Whenever we visit a wine region for the first time, our plans always include time for places recommended by locals or wine friends with similar palates. As we prepared for our first visit to Chablis, a very trusted source recommended Domaine Famille Savary. Having never tasted their wines and knowing very little about them, we were both curious and hopeful for a new discovery that we could enthusiastically endorse. Meeting and tasting with Olivier Savary was an experience that definitely met our high expectations thanks to high-quality wines at remarkably fair prices.
Olivier comes from a long line of vignerons though it took years for Chablis to solidify itself on the world wine stage for a variety of reasons. In the mid-19th century, a new railway system ravaged Chablis wine sales because of increased competition from other wine regions that were slashing their prices to compete. Then came Phylloxera, a louse that destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe. Not long after the turn of the century, the Great War decimated France both in terms of damage to vineyards, as well as the loss of many future winemakers.
With the industry in the region declining rapidly, Olivier’s father, Guy, opted to pursue a job in Paris rather than carry on the family business as it afforded more financial stability. He wasn’t alone and by the mid- 20th century, acres planted to vine hit an all-time low of less than 1500!
In 1973, Guy purchased a 1-hectare vineyard and in 1979, he established Savary Wines while he was Chief Steward at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Despite the challenges he witnessed through his father, Olivier knew from a very young age that he wanted to pursue winemaking and to Dijon to study it at school. Olivier’s wife Francine also comes from a family with a history of winemaking but from the nearby town of Villy. Together they began their wine journey as sharecroppers selling the majority of their wine to a négociant.
In 1984, Olivier and Francine established Domaine Savary in the town of Maligny just north of Chablis. Two years later, construction of their winery was completed. In 1999, They inherited Guy’s wine business and were producing 20,000 bottles from 8 total hectares. Since then, Olivier and Francine have diligently worked to expand and cultivate their vineyards, increasing their holdings to almost 5,000 hectares mainly located throughout Maligny and Villy.
Domaine Savary produces wines from 3 of the 4 Chablis classifications: Petit Chablis, Chablis and Premier Cru Chablis. And while Premier & Grand Cru Chablis are considered the top 2 classifications of the 4, Savary has made its mark for the exceptional quality of their Chablis in particular. Olivier attributes the enhanced quality of this level at Savary, as well as throughout the region, to 3 main things.
“Everything is so much cleaner, there’s so much more investment in things being clean and tidy. It’s not that the parents and grandparents were dirty in the work [that they did] but there’s a new culture and a new mentality; there’s a new awareness of good quality grapes made in a good, quality, clean, stable, hygienic environment as kind of the basic raw materials.”
“There’s also been enormous developments in the new generation having…been to Beaune, been to New Zealand, been to different places…[his sons] are learning today things directly through teaching techniques adapted directly to what they’re going to do; they’re coming with lots of very adaptable, practical ideas that they can implement straight away.”
“Finally, the big change with the climate. There’s a lot of people saying ‘oh there’s no such thing as climate change’ but of course that it’s not even an argument—we’re starting the harvest at a certain date…and it’s completely different than it was in the past. So, if you’re working a vintage every year where the weather is a determining factor, you’re the one that knows where there’s climate change or not.”
Over the past 40 years, Olivier and Francine have built a successful and respected legacy for their two sons, Mathieu and Maxime, who have been involved in the renewed family business since 2014 and 2015 respectively. Olivier is particularly proud of the fact that not only are his sons carrying on the family tradition going forward, but they also have similar philosophies in terms of how the wine should be produced.
Under the guidance of Maxime and Mathieu, the estate has embraced sustainable viticulture practices, further enhancing the sustainability of their operations. This commitment to environmental stewardship aligns with the broader movement within the wine industry to prioritize sustainability and minimize the ecological footprint of vineyard management.
As the next generation of Domaine Famille Savary prepare to take the helm, Maxime and Mathieu Savary are poised to continue the legacy of excellence that defines this Chablis estate. They’re bringing a fresh perspective to the winemaking process and pushing boundaries to elevate the quality of their wines, all while being dedicated to upholding the traditions that have made it a very respected name in the world of Burgundian wines.
2022 Domaine Savary Petit Chablis
This refreshing Petit follows the script for its classification: medium- body, citrus fruit, refreshing and fruit driven. Sometimes Petit Chablis can push the acid but at Savary it gratefully does not. Light but lively.
2022 Domaine Savary Chablis
A nice step up, the Chablis moves away from just citrus and shows apple and pear notes as well. There is a generosity to the wine that shows texture with balance. The region’s mineral signature is present and adds complexity.
2022 Domaine Savary Selection Vieilles Vignes
Made from vineyard parcels averaging 50 years in age, this is starting to push into Premier Cru quality level. Raised in 20% old foudres this has just the right balance with the ample fruit. It has a rounded mouthfeel but just enough acidity to keep it within the region’s character. A Chablis for the table, this is just the wine for a roast chicken!
2021 Domaine Savary Vaillons Premier Cru
The texture alone tells you that we have moved up a classification. This is reinforced by the apple flavours that are intertwined with a chalky minerality. Generous and rounded it has plenty of structure to create balance and maintain the regions signature focus. Vaillons is a Left Bank climat, highly regarded and this wine shows its origins well.
2021 Domaine Savary Chablis Hommage
2021 Domaine Savary Chablis Hommage is a personal selection made as a tribute to the owner’s father. This is the yin to the Vieilles Vignes yang. Whereas the former emphasizes texture and roundness here the style is focus and linearity. Grapefruit and mineral flavours are delivered with intensity. These plots get the morning sun which results in a higher acid wine. The oyster shell and salinity components are just so Chablisienne. Pair this with oysters on the half shell.
2022 Domaine Savary Fourchaume Premier Cru
Crossing the River Serein to the Right Bank, this wine shows the generosity that southern exposures will bring to a vineyard. The nose was quite fascinating as the traditional green apple and citrus notes were joined by hints of white flowers and marzipan. Very good depth to this wine with just the right amount of tension created by the acidity. Golden delicious apple pairs with hints of sea shell and minerals to create complexity and sophistication.
2022 Domaine Savary Epinot Pinot Noir
Bright garnet red in colour. Flavours of medium red cherry, cherry nibs, with hints of earth. Silky and transparent to its terroir showing mineral and forest floor notes. The tannins were present but ripe and evoked something of a Nebbiolo memory. Structured, this wine appeals more to intellect than hedonism.
4 Chemin des Hâtes
T: +33 3 86 47 42 09
Monday-Friday: 8am-12pm & 2pm-530pm
Saturday 8am-12pm & 130pm-430pm