Chablis – Nothing Compares
Back in the 1980s, I once bought a parcel of 1967 Hunter River ‘Chablis’, Lindemans if I recall correctly, which I think was mainly Chenin Blanc with Verdelho and it was very enjoyable although not, absolutely not, Chablis.
There is nothing quite like a good Chablis, it is unique. It has everything that one would expect from a White Burgundy, and at exceptional value compared to equivalent wines from the Côte d’Or, but also a unique quality that has never been replicated anywhere else in the world. There is nothing to compare it with, and it is thus tantalisingly difficult to describe, from the mysterious green reflections at the centre of the glass to the unusual flavours and the refreshing, pebble-like feel in the mouth. This last quality also makes it a more versatile wine than its more illustrious neighbours — it will go equally well with seafood, chicken or pork, or one can just forget the food and indulge in pure pleasure.
So I was very excited when a few years ago I came across the wines of Gilles and Nathalie Fèvre, which immediately strike one with their pure and stylish quality. Gilles and Nathalie met at university, where they both qualified as oenologists, and took over the running of the estate first created by Gilles’ great grandfather over one hundred years ago — Gilles takes charge of viticulture whilst Nathalie oversees vinification. They have now been joined by their daughter, Julie (a qualified agricultural engineer and oenologue).
The 50-hectare estate is based in and around the village of Fontenay-Près-Chablis, all the vines being planted on Kimmeridgian limestone — 33 hectares are village Chablis, 14.5 hectares are 1er Cru vineyards and they are also lucky enough to have 2.5 hectares of Grand Cru Les Preuses.
They do everything properly and pay attention to detail. Their wines are the very epitome of Chablis, and my notes are always riddled with words like ‘pure’, ‘focused’, ‘mineral’ and ‘mouth-watering’.
Exceptional quality from an estate that is increasingly being recognised as one of the region’s top producers.
10% Discount on 2 cases of six or more
2020 Chablis Vieilles Vignes – £126
Best as an apéritif or with simple fish and shellfish dishes.
2020 Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre – £213
Perfect with seafood, but also with poultry (suprême de volaille) and mushroom-based dishes (try veal chops in cream and morel sauce), and great with soft cheeses.
The 2021 vintage was characterised by the severe frosts that hit all of France south of Champagne. An exceptionally warm March caused an early bud-break and almost all the shoots were killed off. Quantity was thus always going to be small, and wet weather during the summer caused large outbreaks of disease, further reducing it. A warm, dry September nevertheless allowed the surviving grapes to ripen and harvest began at the end of the month. The low yields mean that the wines are concentrated, but they have an elegance unmatched in recent years.
2021 Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume – £204
The Fèvres recommend Ham cooked in Chablis (a local speciality) or curry dishes (try crab in curry sauce)
This well-known vineyard lies just to the north of the town of Chablis on the eastern banks of the Serein river, it has a southerly aspect and sits on high-quality limestone. This is 100% steel tank, no oak at all. Fresh nose, aromatic with citrus notes and white flower. In the mouth it has nice weight and feel, clean, lemon zest, apple, nice ripeness and good balance. Mouth-watering with persistent, balanced finish. Classic Fourchaume and delightful.
2021 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu – £231
One of the region’s finest vineyards. Very rich but delicate, it accompanies sauced fish dishes and delicate meats, like quail risotto or osso bucco.
2021 Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses – £396
Preuses is, perhaps, not as well known as some other Grand Cru vineyards but it can often be my favourite. This is youthful, of course, but a quite outstanding wine and you can’t buy a Grand Cru of this quality in the Côte de Beaune for anything remotely like this price. A bargain. Can’t go wrong with this. Young, it’s best with seafood, as it gets older it will team up with a fine goose or turkey, or rich pork and veal dishes.
The 2022 vintage is looking very promising, with good quality expected and, for the first time in several years, a full harvest (though don’t expect prices to come down).
2022 Petit Chablis – £126
I’ve always had a soft spot for PC, usually excellent value and this is no exception, and it has more complexity than most. Great as an apéritif, but also accompanies chicken or tuna salads and simple seafood dishes.
2015 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill
The notion that Champagne can be a fine wine and drunk as such is often forgotten amid the sound of popping corks. Although it is, quite rightly, associated with celebration, fine Champagne should also be enjoyed with food and treated as you would, say, a fine White Burgundy, and that is especially true of Pol Roger’s top wine, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston Churchill, mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity, and it is undeniable that the composition would meet with the approval of the man to whom it is dedicated: “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best”. Pinot Noir predominates, providing structure, breadth and robustness whilst Chardonnay contributes elegance, finesse and subtlety. Composed exclusively of grapes sourced from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, which were already under vine during Churchill’s lifetime, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is only made in the very best vintages and is always released later than Pol Roger’s other vintage Champagnes, marking Churchill’s appreciation for older wines.
Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2015 – £995 per 6 x 75cl IB
This has always been one of my favourite champagnes; it has great depth of flavour and weight yet it is also layered, complex and elegant – the definition of a truly fine and great wine. For what it is, the price remains quite reasonable. 2015 is an exquisite vintage for the Sir Winston Churchill cuvée. The year`s dry, sunny summer was fortuitously followed by a burst of refreshing rain in the run-up to harvest, allowing the grapes to achieve impeccable ripeness. Pinot Noir (which always dominates here – the exact blend being a closely guarded family secret) was particularly successful in 2015, contributing generous roundness and powerful structure to the wine.
The 2015 Brut Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill shows off the savory side of the vintage to great effect. Hints of dried pear, sage, mint, dried flowers, lemon oil and chamomile open gradually in this mid-weight, lithe edition of Pol Roger’s tête de cuvée. The 2015 unfolds nicely with time in the glass, but I wouldn’t think of opening a bottle anytime soon. Readers will find a nervy Winston Churchill marked by notable freshness and vigor more than size. This is a fine effort in a vintage that has proven to be far trickier than most observers originally envisioned. Dosage is 7 grams per liter. Disgorged September 2022. 95 Antonio Galloni 2027 – 2045 Not Available May 2022