Domaine William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France), Montmains 2008 (Henriot Inc., $32): I am a huge fan of Chablis, particularly in what you might call “classic” vintages in which the wines retain a strong backbone of acidity and express minerality of aroma and flavor in no uncertain terms. The 2008 wines that have just come on the market have that great acidity and minerality -- and their vintage does “classic” one better by also endowing the wines with body and richness. Lucky days for Chablis lovers!
Domaine William Fevre is a Chablis producer whose wines are making a resurgence in the U.S. under the ownership (since 1998) and distribution by the Henriot Champagne family. This domaine’s available line-up of 2008 Chablis wines is stellar, from the $20 “Champs Royaux” Chablis, Fevre’s only wine made using any purchased grapes, through its four premier crus ($32 to $65) and six grand crus ($63 to $85). The wines vary in richness and weight according to their terroirs, but are all sleek and focused in style. They are all partially barrel-fermented in used oak (about 4 to 5 years old), but the amount of oak varies, from as little as 10 percent for “Champs Royaux” to 40 to 60 percent for the premier cru wines and 70 to 80 percent for the grand crus; winemaker Didier Séguier uses the oak for oxygenation rather than for aroma or flavor, and in fact the impression of oak in the wines is negligible. All the wines undergo malolactic fermentation and they age on their lees but without battonage (stirring of the lees), which Séguier explains could give the wines richness and fatness that he does not seek.
The premier cru Montmains is perhaps the sleekest, most focused 2008 Fevre Chablis. It shows an aroma that is fresh and penetrating, with a stony, flinty mineral expression along with delicate herbal notes and a hint of grapefruit. (I imagine that I could satisfy myself just smelling this wine.) In the mouth the wine is nearly full-bodied with notes of ripe citrus and apple that segue into minerality. The mineral character grounds the wine and makes it very much a wine of the earth, not an ethereal wine but a solid, well-knit wine which nonetheless has leanness and precision. Only 40 percent of the juice was barrel-fermented.
Fevre blends this Montmains from three parcels it owns within the vineyards that comprise the Montmains premier cru territory. About half the wine is from Montmains itself and the neighboring Les Forets, and the balance is from Butteaux, atop the Montmains hill and adjacent to Forets. The soil of Butteaux is particularly rich in marl and Kimmeridgean (a particular type of clay-limestone soil rich in sea fossils), and according to winemaker Séguier, makes wines that are fairly austere when young but have innate power from the marl and minerality from the Kimmeridgean. The other two vineyards make wines that have finesse and elegance even when young. His goal in blending grapes from the three parcels is a wine that has richness, minerality and elegance.
In fact, for all of the tautness and precision that I have described in this wine, it is nonetheless rich enough to pair with fairly substantial foods. It has enough weight for grilled sausages, for example. Rich fish, chicken breasts, pork roast, earthy bean dishes or mushroom risotto should all go nicely. I believe that it will age nicely for five to eight years, but it is eminently enjoyable now.