Owner: Henriot Champagne
Classification: Grand Cru, Premier Cru and generic Chablis
Vineyard area: 47 hectares
Standard blend: 100% Chardonnay
Though Chablis’ viticultural past is rooted in mediaeval times, the onset of phylloxera in 1887 devastated the region’s vineyards and stifled development for several decades. In the second half of the 20th century, however, William Fevre was among the many producers who set up new estates and restored the region’s winemaking prowess.
Fevre, the son of a vigneron, founded the Domaine de la Maladiere (later renamed William Fevre) and brought in his first harvest in 1959. As well as outspokenly opposing the extension of the appellation’s boundaries, Fevre was well known locally for the part he played in the crusade to prevent the New World (and the US in particular) from using “Chablis” as a generic term for dry, white wines.
During his tenure, the domaine became the largest owner of Grand Cru vineyard sites and the wines sold well internationally. Still, the estate’s liberal use of oak did not find favour in all quarters. But with the founder’s departure from Burgundy in 1998 (in order to undertake a new venture in Chile), the domaine was sold to Henriot Champagne, the owner of Bouchard Pere et Fils, and subsequent vintages were produced in a more elegant style.
Under the new regime, no more than one percent of the wine may be put into new oak barrels. As a result, the top-tier wines have become increasingly popular amongst critics and enthusiasts, though, encouragingly, prices remain relatively affordable.
At present, Domaine de William Fevre extends across 47 hectares, encompassing 12 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards and 15 hectares of Grand Cru. Winemaking is directed by Didier Séguier and 17 “principle” Premier Crus are produced, along with eight Grand Crus (including the Clos des Bouguerots cuvee).
The 2009 vintage
In his August assessment of the 09 vintage, Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar wrote that a warm, dry growing season had produced rich, fruity wines “that will offer considerable early appeal.”
In total, 13 Fevre wines (both Premier Cru and Grand Cru) were awarded more than 90 points, led by Les Clos, which scored 92-95 points, and Bougros Cote Bouguerots – 92-94.
Tanzer describes Les Clos 09 as “Pure crushed rock and flinty minerality on the nose. As dry and youthful as this is, it still conveys the essentially gentle style of the vintage.”
Since Henriot Champagne took over the running of the estate more than a decade ago, quality, and scores, have risen steadily. But despite the wines’ critical acclaim, many Fevres continue to represent exceptional value for money.
At present, the benchmark price for the Grand Crus is around £400 per 12x75cl case; however, numerous high-scoring vintages are trading below this level. Bougros Bouguerots 2006 (IWC 94), for example, is currently offered on the exchange at £330 per case, whilst Vaudesir 2004 is changing hands at just £365 per case, despite its 94-point score from Allen Meadows of the Burghound. Preuses 2007 boasts 94 points from Tanzer and 95 points from Meadows – “a wine of crystalline purity that is pure silk and class” and also seems a steal at just £310 per case. For those with less to spend, Vaillons (a Premier Cru) is available at £170 per 12x75cl case – the equivalent of £14 per bottle.
The table below shows a selection of well-priced Grand and Premier Crus. With many of the below representing excellent value and drinking beautifully now, they would appear good options for those on the lookout for wines for the Christmas table. The majority of the wines are currently offered on the exchange – trading members of Liv-ex can view the live markets here.