Didier Seguier was happy the cold, bright January morning I visited William Fèvre. Coming off the success of the brilliant 2014 vintage, the domaine's director was pleased with the new wines from the 2015 harvest.
"It's a year that conserved good freshness [despite the heat]," he said, uncorking the first wine. "It has better acidity and tension than 2009 and good aging potential." Seguier was referring to another hot year, where Chablis runs the risk of losing its vibrant, steely character and mineral underpinning.
"It's a perfect vintage for the lower appellations, Petit Chablis and Chablis," he added. "These can be difficult in cool, late years, but in '15 they have a good level of ripeness and freshness."
Indeed, the 2015 WIlliam Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux and Chablis Domaine are delicious, the juicy fruit playing off the salty, mineral notes. The former is a combination of purchased fruit, juice and estate grapes. It shows more citrus fruit than the Domaine bottling, which offers greater complexity and riper flavors of peach and apple. Both see 5 percent oak, but 5- to 6-year-old barrels and are bottled after eight to 10 months of aging.
William Fèvre now comprises 119 acres and is the largest owner of grands crus vineyards in Chablis. Seguier vinifies 17 different labels ranging from Petit Chablis to six different grands crus.
The premier cru Vaillons, from 50-year-old vines, was one of my favorites for its ripe elements of peach and apricot, but also flowers, finesse and underlying chalky feel. It is richer than Les Lys, whose 65- to 70-year-old vines come from a north-northeast-facing part of Vaillons. Its exposure, plus tiny berries and low yields, resulted in a racy, more immediately minerally white, with precision and purity.
Fourchaume comes entirely from the Vaulorent lieu-dit, which abuts grand cru Les Preuses. Though rich and opulent in texture, it retains freshness due to its high altitude, along with a juicy, savory character. The Vaulorent bottling is a selection of the most structured, grand cru-like cuvées, giving complexity and depth. Peach, apple and vanilla flavors play out on the long, smoky finish.
In Montée de Tonnere the yield was cut in half by hail (Montmains and Les Clos also), however, the resulting wine is crystalline and fresh, boasting ripe peach, melon, a touch of oak, mineral and saline flavors.
At the grand cru level, the Valmur shows well, a mix of power and finesse, with apple and lemon flavors, intensity and fine length. Les Preuses delivers energy and concentration, lemon, apple and white flowers, with a fresh, resonant finish. Cote de Bouguerots is the steep part of Bougros; racy, stony and tense, it packs lemon, apple and savory iodine notes into a slim frame. The Les Clos features a smoky, flinty nose, very minerally, balanced by citrus, apple and spice on a rich profile.