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2003 William Fevre "Champs Royaux" Chablis (Chardonnay), Burgundy, France

It's wines like this one that make me begrudgingly admit that some of my friends have a pretty valid point. You see, I hang out with a bunch of folks who have completely sworn off of California white wines, especially Chardonnay, in favor of French whites -- in particular the Chardonnay based White Burgundies and Sauvignon Blanc based wines from the Loire. They clamor (at any given opportunity) that there are hundreds of wines that can be purchased for around twenty bucks that are infinitely better than most $20 California Chardonnays. Better tasting, better food pairing, and just all around better made. And you know what? They're right.

Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say that I dislike California Chardonnays (there are some I adore), but on the whole French white wine is a lot more pleasant, especially in the "everyday drinking" price points of $8-$25. Most Chardonnay for sale at $7.99 a bottle (or for that matter, $20 a bottle) in Safeway is slathered in oak flavor and the buttery taste of poorly managed malolactic fermentation. Comparable French wines (like this one) are entirely another story -- clean, crisp, fruity, excellently balanced -- everything you want in a good glass of white wine.

William Fevre is a name that is practically synonymous with Chablis. At one point the owner of the most Grand Cru classified vineyards in the Chablis appellation, Fevre was also a tireless advocate for Chablis for decades, struggling against relaxation of the rules and borders of the appellation, and campaigning against the wanton use of the Chablis name by other wines around the world, especially those sold in boxes in the USA.

Fevre worked for years producing a large number of wines from Chablis under his estate name Domaine de la Maladiere, but in 1998 he sold the estate to Henriot Champagne, a distributor who runs several negociant (distribution/winemaking) outfits in Burgundy as well, most notably Bouchard Pere et Fils, which is responsible for the current Fevre winemaking.

This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay, which is fermented in a combination of steel and old French oak barrels, including malolactic fermentation, and it is then aged in older French oak barrels (at most 10% new) for between 10 and 15 months before bottling.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a pale greenish gold in the glass and has a cool rainy-day nose of wet limestone, bosc pears, and green wood aromas. On the palate it is silky and bright with flavors of pears and lemon zest buoyed up by a nice acidity. The wine has an excellent finish which incorporates elements of lemon as well as a slight kick of white pepper.

Food Pairing:
This wine will pair nicely with creamy or buttery foods, especially those incorporating seafood. I had mine with a nice creamy autumn spelt soup, and it was glorious.

How Much?: $18

There are a few Internet retailers which carry this wine. Try Wine Searcher.

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