Nathalie Fèvre at Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre in Fontenay-près-Chablis.

he approach at Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre is very thorough. It always has been. From the early days when they singled out the best parts of their 50-hectare domaine to the decision in 2019 to go organic with all the vineyards at the same time.

– We were not interested in starting out with just two hectares of organic farming, like just doing it with Les Preuses, the grand cru. That would have been too easy. Organic just for the sake of marketing was not what we were after, says Nathalie Fèvre.

Chablis premier cru Fourchaume.She is presenting the wines of the domaine in a large tasting room overlooking the vineyards. Fontenay-près-Chablis is just around the corner from Chablis, tucked away at the end of the valley behind the grand crus.

– We are in Fontenay-près-Chablis and all our village appellation Chablis vineyards are close to the village. We have very little Petit Chablis, roughly one hectare which is above the plateau between the village and the grand crus.

– It is very convenient to have the vineyards around here. There are small and big parcels and they are all vinified separately. As you can see in the cuverie there are many small tanks, between 25 and 50 hectolitres. For us the 50 hectolitre tanks are ideal since they represent one hectare at harvest.

Fontenay-près-Chablis.During the élevage they taste frequently. Sometimes blind, sometimes not. It all depends on what the purpose is. If the purpose is to produce a Chablis that is true to the style of the domaine then the tasting is blind in order to avoid having past choices influence the new vintage.

– Just because we used certain parcels for previous vintages doesn’t mean we should do it every year. For the final blend we choose one fruity part, which depends a lot on the vintage, one floral part and one mineral part, which for us is very important.

Chablis premier cru Fourchaume.The first vintage for Nathalie and Gilles Fèvre was 2004. Since then they have been joined by their daughter Julie. The roots of the Fèvre family go back to at least 1745. In one way or the other – as nursery owners, coopers or wine growers – the family has always been involved in wine production. The other Fèvre estate in Chablis, Domaine William Fèvre, comes from the same family. They are distant cousins. William Fèvre, who added his name to the domaine in 1959, was originally from Fontenay-près-Chablis.

For the first vintage Nathalie and Gilles Fèvre decided to vinify all grapes from the domaine themselves. This was a way to get to know all the vineyards. Once they were familiar with all the parcels and knew which ones they preferred part of the harvest was sold to négociants.

There are four premier crus at Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre. All of them are on the right (eastern) bank of the Serein river, the same side as the grand crus. Two on each side of the block of grand crus.

Chablis grand cru Les Preuses.– Fourchaume, the premier cru, is at the end of this valley where we are right now. It runs from there all the way to the village of Maligny. It is the largest of the premier crus and therefore also the most well-known. It covers about 150 hectares.

The ten hectare chunk of Fourchaume which Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre farms straddles the two lieux-dits Vaupulent and Fourchaume. As is the case in Chablis the premier crus are grouped together under the most well-known names. For Fourchaume this means that in addition to Fourchaume itself, l’Homme Mort, Côte de Fontenay, Vaupulent and Vaulorent may also be bottled and labelled as Fourchaume.

Chablis.– We always vinify Fourchaume in stainless steel tanks. No barrels at all, because Fourchaume is very floral in character. In my previous life I used to work at La Chablisenne, the cooperative, where there were experiments with 100 per cent oak, 50 per cent etc. But the oak would always completely overshadow this floral character.

The remaining three premier crus of the domaine are considerably smaller in terms of surface area. The parcels in Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre are just 0.50 ha and 0.25 ha respectively. Vaulorent is 2.20 ha.

– We are in the middle of Mont de Milieu, says Nathalie Fèvre. There is a cabane, next to a small road which leads uphill, that’s where we are. In Montée de Tonnerre we are at the top, in the part called Le Pied d’Aloue. It’s a very small parcel and because of that we don’t have a suitable tank for vinification, so it is all vinified in barrels. No new oak though. We mainly use barrels which are five, six or seven years old. But even if this choice is mainly because we need something that holds small quantities the barrels do add something. There is very light touch of wood in the wine, like a signature, a bit of complexity. It’s nothing like the impact of a new barrel.

Chablis premier cru Vaulorent.– In terms of soil it is clay and limestone. There is more clay in Mont de Milieu. At the top of Mont de Milieu the soil is a bit deeper. The one that really stands out among our parcels is Vaulorent, where there is only clay. And it is more difficult to work there.

– Especially when it has been raining, you can easily lose your boots in the clay there, she adds with a smile.

As mentioned Vaulorent is one of the premier crus which may be bottled under the umbrella name Fourchaume. At Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre the choice was made to single out Vaulorent and bottle it separately from the Fourchaume of the domaine.

Vaulorent is right next to the grand crus in Chablis. It borders Les Preuses, but has a slightly different orientation. While the 11.44 hectare Les Preuses is facing south/southwest the 17 hectare Vaulorent is facing southwest.

Chablis.– The vines in Vaulorent do not produce much. They are always low-yielding, but they never suffer. Heat, lack of water or too much water, it is never a problem. It is a lovely terroir. Among the Chablis premier crus Montée de Tonnerre and Vaulorent are at the top. Montée de Tonnerre is obviously more renowned, but over the past 20 years Vaulorent has become more widely-known. Today all the Vaulorent proprietors bottle it separately.

Les Preuses is the only grand cru at Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre.

– Luckily our 2.30 hectares of Les Preuses are in a part which isn’t touched by the frost, says Nathalie Fèvre. Like Vaulorent Les Preuses is also vinified in both barrels and stainless steel tanks. While it is 15 per cent new barrels and 85 per cent tank for Vaulorent it is 30 per cent new barrels and 70 per cent tank for Les Preuses.

The cellar work at Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre is the responsibility of Nathalie and Julie. It is thanks to Julie that the domaine turned organic in 2019.

– It was also Julie who started talking about keeping the old vines. With 33 hectares of village Chablis she felt there must be something of interest and we gave her carte blanche.

© 2024 Ola Bergman