About this WINE
Domaine William Fevre, Chablis
William Fèvre is one of Chablis’ greatest wine domaines, developed by the eponymous William Fèvre between 1957 and his retirement in 1998 when he sold to the Champagne House Joseph Henriot. William Fèvre began with just 7 hectares and had soon increased this to 48ha, planting widely in the best of the 1ers and grands crus where the vineyards had fallen by the wayside. However the Fèvre penchant for new oak was not to everybody’s taste.
Since the Henriot purchase the wines are made by the talented Didier Séguier who had previously been with the Bouchard team in Beaune. The domaine wines include 12 hectares of premier cru vineyards and no less than 16 hectares of grand crus.The whole crop of their domaine wines, straight Chablis included, is harvested by hand, the grands crus in small ‘cagettes’, with a sorting table back at the winery to ensure the quality of the raw material.
The 1er cru wines are vinified in 40-50% oak, the grands crus receiving 70-80%, but without using new wood – instead the domaine receives a plentiful supply of one year old barrels from Maison Bouchard, and the average age of wood in the cellars is 5 years old. The barrel and vat components are blended together after four to six months, for bottling before the end of the year.
In 1991 he joined forces with the Chilean producer Victor Pino and Vina William Fèvre was established in the heart of the Maipo Valley just outside Santiago.
Chablis Premier Cru
Chablis Premiers Crus are stylish, minerally wines which, typically, are less intense than the Grand Crus but finer and longer-lasting than basic Chablis. They are highly underrated with the better examples outclassing many a good village white Burgundy.
The vineyards cover 750 hectares, scattered across 15 communes on isolated slopes with good exposure. There are 17 principal Premiers Crus but in total 79 vineyards are eligible, with most of the lesser-known ones using a more familiar umbrella name on their label. The best flank the Grands Crus on the north bank of the River Serein, like Montée de Tonnerre (probably the best of all), Fourchaume and Mont de Milieu.
Those just south of Chablis, like Vaillons, Montmains (especially Les Forêts) and Côte de Léchet are also good. With the vineyard area having doubled since the 1970s, quality varies enormously so, as ever, the producer is key.
Styles also vary, with some maturing and fermenting in stainless steel for a purer, more minerally style, while others age and sometimes even ferment their wines in oak for extra complexity. The best examples reach their apogee at eight to 10 years, but are normally enjoyed long before then.
Recommended producers: Jean-Claude Bessin, Billaud-Simon, Séguinot-Bordet, J.-P. & Benoit Droin, Duplessis, Defaix
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Allen Meadows, Burghound, (December 2020)
Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy, (November 2020)