If all chardonnay tasted like this, I’d be drinking a lot more chardonnay.
With the proliferation of chardonnay as a global variety produced in every imaginable style, it’s important to look back at the iconic versions of the wine from an original and still outstanding production region, AOC Chablis. If there’s a homeland for chardonnay, that’s it.
For best effect select a Grand Cru vineyard release from a traditional and highly regarded house, and from a vintage that has been allowed to develop for a few years: what could be better than Domaine William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2005?
William Fevre is one of those producers who practices what wine lovers refer to as “minimal intervention.” That’s another way of saying “don’t get in the way of the wine expressing itself.” In other places with less tradition the focus might be on the brilliance of the winemaker: here it is on the husbandry of the soil and the grape and the duty of the winemaker to continue to showcase those qualities.
In the Fevre Grand Cru Les Clos 2005 that translates as a brilliantly precise and minerally edged scalpel of flavor intensity at first sip, expanding slowly into a rich, full herb and fruit tisane in the mouth, then finishing with a return of bright lemon zest at the very end.
As the wine warms in the glass and accommodates a dish of tempura-style green beans and rich black cod, the next sip brings bright, tart lemon over river rock followed by effusive bergamot (think Earl Grey Tea, somewhere between herbal and succulent floral, with a hint of stone fruit), with the echo of that tart, hard, crisp snap of jolting citrus resonating and lingering until the next sip.
The pure unmasked flavor of chardonnay shines through in the Les Clos. Unencumbered by obvious oak, the bright citrus and river-rock minerality is pure and brisk and lovely in the nose. In the mouth it feels more like a red wine than a white, full, round, palpable with weight, expansive.
The 2005 is just now beginning to open and release, so don't feel you have to drink this immediately. It will hold for several years.
This winemaking is more art than artifice, more artisanal than artificial. It comes from generations of farmers focusing on one grape, in one proven style, from one proven place, for hundreds of years.