Chablis, the purest expression of Chardonnay! Grand Cru Chablis, the most profound expression of Chablis! 2010, a brilliant vintage that should be reaching prime drinkability! William Fevre, the largest holders of Grand Cru land in Chablis! Surely this wine will blow away that Kumeu River Matés Vineyard I had a few days ago? Let us find out!
This has been out of the fridge for half an hour on this warm afternoon as it is important to serve fine Chardonnay distinctly above fridge temperature (whereas crap like Faiveley white Burgundies can happily be served at freezer temperature).
I have poured myself a slug and it is all about steely/flinty precision and linearity. The razor-sharp acidity and stone-y character is so precisely defined it could etch the name of the vineyard across your front teeth. It is so vibrant, so alive, so vigorous. Very exciting!
There is a lot of ripe but restrained lemon fruit, and a creamy, earthy character that gives this plenty of dimension.
Indeed, as I am swirling it my glass it is growing in scale and complexity, what was one a ridged foil of precision is now an array of swordsmen dancing with impressive deftness as they fence across your palate and nasal passages, swishing their blades ever wider with big explosions of lemon fruit, flintiness, and rich earthy characters.
This is clearly a very fine wine, especially once it has had time to breathe and show off its full, glorious power. Alas, there is a problem.
As I have been dissecting the palate I have noticed a tiny flavour of mouldy mustiness, only a hint of it but it is a favour approaching corked characteristics. Now, I do not expect dirty winemaking from Fevre, especially a Grand Cru in a fine, healthy vintage like 2010, so what is to blame?
The cork is a Diam, a composite cork that is supposed to remove all chance of the wine being corked.
However, I have spoken to a few winemakers who have tried and rejected Diam corks because they have told me they still, very rarely, find bottles with corked characteristics. Is it possible that a rogue, unclean piece of cork made it into the composite and transferred some dirty flavours to the wine? I have never experienced that before, but it is all I can think of that would explain the almost-corked hints I have found on the palate.
Otherwise the palate is gorgeous. Powerful and dense, involute and detailed with a grippy, stony, fruity finish that goes on and on. This is bloody marvellous stuff!
However, I do find that subtle hint of a cork flavour distracting. The Editor says it is barely noticeable, but I notice it and it distracts me. The faster Chablis moves to screwcaps the better, I say!
Even with that unsavoury hint, this is a really, really fine wine. However, it is not anywhere near the quality of the stylish, complex, brilliant Kumeu River I recently reviewed. This is totally outclassed by the new tick from New Zealand. Sure, this is a fine wine and The Editor and I had a great time drinking it, but would we buy this for over double the price of the Kumeu single vineyard? You must be kidding!
Many thanks to the incredibly generous Mr Keith Prothero for royally entertaining us with this bottle.