rom father to son. They know the routine by now. The Lamblin family has been doing this since 1690. This Chablis firm has been run by the same family for over 300 years. During twelve generations Lamblin & Fils has gone from being a small operation that included both wine and other crops to a company that exports to 50 countries around the world.
– Our grandfather, Henry Lamblin, developed the commercial side of it, explains Didier Lamblin. Then our father, Jacques Lamblin, developed the négociant business and the export market. Before him the market had been mainly in France. A lot was sold to Paris. Now our children have arrived. It is once again a new generation.
The Lamblin headquarters are in Maligny, a village of some 740 inhabitants eight kilometres north of Chablis. Maligny is the northernmost tip of the region's Kimmeridgian soils. Just south of the village is the premier cru l'Homme Mort, part of the principal premier cru Fourchaume. Lamblin & Fils have their premises at the northern end of the village, a large industrial type of building on your left side, as you are about to leave the village. The cellars in the middle of the village were abandoned in 1973 when the new facilities were built to fit the expanding company.
Today the eleventh and twelfth generations – Didier Lamblin and his brother Michel, and their sons Clément and Alexandre – are working together. Didier and Michel arrived in 1987. While Didier is in charge of the technical/winemaking side of the company Michel deals with the administration and management. Clément Lamblin, Didier's son, joined them in 2003, after studying viticulture and oenology in Beaune. Two years later saw the arrival of Alexandre Lambin, Michel's son.
– Each generation acquire the knowledge of the father and the grandfather, says Didier Lamblin. In addition to that they learn new methods and create a mix of new and old.
One result of the new generation's arrival is the Chablis "Elevé en fût", an oak-aged straight Chablis. Didier Lamblin just smiles when asked if he was reluctant to add a wine of this style to the Lamblin portfolio.
– No, no, it wasn't difficult, he says. There was a demand for it. And it is also interesting to have a new idea and develop it from scratch.
When Didier Lamblin himself arrived at the winery he brought temperature control during fermentation and microbiological control during the bottling process.
– I also introduced débourbage for the must, he says. The must obtained by direct pressing is clarified before fermentation. We leave the largest particles to settle at the bottom of the tank (static decantation of the juice). Most often this takes place after enzyme addition to hydrolyse the pectic compounds which hinder spontaneous clarification. Settling lasts from about twelve to 24 hours at low temperature – 14°C to 18°C. The deposit from the must then goes to the distillery.
Today Lamblin & Fils produces one million bottles of Chablis annually, from Petit Chablis up to Chablis grand cru. They own some vineyards in Chablis, but only 20 percent of the output come from family vines. The rest is bought in.
When Louis Lamblin took on the family firm in the late 19th century the phylloxera had reduced the Chablis vignoble to a fraction of what it used to be.
– The vines didn't totally disappear from Chablis, explains Didier Lamblin. But he wasn't just a winegrower, he was also a farmer. It wasn't until my grandfather Henri that winegrowing became more important. Before the 1950's vines were just another crop, like wheat. Wine was not a big thing. People with cows made more money than the winegrowers. Being a winegrower was difficult. There were no means to protect you from the frost. Every second year they would lose half the harvest. So all winegrowers in Chablis had other crops as well.
In his book from 1959 "Chablis – Porte d'Or de la Bourgogne" Louis Bro tells us that the harvest was completely destroyed by frost in 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957.
– During the 1960's they found ways to control the frost. The wine was well-known, so there was a potential to develop the region.
It was during this period that Jacques Lamblin expanded the family business. A négociant business was created and he began selling the wine outside France. The export created a demand for other appellations besides Chablis, so he added wines from the Côte d'Or. Chablis is still the core of Lamblin & Fils, but there are also wines from the Maconnais, Beaujolais and Côtes-du-Rhône, as well as a number of vins de pays and vins de table.
Lamblin & Fils produces a Petit Chablis, five different Chablis, five premiers crus – Beauroy, Vaillon, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre and Fourchaume – and two grands crus – Les Clos and Vaudésir.
– The Chablis has this fantastic minerality that comes from the subsoil, says Didier Lamblin. The minerality, the aromas, the fruit, the white flowers – all these characteristics do not come from the chardonnay. You can often keep a Chablis longer than other chardonnay wines. That's the terroir, the very special minerality.
© 2009 Ola Bergman