A visit to Simonnet-Febvre in Chablis

Simonnet-Febvre 20130704 ingångFrom a spelling point of view, the most challenging company I visited in Chablis was Simonnet-Febvre. Since 2003, they are owned by Burgundy négociant Louis Latour, who also sell Chablis under their own label. I don’t know if the Chablis from Latour represents a selection from the Simonnet-Febvres range with a Louis Latour label, or if they are wines produced separately. The introductory article about Chablis and my visit can be read here.

It is worth noting that they are Maison Simonnet-Febvre (not Domaine), which means that they also can used purchased grapes. Their webpage says that they own vineyards in Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu, and Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. However, their range includes nine premier crus (of which one generic) and five grands, so a substantial proportion of their grape supply seems to be bought in. They are also a substantial producer of Crémant de Bourgogne – also mentioned on the sign at the street – but I only tasted their Chablis.

At this producer, oak barrels are used only at the grand cru level, and not at all at the premier cru level. If I combine what is stated on their webpage and what I heard said on location, it seems that Preuses is not oaked at all, Blanchot see 100% oak, Les Clos 50% oak, and Valmur and Vaudésir probably the same as Les Clos, but in all cases only used oak barrels. All their wines go through malolactic fermentation, which reduces the acidity and makes them slightly “creamier”. The premier crus spend 10-12 months on the lees and the grand crus 15-18 months on the lees, a treatment which tends to add to the creamy impression. The consider their wines somewhat “richer” (and consequently less “firm”) than those of many other producers, which should be more due to the malo and time on the lees than due to use of oak. Malolactic fermentation is fairly common in Chablis, but I suspect that some producers may vary their use of this between vintages.

The 2o11 Petit Chablis was sealed with screw cap, and the rest with natural cork. Since I was served a 2009 of their regular Chablis, I don’t know if they have expanded their use of screw caps to that wine in more recent vintages.

Simonnet-Febvre 20130704 flaskor

Petit Chablis 2011, € 8,25 on location

Nose with yellow apple, some spice, a tiny hint of flowery notes. The palate shows spice, yellow apple, good acidity and some mineral. 85 p

Chablis 2009, € 10,40

Nose with ripe yellow fruit, some honey, some spice. More “warm” nose than the 2011 Petit Chablis. Palate with ripe yellow fruit, some honey, “soft”, good acidity. Rather ready to drink, 87 p

Not quite a classical Chablis to me, but this is surely due to the vintage, and the honey note can emerge with maturity. It isn’t that common to see village-level Chablis sold from the producer at four years of age. At the other four producers, almost all Petit Chablis and Chablis were 2011s, with the exceptions being one 2012 Petit Chablis and one 2010 Chablis.

Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet 2010, € 14,50

The nose is slightly spicy and herbal with yellow apple, and is pleasant. Noticeably spicy on the palate, slightly herbal, yellow apple, mineral, a hint of bitterness. Rather young, 88(+) p

Their Côte de Léchet usually ends up in blend, which has to be their generic Chablis Premeir Cru, but in the 2010 vintage they considered it good enough to bottle separately.

Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2011, approx € 15

Nose with yellow apple, some honey, slightly spicy. The nose comes across as that of a slightly oaked wine, although this is not supposed to be the case. Palate with yellow apple, some honey, spce, good acidity, some mineral. Foody and spicy style, rather ready to drink, 88 p

Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010, € 18,40

Nose with yellow apple, some honey, slightly flowery, a hint of spice. Palate with mineral, yellow and green apple, spicy, rather high acidity, aftertaste with mineral. Rather young, 89(+) p

Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2010
Approximately 50% oak, 1-5 years old. Not for sale yet, the 2009 was € 36.

Nose with honey, yellow apple, slightly flowery, discrete notes of oak, a powerful and complex nose. Palate with powerful minerality, some yellow apple, high acidity, and a long mineral-dominated aftertaste. Young, but slightly accessible, 92(+) p

This was a big wine with a very classical palate, and a rich nose. It is one of five wines during this trip that I scored 92 or higher, and all the other four were from the same producer (that post should be up in two days time).

Simonnet-Febvre 20130704 ringklocka

The door bell was indeed a bell in the true meaning of the word.

Something that was common to all the Simonnet-Febvre wines was that they were rather spicy for Chablis. This makes them foody and “rich”, but that shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that are too fruity or Côte d’Or-like. Other than the spicy notes, they showed some stylistic variation between vintages and within the range, and I would say that some other producers have come across as more consistent in this respect. The 2010s were definitely good, but possibly the premier crus from that vintage should have been able to perform even a little better. Again, my overall judgment is that this is a quite OK producer, with some true peaks as demonstrated by the excellent Les Clos 2010. Simonnet-Febvre is perhaps worth a recommendation primarily for those who want slightly more foody wines and who perhaps will cellar them for a while, but not for too long. Those who look for very firm and tense Chablis with extra minerality will probably find their preferred style better represented elsewhere.

Simonnet-Febvre had some older vintages to sell of some wines, in particular Blanchot, although only a few bottles were available in some cases. They also seem to wait for earlier vintages of a wine to have sold sufficiently before launching a new vintage, so some 2010s were not yet released. The prices on location vary slightly between vintages.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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