We hesitated before accepting this invitation from our friends at Artisan Wine Depot. As members of the baby boom generation, our taste buds have deteriorated along with some of our other faculties. We feared that our taste buds might not be able to detect the delicate subtleties of these wines. But we decided to taste Chablis at Artisan.
But we persevered. The wines were all from Domaine William Fèvre. With three Chablis Premier Cru and five Chablis Grand Cru selections, we expected to experience a range of aromas and flavors. We were not disappointed, but our hesitation was warranted. Our noses and palates are just not refined enough to fully appreciate these wines. And even at the discounted Artisan prices, these bottles were far more expensive than we would pay.
One additional note. As techno-geeks, we appreciate the level of detail and organization of the Domaine William Fèvre website. Wineries looking for a model should take careful notes while exploring the Domaine’s, um, domain.
Suspecting that we won’t be able to fully appreciate wines has never stopped us before. So, forthwith, our comments on the wines in the order in which they were tasted. The first three were Premier Cru.
The 2012 “Montmains” ($40) opens with aromas of citrus, mineral, and sea breezes. Medium weight features pear on the palate, with a nice finish.
The 2012 “Vaillons” ($45) was one of our favorites. Aromas of hazelnuts and toast are followed by flavors of citrus and melon with just a bit of pineapple. Less austere than most of the others which is why we liked it.
The 2012 “Fourchaume” ($44) begins with smoky aromas followed by considerable acidity with a watermark of minerality.
The next five were Grand Cru. First on the list was the 2011 “Bougros Côtes Bouguerots” ($74). Our best description of this wine is “one-note, similar to the 2012 “Montmains.” But the flavor is fruity and features a medium body. This was also one of our favorites (although given the price differential we’d stick with the “Vaillons”).
And here we have another example of vintage differences. The 2012 version of “Bougros Côtes Bouguerots” ($80) is worth the extra $6 (although the price is still way out of our range for these wines). This is better than the 2011, opening with aromas of citrus and minerality. The palate shows complexity, featuring wet slate and a medium weight.
The 2011 and 2012 “Les Preuses” (both $80) were not to our taste. Allen Meadows’s Burghound includes these descriptive phrases:
…broad ranging nose of perfumed and ripe scents of oyster shell, sea water, citrus and white flowers. The silky and refined flavors are wonderfully seductive with an intense minerality to the austere, bone dry and balanced finish that exudes hints of saline and iodine.
…ultra-pure aromas of quinine, oyster shell, mineral reduction and floral elements
It strikes us that words like “iodine” and “quinine” probably indicate wines we should avoid.
Closing the show was the 2012 “Les Clos” ($100). Scents of citrus and an unusual spice element are followed by lemon and more spices on the palate. There are surprising hints of pineapple on the finish. If this wine was priced at, say, $35 we would buy a few bottles.
Domaine William Fèvre
[pullquote]Style is an empty shell. Wine’s potential lies in its sensual response. For Chablis, this is derived from its terroir, which creates freshness and minerality.[/pullquote]
Begun in 1959, this outfit is really something. Their wines must be among the best in the Chablis region. And we really liked this from their website→
According to the press kit, the winery’s 2011 sales were 1.5 million bottles, generating €13 million in revenue. Fully 75% of their sales are into the export market (although we’re sure this percentage is based on bottles, not revenue). The remaining 25% is enjoyed by the French.
A full page of the press kit (available to anyone by clicking the obvious link at http://www.williamfevre.fr/en/chablis/press-room/press-kit-and-releases/) is a Q&A session with Cellar Master Didier Seguier.
If you want to find their wine in a restaurant, there is exactly one in the U.S. (Eleven Madison Park Restaurant, New York). There is another in Canada (Scaramouche, Toronto). But most are in France (* are Michelin stars):
- Restaurant Guy Savoy, Paris
- Ze Kitchen Galerie*, William Ledeuil, Paris
- Park Hyatt-Vendôme, Paris
- Hôtel Intercontinental, Paris
- Régis and Jacques Marcon*** Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid
- Hôtel Westminster, Le Touquet – Paris Plage
- Auberge du Pont de Collonges*** Paul Bocuse, Collonges au Mont d’Or
- Georges Blanc*** Vonnas
- La Côte Saint Jacques***, Michel Lorrain, Joigny
- Greuze*, Yohann Chapuis, Tournus
- Restaurant Michel Sarran, Toulouse
If you’re a fan of French Chablis, you can’t do much better than Domaine William Fèvre. Instead of trying to find their wines in your local shop, consider ordering them online from Artisan.