William Fevre, the son of an accomplished winemaker, founded Domaine de la Maladiere and bottled his first wines after the 1959 harvest. Over a forty year span, Domaine de la Maladiere slowly grew into the largest owner of grand cru vineyards in the region and it enjoyed an excellent reputation. William was also a dominant personality. When the local political establishment wanted to increase the region’s vineyard area to include sites that that did not possess the important Kimmeridgian soil, William stood out as one of the fiercest and loudest opponents to the expansion. The wines from these new areas, he argued, would not have the classic aromas and flavors that were characteristic of Chablis. Fevre lost the battle, but by voicing his opinion he had become one of the leading figures in the region. In 1998, Fevre sold his estate to the Henriot family of Champagne, who in an odd twist, changed the name to Domaine William Fevre. Henriot had also recently purchased the Beaune negociant Bouchard Pere et Fils and had been responsible for a renaissance at that estate. Several changes were immediately made at Fevre by the Henriot team and the quality of the wines improved. The domaine is now recognized as one of, if not the top, producers in Chablis.
Fevre releases wines under two labels, one from land owned by the domaine and the other from purchased fruit. The two labels are nearly identical, but the estate bottles read “Domaine” in script above “William Fevre”. Several premier crus are produced under the domaine label, including Beauroy (1.12 ha.), Montmains (1.75 ha.), Les Lys (0.99 ha.), Vaillons (2.86 ha.), Fourchaume and Montee de Tonnerre (1.5 ha.). A unique cuvee is bottled the from the lieu-dit Vaulaurent, which is separated from the northern portion of the grand cru Les Preuses by a path. The vineyard is allowed to use the name of the nearby premier cru Fourchaume and is labeled as Fourchaume Vignoble de Vaulaurent. More powerful than a typical Fourchaume, the wine is considered to be a “baby grand cru” by the Fevre team. Additionally, Cote de Lechet and Mont de Mileu are bottled under the negociant label.
15.2 hectares of the domaines 27 hectares are located in grand cru vineyards and the line-up is impressive. Bougros (4.12 ha.), Les Preuses (2.55 ha.), Vaudesir (1.20 ha.), Valmur (1.15 ha.) and Les Clos (4.11 ha.) are all bottled under the domaine label. The only grand cru missing from the estate’s portfolio is Blanchots, but a wine from this vineyard is sold under the negociant arm. The domaine also separates a portion of Bougros as separate cuvee. Clos des Bouguerots (2.11 ha.) is a small parcel located at the bottom of Bougros that is extremely steep. The domaine views this section as a separate vineyard and thus the eighth grand cru of Chablis. More elegant and refined, the Clos des Bouguerots cuvee is a step up from the estate’s regular bottling.
The wines made by William Fevre under the Domaine de la Maladiere label were respected, but not universally loved. New oak barrels were used liberally and the bottled wines reflected this treatment. The new regime reduced the amount of new oak used in the cellar and the wines quickly became more transparent. Didier Seguier is in charge of the winemaking and seeks to produce wines that show their terroir. All of the grapes harvested by the estate are hand-picked and carefully sorted. Some of the wines are fermented in steel vats, others in barrels, but the percentage of new oak is moderate. The wines are intense, clean and precise. William Fevre may no longer be making wine in Chablis, but his presence is still felt through the excellent domaine that bears his name.