Last week, warm days gave us a taste of what’s ahead, and how refreshing a glass of 2008 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux would be.
The Fevre family owns Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru vineyards. In 1998, they leased the vineyards and sold the rights to the company name to the Henriot family, owners of the outstanding Henriot Champagne house and the resuscitated Bouchard Burgundy wine company.
Last month, I visited Domaine William Fevre, and it was clear that Henriot’s laser-like focus on quality has clearly upgraded an already respected Chablis name. With its resources and generations of experience, Henriot has rejuvenated the vineyards and winery, and improved the winemaking, too.
William Fevre is well-positioned to make outstanding Chablis.
My tasting with winemaker Didier Seguier of the first-rate 2008 vintage covered all the domaine’s Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyard wines. I instantly observed the purity of the chardonnay and absence of oak aromas and flavor.
Seguier, who assumed the winemaking duties with Henriot’s 1998 agreement, explained that the new regime is not to put more than 1 percent of the wine into new oak barrels. In order to preserve Chablis’ essence, every wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in them from eight to 10 months. Then, depending on the vineyard, the wine is divided into a mix of new and old barrels for four months. The result is William Fevre Chablis, at every level, is a testament to the pristine fruit flavors and balancing acidity of its vineyards.
After returning home, I opened a bottle of the 2008 Chablis Champs Royaux. Like all Chablis, this wine is 100-percent chardonnay. It is made from estate and purchased grapes and like the other William Fevre wines, the Chablis Champs Royaux is fermented and aged for eight to 10 months in small stainless steel tanks. Ten-percent is transferred to older oak barrels for four months and then the wine is blended and bottled.
If you drink the 2008 Champs Royaux at the temperature of your refrigerator or ice bucket, you’ll receive a distinctly tropical lemon-lime fragrance, ripe pear flavor and bracing lime-like acidity. It will be very pleasing. But if you put the bottle on the table and allow it to warm to 55-60 degrees, the aromas will transform into scents suggesting an ocean breeze and white pepper, a creamy texture develops, coating the mouth, and a pineapple taste merges with the pear.
Yet behind either experience of the 2008 Champs Royaux, is Chablis’ essential acidity. It is the purity of chardonnay’s aroma and flavors, grown in Chablis’ cool climate and from soil imbedded with the stones and shells from ancient oceans, that produce these unique wines. Oak barrels are but an afterthought.
Open a bottle of the 2008 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux and enjoy it immediately with shellfish, fried calamari or shrimp salad. After it has given up its refrigerator temperature, continue the pleasure with grilled chicken and mango salsa, grilled pork chops with diced fresh pineapple and enjoy the last sip with the sunset.
The 2008 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux retails for approximately $19.