A Bastion in Beaune
Beaune, France, may be the wine capital of the Côte D’Or, if not all of Burgundy. It is home to important vineyards, as well as influential wine merchants, or négociants.
One of the oldest of these is Domaine Chanson, founded in 1750. Chanson’s holdings comprise some of Burgundy’s most coveted vineyards (over 94 acres, 17 in white, the rest in red), including 10 Premier Crus and one Grand Cru.
In 1777, Chanson bought the cellars they still occupy today. To store the 100,000 bottles then in inventory, in 1794 they acquired the large round Bastion de l’Oratoire. The bastion is a massive 15th-century fortress and an internationally celebrated icon of Burgundy.
Chanson still vinifies and cellars its wines in the bastion as it has for over 200 years. The 30-foot-thick walls of this ancient fortress make it ideal for winemaking. While the ground floor (the coolest) serves as a vinothèque or “vintage wine library,” vinification and cask-aging take place on the second and third floors.
The bastion holds Chanson’s approximately 3,000 barrels of wine. The proportions of new oak are roughly 25% for whites and 30 to 35% for the reds.
“The temperature of the bastion never varies,” explains Chanson general manager Gilles de Courcel. “It is ideal for cold maceration of the bunches. In the springtime, we might open one of the cellar doors to allow the warm air in. We never accelerate malolactic fermentation. We allow it to occur spontaneously and naturally. We use only the best cuvées and we never hurry the process. This is how we maintain the freshness, purity, and fragrance of the wines.”
Domaine Chanson Clos des Mouches Chardonnay 2010
This Chardonnay is classified as a Premier Cru, Burgundy’s second highest ranking. The grapes came from a vineyard on a mere 4.9 acres of difficult soil mixed with limestone, clay, and silica.
Although this pale gold wine spent 14 months in French oak, both on the nose and palate the wood is delicate and restrained. Aromas and tastes of citrus fruit predominate, with a hint of spice on the long finish. This is a white that needs to breathe for at least 30 minutes.
The generous acidity makes this an excellent food wine. Fish Fillets Poached in White Wine and a Julienne of Vegetables, Fresh Shucked Oysters, or Chicken Fricassee would all pair well.
Domaine Chanson Clos Des Fèves Pinot Noir 2010
Clos loosely translates as “enclosed vineyard.” Clos des Fèves is a rare ‘monopole’ Premier Cru vineyard, where the entire vineyard is owned by a single grower. This 9.4-acre site is one of the highest in Beaune, with an unforgiving soil of clay and limestone.
This Pinot Noir is a transparent ruby in the glass, with aromas of blackberry and plum. After an hour of exposure to air, the wine comes alive with the flavors of the fruit (although as the French prefer, not fruit-forward) and the elegant tannins. The finish is quite long for a Pinot Noir.
This wine calls for classic dishes such as Steak au Poivre, Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, or Rôti de Porc Grand’ Mère.
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