William Fevre, Montmains, AOC/AOP Chablis Premier Cru, (northernmost) Burgundy, 2010
The Chablis appellations
First, some words on Chablis … there are 7 GCs, and as of 20/04/14, 38 climats accepted for Chablis PC, the names of which can be used on the label. However there are 17 main climats which producers can opt to use, thereby giving a lift to their own perhaps less well-known. Co-ops are important, with La Chablisienne accounting for 25% of overall production. There is also the elite club of Union des Grand Crus, representing about 65% of GC vineyard, the number was larger until disagreement on the use of machine harvesting.
In the hierarchy of quality, below GC and PC, there is plain Chablis and then Petit Chablis. Recently there has been revision and expansion … in 1978 the vineyard was revised to give more consideration to micro-climate and aspect, rather than just the importance of Kimmeridgian soil; there was also the need to expand production for commercial reasons, it being deemed better to increase vineyard area to satisfy increasing demand, rather than upping yields; so the vineyard area was steadily increased during the 1980s, with new PCs accepted.
The question of Petit Chablis … this was deemed to be produced on Portlandian soils, as opposed to Chablis and higher levels on Kimmeridgian; it is also considered as a vin de primeur, that is with no ageing potential; furthermore the petit was thought deprecating; since the revision of 1978 some of the best Petit Chablis vineyards have been upgraded to Chablis, and some lesser ones eliminated. Today Petit Chablis remains a small but important part in many a grower’s repertoire, representing:
- young fresh Chablis
- with all essential Chablis qualities
- at a modest price
- BUT with immediate appeal of a wine that does not usually need bottle ageing, but there are some exceptions to the rule ..
The Chablis soil is pale, whitish, argilo-calcaire, ie clay-limestone, in varying proportion. The climate is continental, with cold hard winters and hot summers. Frosts are a major risk from April until mid-May, with risk of hail too, greatest during May. The PC and GC vineyards lie at an altitude between 130 and 270 metres. Montmains, together with Vaillons, on adjoining south-east facing slopes, are the two most important premier crus on the left bank of the River Serein.
William Fevre, the business, and not the vineyards, is owned by the Henriot Champagne house since 1998. William owns about 50ha of Chablis vineyard, of which about half are grand and premier cru. Manual harvesting, with ageing in vats and neutral oak casks.
This wine: varietal chardonnay, Diam cork closure, 12.5% abv, widely available, about £17
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity lemon, showing tears.
Nose: clean on the nose, of pronounced intensity, fully developed, with aromas of bruised cooking apple, fresh-cut green grass, and hints of nuttiness, toast, a whiff of white pepper and mushroom, and a warmer note of spicy stone fruit.
Palate: a dry wine, with high acidity, a very low-key gummy grip, medium alcohol and a medium body, with a smooth texture, of medium (+) intensity, with flavours of lightly bruised apple, stewed green apple, ripe grapefruit flesh, and unripe apricot. A medium (+) length with a clean apple and citrus infused lightly grippy finish.
Quality: A very good quality wine, fully developed with fine brisk acidity balancing the intensity of flavour. Shows a good level of flavour concentration and complexity, with lots more on the nose, which continues to offer further nuances as it stands in the glass, than the palate. It has aroma and flavour profiles not unlike a champagne that has gone flat, and shows tertiary nutty, toasty and mushroom notes. A pleasant texture, showing a fine length, with palate cleansing acidity. This wine is ready now, will not improve with further ageing, and should be consumed within 1-3 years.