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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.

Comments (4)

Christian wrote:
11.29.04 at 10:56 AM


Just thought I would drop you line saying how much I agree with your review of this wine. It is a weekly experience now that I get someone in the shop telling me they don't like Chardonnay (esp. from California). Being a full-blown Franco-phile, I take serious exception to this and given the prices that Burgundy/Chablis can command, it can be difficult to convince people otherwise. Depending how adamant they are, I may or may not inform them that the Fevre is indeed Chard. Either way, my clients come back asking for more.

I have been running with this wine for the last 6-7 months and can't keep it in stock.

11.29.04 at 7:46 PM

Having lived in France for two years I couldn't agree more. I hate to gerneralize about wine. Although there are good examples of new world wines that could pass for french dead ringers, viewed by and large, there is a subelty and elegance to many French wines that is a pure reflection of the people and their unique place. There are many vastly underrated winemaking areas in France. I for one don't mind that the world has not discovered them or cared to learn about them. These discoveries continue to be my favorite wine drinking experiences by far. Long live Kermit Lynch!!!

Alder wrote:
11.29.04 at 8:25 PM

Hear hear. Let's all drink to Kermit.

And glad to know that these wines are doing well in your shop Christian.

Chris Huston wrote:
12.01.04 at 10:22 PM

I too am a fan of French whites. The Fevre is an excellent value. What I like about White Burgundies is their balance of fruit and acidity. They are not as viscuous as their malolactic cousins from California. Another good value is Paul Pernot Bourgogne Blanc for about $20. Enjoy and keep drinking.

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