The Journal / Breath

It’s a Family (Aff)air

Domaine William Fèvre and the Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite: the union between two properties who face similar challenges and share complementary philosphies.

Scroll down

We’re mixing people from the Bourgogne region with those from Bordeaux, white wines among red wines. On 10th January 2024, Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite formalised the purchase of Domaine William Fèvre from Artémis Domaines, François Pinault’s holding company.

So let’s get to know them: this Chablis estate extends over 70 hectares in Burgundy-Franche-Comté, including more than 30 hectares divided equally between Premier Cru and Grands Crus. An exciting prospect as the price of Chablis is on the rise – thanks to those, from Quebec to Australia, who love its saline minerality which comes from the special Chablis Chardonnay grape. But this is far from pure opportunism.

View of the Grands Crus of Chablis

A ‘rough diamond’

« To further develop DBR Lafite, which began in 1868 at Château Lafite Rothschild, we are looking for “raw stones” to polish» explains Saskia de Rothschild, president of DBR Lafite. And in Chablis, she continues, « there is this possibility».

First, literally – since Domaine William Fèvre stands on precious ground. Didier Séguier, director of the Domaine for over 25 years, says that « In Chablis, we don’t drink Chardonnay, we drink kimmeridgian». He’s referring to the subsoil of the vineyard: the Kimmeridgian is a geological age, 150 million years ago, which dates back to the Upper Jurassic. It’s the limestone soil, full of fossils, that give Chablis its unique personality. The land is what gives these wines « a salty, mouth-watering, thirst-quenching quality, in the best sense, and can’t be found anywhere else,» adds Didier.

Saskia also sees this vineyard as a kind of ‘diamond in the rough’: « There is a winemaker to winemaker, familial, unpretentious aspect to it… and that’s what we liked,» she says. On a human level, it all flows easily and over the course of conversations, Saskia and Didier discover many elements in common. Plot-by-plot vinification that stays as close as possible to the terroir, the desire to minimise intervention in the cellars as much as possible, etc. But also, they’re passionate about preserving and enriching the biodiversity of their estates.

Having converted all its vines to organic farming methods from 2006, Domaine William Fèvre developed their use of biodynamic methods on the Premiers and Grands Crus (32 ha).

A shared approach

Didier Séguier is proud of their eco-friendly approach: « William Fèvre was a visionary when he designed the very modern facilities here, over 50 years ago, using gravity, recycling runoff water from the tanks… We had to think about this in 1972!» Now a promising dialogue is taking place with Saskia de Rothschild to better address the consequences of global warming.

Their shared experiences fed directly into the organisation: the R&D department in particular led to an exchange at the start of 2024 about the fight against frost, bringing together Domaine William Fèvre and the various technical teams from the group’s estates. At the end of 2023, a team from William Fèvre went to Domaine d’Aussières, specifically to learn about techniques for combating drought from Languedoc winemakers. Didier Séguier concludes: « It’s obviously very enriching to have this dialogue with the technical teams of the different DBR Lafite properties, particularly about  climatic and environmental challenges, which affect us more and more.»

Standing shoulder to shoulder, from north to south, to adapt to climate change together, they’ll continue to produce wines that reflect the unique qualities of their terroirs. This acquisition, which seems more like a family reunion, is an alliance of taste and technique. 

Saskia de Rothschild, president of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite and Didier Séguier, director of Domaine William Fèvre, photographed in the Chablis estate’s vineyards.
Meet the family...
Unfortunately you cannot enter this website as you are not of legal drinking and purchasing age.