Cru, regular ole’ Chablis … what is a wine lover to do?

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Well, for starters, this conundrum is both the beauty and frustration of wine – specifically wine hailing from European regions. Is Chablis a grape or a place? (A quick show of hands in my classes suggests people are 50/50 on the answer.) How does a wine enthusiast have any confidence as to what is in the bottle, if they don’t exactly know what it is?

In Chablis, the larger region is broken down into four parts (think of New York City: the city as a whole is made up from geographical boroughs such as Manhattan and Brooklyn). In order of hierarchy, Chablis’ regions go from Petit Chablis to Chablis to Premier to Grand Cru.

Grand Cru, unsurprisingly, has the best vineyard positioning, real estate, soils and slopes, and therefore the tightest regulations surrounding the grape growing and wine making. On the other end, Petit vineyards, which are mostly scattered around the edges of the Chablis region perched a top windy and cold hills, have looser regulations.

This is not to suggest that Petit is inferior to Grand Cru. They both offer specific attributes and it’s up to you to decide what is the right wine for the moment.

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Map courtesy of chablis-wines.com
Map c/o chablis-wines.com

Before we get to the differences, let’s start with the similarities.

Petit Chablis
Chablis
Premier Cru
Grand Cru Chablis

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