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Chablis 2018 and the prowess of William Fevre

Photo credit: williamfevre_chablis Instagram. The vineyard team with boots on, prepared for the cold and muddy conditions in one of their Premier Cru vineyards.

The 2018 vintage in Burgundy was the warmest since 2003 and due to limited rainfall, experienced an earlier harvest. There are therefore similarities with recent vintages like 2017 and 2015. But, comparatively speaking, the 2018 growing season was rather mild overall and the resultant Chardonnays possess wonderful freshness, poise and tension. A lot comes down to the respective terroir and the knowledge, experience and skill of the vignerons. Domaine William Fèvre excelled in 2018 and their Chablis earn a place in any cellar’s Burgundy corner.  

Dear Reader,

From humble beginnings in 1957 with a mere seven hectares, William Fèvre soon procured some of the best premiers and grands crus in Chablis. Following Fèvre’s retirement in 1998, the domaine was purchased by the Champagne house, Joseph Henriot, but everything remained the same.

The talented Didier Séguier is the cellar master, an alumnus of the well-known Beaune domaine, Bouchard Père et Fils. All of Fèvre’s vineyards are harvested by hand which is quite a task given that this includes 12 hectares of premiers crus and no less than 16 hectares of grands crus. Over time, Séguier has reduced the use of wood overall to just 30% for premiers crus and no more than 50% for the grands crus. New oak has been completely abandoned. Wooded wine components are blended with the unwooded counterparts after the various stages of maturation. Once blended, the wine is bottled creating a classic Chablis – lean, linear and mineral. 

In Chablis, the vines are classified into four levels of appellation: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. The latter two categories comprise wines from several different identified and named plots, or climats. There are 47 climats in Chablis which can be named on the wine’s label – 40 of which produce premier cru and the remaining seven make grand cru.

The grand cru climats are all found on the right bank of the River Serein, whilst the premier cru climats are found on both sides of the river, with 24 on the left bank and 16 on the right.

It is important to remember that the Chablis wine appellation, while part of Burgundy, is located in the northern part of the region in the Yonne department between Paris and Beaune. Chablis is closer to Champagne than the Côte d’Or. The climatic conditions here are extreme with bitterly cold winters.

Image credit: screenshot taken from an interactive map made available by chablis-wines.com

Chablis Premier Cru ”Montmains”
The narrow stretch of vineyard that makes up ”Montmains” has southeast and northeast exposure, so enjoys the early morning sun but is exposed to more wind so the average temperature is lower here, ultimately resulting in a later harvest date.

Chablis Premier Cru ”Vaillons”
Situated northwest of ”Montmains” is the vineyard of ”Vaillons” which sits in the middle of a cluster of other premier cru climats. Vaillons gets a lot of morning sun and its shallower soils allow for speedier ripening of grapes.

Chablis Premier Cru ”Vaulorent”
This is the only premier cru vineyard on the right bank of the Serein that rests against the cluster of grand cru climats. It sits just above ”Les Preuses”, overlooking the Serein valley with prime exposure. The soils are deep and clayey at the foot of the hill and become rockier at the top.

Chablis Grand Cru ”Bougros”
The 15 hectares that make up ”Bougros” are sheltered from the wind. There is a large southwest-facing terrace that looks over a steeper south-facing slope towards the bottom. ”Bougros” sees lots of sun and the soils drain water very effectively.

Chablis Grand Cru ”Les Clos”
Comprising 26 hectares, this is the biggest of the seven grand cru vineyards. The vines stretch out across the hillside, from top to bottom, with a perfect southwest exposure. This really is hallowed terroir. 

Chablis Grand Cru ”Les Preuses”
This vineyard is perched perfectly overlooking Chablis with its 10.8 hectares facing south and southwest, soaking in sunlight for most of the day.

William Fèvre Premier Cru 6-bottle case
R 4,770

*Price is per 6-bottle mixed case and incl. VAT

Chablis 1er Cru “Montmains” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…scents of sea spray, Granny Smith apples and limestone…palate is well balanced with a penetrating, spicy entry, very saline, almost peppery; hints of asparagus and kiwi fruit emerge toward the finish. I appreciate the austerity of this Montmains in what was a warm growing season. One of Fevre’s more divisive wines, but personally, I like this.”
92 points | Neal Martin for Vinous

Chablis 1er Cru “Vaillons” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…an attractive, forward nose of lemon verbena, chai tea and floral scents, peachy aromas following with aeration. The palate is well balanced with a twist of sour lemon on the entry. Slightly minty in style, it displays a fine bead of acidity…”
91 points | Neal Martin for Vinous

Chablis 1er Cru “Vaulorent” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…a complex nose of lime flower, honeysuckle, pear and a touch of beeswax, all displaying good definition. The palate is well balanced with a fine bead of acidity, taut and focused, with a dab of stem ginger toward a finish that lingers longer than I was expecting. A lovely, pretty Vaulorent.”
92 points | Neal Martin for Vinous

William Fèvre Grand Cru 6-bottle case
R 8,320

*Price is per 6-bottle mixed case and incl. VAT

Chablis Grand Cru “Bougros” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…gorgeous orange, peach, tinned apricot and light pineapple scents that are very seductive. The palate is well balanced with a fine bead of acidity, taut and fresh…a penetrating, saline finish that leaves you wanting another sip. Superb.”
94 points | Neal Martin for Vinous

Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…a beautifully defined bouquet of subtle lemon peel, Chinese white tea and jasmine aromas, very discreet and nicely focused. The palate is well balanced with a discreet spicy entry, very nice weight in the mouth and a harmonious, quite persistent finish. Possibly the best William Fèvre contribution to the 2018 vintage, this comes highly recommended.”
94 points | Neal Martin for Vinous

Chablis Grand Cru “Les Preuses” | 2018 | 2 x bottles
”…the most straitlaced and austere on the nose among Fèvre’s Grand Crus…intuition tells me that this is saving something for later. The palate is well balanced with a lightly spiced opening, and a little more viscous than the other Grand Crus, with that spicy leitmotif of Preuses. Good potential, but cellar this for 3–5 years.”
93+ points | Neal Martin for Vinous

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