Maison Chanson Père et Fils is one of the oldest ‘houses’ of Beaune and also one of the larger owners of Beaune premier cru vineyards; no less than 25.3 hectares from only 9 crus – they are large parcels!
Today’s house of Chanson was established as Maison Verry by Simon Verry in 1750 and at the time didn’t just sell wine; regional items such as cheese and grapevines were also part of the portfolio – mostly for export. Simon had been active at a much earlier date, but it was 1750 when he acquired his merchant licence. The business progressed to the point where, in 1777, they were able to buy the cellars they still occupy in the Rue Paul Chanson from the Marquis de Savigny. They were also able to rent the publicly owned large round bastion (Bastion de l’Oratoire) that you can easily see if walk around the périphique of Beaune, a massive defensive work whose construction started in the 15th century but was not completed until the 16th – by 1790 the business already cellared 100,000 bottles in the bastion and the Beaune cellars. During the Revolution it was not just vineyards that were sold as ‘bien nationale’ or for the ‘good of the country’, the bastion was also put up for sale and was acquired in 1794 by Chanson.
It appears the bastion with its 8 metre thick walls wasn’t massive enough, so Alexis Chanson (the Chansons had been brought in to manage the business) decided in the 1820s to add two new (upper) floors to house casks and young wines. In 1847 the Verry family sold their shares in the business to Alexis, bringing with them the family vineyards they already owned in Beaune. Whilst times were hard during the phylloxera crisis, the Chanson reserves were sufficient that they could by additional plots of Beaune as the land prices plummeted – it was a still a gamble on their part, as phylloxera was not definitively beaten…
There was a lull in the perceived quality of Chanson’s wines during the 1980s and 1990s, such that the company was eventually bought by Champagne Bollinger (just as Bouchard Père had been bought by Champagne Henriot 3 years earlier), whose stated purpose was to revive the business buy investing in the quality of the wines. Gilles de Courcel (of Pommard’s Domaine de Courcel) was brought in to oversee the business, and Jean Pierre Confuron of Vosne-Romanée to oversee the viticulture and vinification.
Like most all the larger négoce of Beaune, there is a significant amount of ‘domaine’ vines at Chanson. I already mentioned that they have more than 25 hectares of Beaune 1er crus, well in total they actually have about 45 hectares of ‘owned’ vines, and all are either premier or grand cru vines – not just that, they are also all from the Côte de Beaune. Coming back to the Beaune 1ers, Chanson produce red and white from 4.50 hectares of Clos des Mouches, 3.80 hectares of Clos des Marconnets and 2.70 hectares of Clos du Roi. Reds alone are produced from 0.10 hectare of Vignes-Franches, 2 hectares each of Champimonts, Grèves and Bressandes, 4 hectares of Teurons, 3.80 hectares of Clos des Fèves and 1.10 hectare of Ecu. Chanson also market Beaune 1er blends red and white called ‘Bastion’; the white is a blend of Clos des Mouches (bas) young vines Clos du Marconnets and the same from Clos du Roi. For the red it is a blend of Clos des Mouches (bas again), young vines of Les Fèves and Vignes-Franches.
Externally, the glitz and immaculate decor of (for instance) Jadot and Bouchard Père is missing – but no problem if the money is being spent where it adds value! That said the Chanson ‘Maison’ has a beautiful entrance hall and a number of very fine reception rooms. Move outside and head for the entrance to the bastion and certainly everything is a little more rustic, but the wide entrance, that you could easily drive a car down, reminds of the tunnels that burrow underground in Reims – Bollinger must have felt at home!
The bastion holds all Chanson’s wines that are in barrel – approximately 3,000 barrels – it takes about one week to assemble everything for bottling, all being done by gravity. The proportions of new oak are roughly 25% for whites and 30-35% for the reds.
Lutte raisonnée is the vineyard regime of choice, eventually a manual harvest brings in the grapes on a parcel by parcel basis as maturity determines. And maturity is important as the fermentations are largely based on ‘vendanges entier’ or whole bunches – there is some pre-fermentation cold soaking before fermentation. For whites the first and last press (I assume it is a very short first press) are eliminated, only the “heart” of the (pneumatic) pressings are retained.
A selection of wines
Tasted in Beaune 5th May 2010. I found the 2007 reds very good, but a couple of the whites merely competent. I’d like to try the 08s before I decide if I should get wildly excited or not…
Medium, medium-plus colour. Warm, comfortable dark red fruit. There is freshness and a nice minerality to the structure – there is some power here.
Medium colour. Less width but much more depth of fruit. This is a little sweeter and friendlier but has a structure not to be under-estimated. There’s a long, mineral finish.
Medium, medium-plus colour. There is a nice precision to the fruit here – very nice aromas. In the mouth I find this less generous than many from 2007 but there is a lovely high-toned red fruit flavour.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Darker aromas, slowly cooking cherries. It’s a different kind of attack. Good width and intensity, the velvet tannin slowly builds. The flavours linger very well, sticking to the inside of your mouth.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Dark fruit and a more spicy, hebal width. Ripe fruit and plenty of structure – freshness too. Frankly, this will need a year or so in bottle, but the underlying fruit is very good.
Pale lemon colour. Fine, tight and pretty aromas. A faint hint of transient oak, a little fat and plenty of silk – very mineral with a subtle length, delivered on good acidity. This is very good.
Pale lemon yellow. Riper and denser fruit aromas. A hint less silk, but it is replaced by a concentration of more fruit-driven flavours. Still shows a fine balance and good minerality. This finishes long…
Pale again. The fruit aroma has more impact and a more creamy impression. Not quite as fat as the Beaune and very good good texture. This is a smaller wine in all physical dimensions, that must be why it’s half the price of the Clos des Mouches!
Medium-pale colour. More understated aromatic width than the Meursault. There is some Chassagne power but it remains quite a linear wine. Enough concentration? I’m not sure, perhaps it’s just the linear presentation but I’m missing a little intensity – so complaints about the finish though – above average for a villages.
From vines acquired in 2007. Medium yellow colour. Ripe, concentrated aromas but the freshness means nothing ponderous about it. Intense, good texture, very good acidity and the flavour expands in the mid-palate. A long if understated finish.