After sampling the 2019 vintage this time last year with a tasting kit at home, it was good to try the new Chanson 2020 vintage in the flesh with the estate choosing Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge as this year’s venue. As always the tasting was dominated by wines made from the 45 hectares Chanson owns in and around Beaune, and it was a good opportunity to take a deep dive into the quality of the 16 1er cru sites (and two Grand Cru sites) it both owns and makes négoces wines from.
As with all of the new vintage the Chanson 2020 white wines are superb across the board; unlike some other estates, where the reds are more variable, Chanson has made some outstanding reds, the seven Beaune 1er Crus in particular were all showing well.
Chanson’s interests extend as far as Chablis, the Mâconnais and Beaujolais, although the domaine’s 45 hectares are entirely in the Côte de Beaune and provide about a quarter of the overall production which, in a good year, can stretch to 100 different cuvées.
Chanson has kept its old headquarters and maturation cellars in the ‘bastion’, a medieval stone tower which was one of Beaune’s principal fortifications, with a more modern vinification facility on the edge of town towards Savigny, built in 1974 and which has since been thoroughly modernised.
One of the oldest of Beaune’s five great négociant houses, Chanson Père & Fils was founded during the reign of Louis XVth in 1750 by Simon Verry. The Chanson family took control during the 19th century and in 1999 the company was sold to Societé Jacques Bollinger, the family Champagne business who appointed Gilles de Courcel to run it in 2002, before he handed over to Domaine Faiveley’s Vincent Avenel in 2017.
The head winemaker is Jean-Pierre Confuron, of Domaine Confuron-Cotétidot in Vosne-Romanée, whose brother Yves supervises Gilles de Courcel’s family domaine in Pommard. The new team has made considerable improvements, beginning in the vineyards which are now ploughed and entirely organic.
All harvesting is done by hand with the grapes picked parcel by parcel, remaining in those parcels throughout the vinification process. The Pinot Noir is fermented in vats and, unusually for one of the major négociants, Chanson reds are made with a good proportion of whole stem bunches included, following a cold soak, which gives a pure, fresh and intensely aromatic character to the wines. Chardonnay is fermented in oak casks with the juice coming only from the middle of the pressing. The majority of the wines see about 30 per cent new oak during maturation.
The winemaking takes place both at the modern facility and at the bastion the latter containing up to 3,000 barriques. Bottling is done entirely by gravity.
So how were the Chanson 2020 wines tasting?
Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
One of the most revered Grand Cru sites in Chablis, Les Clos covers 24.75 hectares with the fruit for this non-domaine wine taken from the heart of the plot.
Light shiny gold; ripe nose, an abundance of orchard fruit, light, quite thin for a Les Clos, bright citrus acidity comes in on the nice, tidy finish, notes of tare au citron – the nose feels riper than the palate delivers.
Savigny-Lès-Beaune Hauts-Marconnets 1er Cru
Savigny-lès-Beaune produces mainly red wines so this white from Hauts Marconnets – a South-East facing 2.18 ha marl, chalk and limestone vineyard –close to the hills of Beaune 1er Crus, is a bit of a rarity.
A little closed on the nose, floral, with a herbal (fennel) note; clean and pure on the palate, fresh, bright acidity which is more pronounced that the Chablis; a touch of citron pressé. Nicely focused.
Pernand-Vergelesses Les Caradeux 1er Cru
Unique mineral characteristics come from this East-facing mid-slope 1.9 ha vineyard close to the hill of Corton-Charlemagne.
Offering more on the nose; ripe orchard fruit, (greengage, slightly smoky), honeysuckle. Good concentration of fruit, lean acidity, so much raw power, a smash of green orange citrus on the finish. A little disjointed but this has a long way to go.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes
From a two-hectare Premier Cru vineyard next door to ‘Le Montrachet’ this East-facing site is made up of clay and limestone with the influence of Chassagne stone.
Ripe, with decent breadth – lovely balance to the wine, mineral, with the clay adding density. Lovely detail and balance, layers of citrus flavour. Very attractive concentration, good finish and length. Wonderful.
Puligny Montrachet les Folatières 1er Cru
This particular South-East facing climat is situated close to Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet with a high degree of clay.
Wonderful shade of shiny gold, riper more honeyed than the Chassagne, with ripe crisp Golden Delicious veering towards baked apple. Medium weight, intense, good volume, nicely framed by the acidity which is well integrated at this youthful stage – crisp and fresh – feels leaner than a lot of the 2020s.
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches
From a 4.5 ha vineyard at the southern end of Beaune on a spur pointing towards Pommard, 2 ha of which are planted with Chardonnay on sandy soil lying on top of limestone. Chanson is one of the major owners of Clos des Mouches.
A nose that shows off the limestone; immediately lean and crisp on the palate, finely textured, a touch of tannin, terrific balance, mouthwatering acidity, finely detailed.
Corton Vergennes Grand Cru
Chanson and the Hospices de Beaune are the major producers from this very small single vineyard on a hump of a hill at Corton. The vineyard used to belong to the Count of Vergennes who was counsellor to Louis XVI and signatory for the Treaty of Independence with the USA.
Fine nose, lovely aromas, slight butterscotch, quite beautiful, little bit of toast on the palate – you can feel the intensity and texture of the wood, yummy fruit, layers of citrus, with a good deal of complexity. One of the real hits of the tasting.
2020 is a ripe vintage with deep-coloured wines, concentrated black fruits, rounded mouthfeel and powerful tannic structure – the whole bunch used here also giving the wine real heft under the lush veneer. The blue fruit profile we come to expect of the Beaune was more red fruit this year and, in some cases, black fruit even.
Monthélie Clos Gauthey 1er Cru
This West-facing vineyard is situated in the heart of the Monthélie appellation, whose village is located between the villages of Volnay and Auxey-Duresses. A non-domaine wine.
Medium ruby with a pale purple hue; smoky, toasty, black fruits; medium weight, juicy, textural, ripe but ever-present, dense, coarse tannins, ‘citrus’ and blueberry edge. Has a nice rusticity, and decent structure – feels like it could cut through some charcuterie.
Santenay Beauregard 1er Cru
Chanson owns three hectares in this climat located in the South of the Côte de Beaune. The plot is situated on two levels with large stones giving the wine a mineral edge.
Black cherry notes; more rounded on the palate than the previous wine, ripe, decent acidity; Micro-fine tannins – ripe, sandpaper fine; lovely finish with blackberry and citrus.
Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 1er Cru
Pernand-Vergelesses is one of Bourgogne’s lesser known appellations – surprising really given that as a commune it houses three Grands Crus including Corton-Charlemagne and Corton. It is tucked into the junction of two valleys in the Côte de Beaune wine region and consists of mainly South and East-facing slopes. The wines here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay roughly 50/50 in quantity. The French also know Pernand for its long cultural history, particularly with the theatre.
Riper, sweeter, bigger more pronounced nose; black cherry, more rustic, farmyard; on the palate the wine is juicy, concentrated, textured, fine tannins – great balanced – very much on the black fruit side.
Savigny-Dominode 1er Cru
A vineyard that was formerly owned by the Lord of Savigny comprised of largely chalk soils on a north-east facing mid-slope.
Notes of licorice and black fruit, with blue plum and blueberry giving it an edge; the finish has tart blue plum skin, there are firm dense tannins, feels very young.
Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi
Chanson owns a third of this climat (about three hectares, with two thirds planted out to Pinot Noir) which is located below ‘Les Marconnets’, an old Dukes of Burgundy property.
Quite reserved aromatically, with red fruit, red cherries; the palate is more rounded than the previous wine, silky, plush, with a polished veneer and then dense, chunky, drying tannins – structured but balanced. None of the blue fruit we might expect from this region, more red.
Beaune 1er Cru Teurons
In the heart of the Premier Cru vineyards owned by Chanson, this plot covers four hectares in the centre of the Beaune territory.
Pretty, floral nose, black raspberry; the wine is very fresh, rounded and juicy on the front palate, almost thin at first and then the structure leans in; red plum and raspberry dominate the flavour profile.
Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes
This two-hectare vineyard is located on the upper part of the hill facing east. It was owned in the 13th century by a Canon of Beaune, Jean Bressand, hence the name ‘Bressandes’.
This plot has produced a wine of wonderful complexity in 2020. The enticing nose has wild blackberry with a slightly smoky note. On the palate the wine is ripe, juicy with a lush entry, there’s a very fine texture, micro-tannins, more blueberry on finish with raspberry coulis.
Beaune 1er Cru Grèves
From three plots in a two-hectare hillside facing Beaune, the name “Grèves” derives from the sandy and gravely soil, which helps give the wine a suppleness and delicate tannins. It’s an early-ripening site, which gets plenty of sun and wind.
More floral on the nose, with notes of red and black cherry; the tannins are younger and more sturdy here; very ripe and very structured, tannic, primary, dense, with immense power. The fruit is dark red, verging on black.
Beaune Clos des Marconnets 1er Cru
This four-hectare vineyard, Les Marconnets, is located in the northern part of the Beaune 1er Cru appellation.
Ripe, broad, you can feel the influence of clay soil in the tannin structure; powerful, very ripe fruit mid-palate.
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches
The Pinot Noir vines in this 4.5 ha vineyard are situated on the middle part of the plot, south-east facing, on a limestone and clay soil with rocks.
Complex nose, with wonderful depth, notes of cranberry and little black cherries. On the palate the wine is very juicy, ripe and rounded; great balance and more approachable tannins.
Beaune Clos des Fèves 1er Cru
This monopole has become the emblematic cuvée of the domaine, responsible for some of the best wine of the Premiers Crus appellation. It’s a 3.8 ha mid-slope site whose excellence can be traced back to at least the 14thCentury where it was referred to as ‘Fae’ the Latin word for East – its orientation. The soil is complex, composed as it is of clay and limestone.
Notes of wild bramble, black raspberry, violets, red liquorice, and cream; On the palate the wine is fresh, rounded, ripe, lots of ripe red and black fruit, bags of flavour; sturdy tannins, great register on the palate, micro-fine tannins and texture.
The wines of Domaine Chanson Père et Fils are imported into the UK by Mentzendorff which is a supplier partner of The Buyer. To discover more about them click here.