We blind-tasted William Fevre Chablis Bougros Grand Cru 2007 last week. It was very hard to guess its origin given the wine nicely balanced elegance, ripeness and structure. Is this a Puligny-Montrachet? A Meursault? Could it be a Corton Charlemagne? Everybody was puzzled by this quality wine. Nobody at the dinner imagined this coming from Chablis. A truly amazing terrior coupled with fine wine making skills.
To Chablis’ fans, William Fevre would not need much introduction. It is one of Chablis’ greatest wine domaines, with a family history dating back 250 years in Chablis. His father was already a great winemaker after WWII. William successfully built up the domaine (and to a large extent, the reputation of the entire Chablis region) between 1957 and his retirement in 1998. He began with just 7 hectares and had soon increased this to 48ha, planting widely in the best of the premier and grand crus.
In 1998, he sold the domaine to Champagne House Joseph Henriot, which also owns one of the largest negociant in Burgundy, Bouchard. As such, The quality of the wine from the domaine moved up to another higher level.
William Fevre cares most about the true expression of the terroir with careful viticulture. While 95% Chablis' grapes are machine-harvested, at William Fevre, it is all done by hand and with sorting tables for 1ers Crus and Grands Crus, with 6 to 8 people per table. Moreover, unlike other domaines in the region, William Fevre does not use any new wood, even for its premier and grand cru.
This decision was made in 1998 under the new leadership, largely due to the climate changes observed in the late 80's. Typically, in the 70's & 80's, maturity was hard to reach for Chardonnay in this region. The adapted approach then was to harvest late and use new wood to get to compensate. But from 1989 , which turned out to the a pivotal year for the climate, harvest time changed abruptly, from Sept 5-15 in the 70's to Sept 20-25 then. In 1998, the new leadership under Bouchard decided not to use any new wood any more.
The 1er cru wines are vinified in 40-50% oak, the grands crus receiving 70-80%, but none using new wood. Instead, they brought in high-quality one-year old casks from Bouchard. The barrel and vat components are blended together after four to six months, for bottling before the end of the year.
To this day, Domaine William Fevre still enjoys a very good reputation as a defender of historically renowned terroirs and amazing wines at great value. No wonder Burghound gave this wine a rating of 92-95 and considered it a “Don’t Miss!”
You should give it a try too.