In August, I put together a tasting for our wine tasting club AuZone on the theme Chablis grand cru. I promised a decent proportion from the Les Clos vineyard, usually considered the best of the seven grand cru vineyards on the hill just north of the Chablis village that is the source of all grand cru wine from the appellation. Then I chose – without announcing this in advance – to make this a tasting that consisted almost exclusively of William Fèvre wines, with a mini horizontal from the excellent 2008 vintage plus three wines from earlier vintages. In my opinion, Chablis grand cru usually benefits from cellaring. This meant a total of four Les Clos, so I fulfilled my promise. William is a producer that I rate quite highly (and I’m not exactly alone in doing so), but there’s enough of the wines so that they aren’t too difficult to find, unlike those of a few small “cult producers” in Chablis. I wrote more about William Fèvre after I visited them in Chablis in the summer of 2013.
By the way, out of the six other grand cru vineyards (those that aren’t Les Clos), Valmur and Vaudésir are usually considered the best. Valmur is often mentioned as firm and in need of cellaring, while Vaudésir is supposed to be a bit more on the elegant side. After those two, many would place Les Preuses and the steeper part of Bourgos (which correspond to Fèvre’s Clos des Bougerots). But since Chablis after all is located in Burgundy, it’s highly likely that the combination of producer and vintage will be a more important quality factor than precisely which vineyard on the grand cru hill we’re in…
My conclusion from this tasting is that reputation of William Fèvre for high quality is confirmed! Unfortunately it also demonstrated that Chablis isn’t immune to premox (premature oxidation), which is a big problem for other white Burgundies all since th 1996 vintage, because one wine doubtless was affected by this although it wasn’t completely killed off or impossible to enjoy.
First I served a wine to calm down the participants while I made my introduction:
2011 Denis Race Montmains Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes
Noticeably green and herbaceous nose with yellow apple, stony with minerality. The palate is dry and firm, somewhat herbaceous with high acidity and noticeable minerality in the aftertaste. There’s a bit of Sauvignon Blanc feeling in this wine, 87 p.
This wine didn’t behave as I remember it from my visit to Denis Race a little over a year earlier. There was nothing herbaceous of Sauvignon Blanc-like at that time, and this time the wine performed noticeably weaker. Has it closed down and entered a “dumb phase”, if such a thing really is common for Chablis?
After this wine, the eight wines of the actual tasting were served blind in one flight, with the participants voting for best and worst (least good) wine. I might mention that most of these wines were purchased at auctions, so I don’t have full control over how they’ve been stored.
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Valmur Grand Cru
Light yellow colour. Slightly nutty nose with hazelnuts and modeling clay, some yellow apples, stony notes, and somewhat closed impression. Very little fruit notes in the nose. The palate is dry and noticeably firm with quite a lot of citrus, loads of stony minerality, high acidity and an aftertaste showing citrus and mineral. The palate is fruitier than the nose. This wine is quite firm and stylistically pure, as well as quite young, 91+ p.
2 worst votes.
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Vaudésir Grand Cru
Light yellow colour. Unfortunately a small note of cork taint? Other than that, the nose is slightly flowery with yellow apples, mineral and a faint smoky note. Palate with citrus with a grapefruity feeling (and more fruit notes than the 2008 Valmur), high acidity, mineral, a faint metallic note (the small cork taint making itself felt) and a citrus-dominated aftertaste. Rather accessible and fruitier in style than Valmur, but the faint taint notes detract from it. (89 p?)
3 worst notes including mine. Ended up tied for the last place.
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Bougros Grand Cru “Côte Bouguerots”
Light yellow colour. Nose with citrus, ripe green apple and apple peel, a tiny hint of flowery notes, and mineral. A fresh and young but accessible nose! The palate has a good “punch” and is stony with lots of mineral and a pleasant mineral water feeling, shows green apples together with apple peel, citrus, and an aftertaste with green apple and mineral. Firmer than the Valmur although the Côte Bouguerots also is more apply and fruity. Definitely young, quite firm. 92+ p
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Les Clos Grand Cru
Light yellow colour. Nose with citrus, hints of peach, green apple, somewhat flowery with a light perfume note and a pronounced minerality. A young but complex nose, and more powerful than the three previous wines. Palate with citrus and green apple, noticeably stony with intense minerality, slightly spicy, and with a long aftertaste with mineral and green apple. The palate comes across as in-between Vaudésir and Côte Bouguerots in style. Young, 93+ p
5 best and 1 worst votes, including my best vote. Voted the best wine.
2008 Domaine Vincent Dauvissat Les Clos Grand Cru
Full yellow colour, somewhat golden. Slightly nutty nose with citrus, green apple, some perfume notes with Côte de Beaune character, some development, spice notes, and discrete oak character. The palate is dry and stony with winer apples, citrus, quite a lot of minerality with “good mineral water character” and some spice notes. The aftertaste shows a lot of mineral and some apple. I like the balance of this wine. It has a young taste but a developed nose. Perhaps a little too developed for its age – is this something that comes before premox or is it producer style? 92(+) p
3 worst votes and therefore tied for the last place.
Vincent Dauvissat is usually considered as the second best producer of Chablis, so I had expected this wine to be a strong candidate for best rather than “worst” wine. I seem to have been one of the most positivet to this wine. As the only non-Fèvre wine it did stand out a bit, and it was probably the most Côte de Beaune-like of the flight. Some voices at the tasting claimed that the wines of Dauvissat, although held in high regard, often come across as a bit “strange”. More practical research on the subject of Dauvissat, with a glass in hand, is obviously called for.
2007 Domaine William Fèvre Les Clos Grand Cru
Full yellow colour, slightly golden, but paler than the previous wine. Noticeably nutty nose with hazelnuts, some cocoa powder and other oxidation notes of a Champagne-like character, and yellow apples. Here’s we probably have some premox, because the wine shows more oxidation notes in the nose than the 1999 Les Clos. The palate is dry with old apples/winter apples, cocoa powder, spice, high acidity, mineral and a really dry aftertaste with citrus, mineral and quite a bite in its acidity. Fine, but quite developed for its age and not as harmonious as the rest. 90 p
1 worst vote.
1999 Domaine William Fèvre Valmur Grand Cru
Light to medium yellow. A fresh and rather youthful nose with smoke, butter, flowery notes, citrus, yellow and green apples, and just a bit of nutty notes. Palate with citrus, good body with viscosity, lots of mineral, stony notes, high acidity, and aftertaste with a lot of mineral and citrus. Still young! and could develop more. 93(+) p
3 best and 1 worst votes.
This wine was surprisingly young! As I recall, the two 1999s originate from different auctions, but I wouldn’t say the the 1999 Les Clos is in any way “too developed” for a 15 year old wine. Rather, it is the 1999 Valmur that is surprisingly young!
1999 Domaine William Fèvre Les Clos Grand Cru
Full yellow colour, the most golden of the flight. The nose is noticeably nutty with a light buttery note, smoke, spice, yellow apples, developed notes with balance, complexity and some generosity. Palate with yellow apples including some proportion of old apples/winter apples, spice notes, definitely high acidity, and a firm aftertaste with a dry impression. A fully developed wine (definitely more developed than the 1999 Valmur) with quite a lot of notes that are similar to those of a mature Champagne, good balance, a foody wine. 92 p
3 best votes, and therefore ended up second.