It amazes me that in Australia it’s now possible to pay more than $100 for Bourgogne Rouge, a Pinot Noir at the bottom of Burgundy’s red wine hierarchy, theoretically coming from anywhere within the region. Really? I find it hard to find value in Burgundy and it’s one of the reasons I'm drinking less of it, even though I’d like to be drinking more.
Check out this chart…
The Burgundy 150 tracks the movements of the most active Burgundy wines on the secondary market. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after fine wines on the secondary market.
And here are a few more figures to ponder:
Cost of French vineyards per hectare in 2018. Source: Safer (French national land agency).
AOP (appellation) across France average €147,300
Bordeaux (Pommerol): max €3.6M / average €1.8M
Bordeaux (Pauillac): max €2.5M / average €2.2M
Burgundy (Grand cru): max €14.5M / average €6.25M (the most expensive in France)
Vineyard area - puts into perspective just how tiny Burgundy is.
France: 786,000 ha Source: OIV(2016)
Australia: 135,000 ha Source: Wine Australia (2018)
Bordeaux: 111,000 ha Source: Live-Ex (2018)
Burgundy: 29,000 ha Source: bourgogne-wines.com
Burgundy: (ex Chablis) 24,000 ha Source: bourgogne-wines.com
With Burgundy’s popularity rising worldwide, it’s a classic case of high demand, low supply and increasing prices. Which is why it gives me great pleasure to offer the just released 2018 Bourgogne Rouge from Domaine Chanson. At less than half the price of similar wines, I reckon this is one of the best value Bourgogne Rouges to be found. Not only that, unlike most domaines, Chanson has not increased the price of this wine since the last time I offered it a couple of years back with the 2015 vintage.
It’s interesting to read what doyen Clive Coates MW says about the 2018 Burgundy vintage, especially the Burgundians taking the opportunity to increase prices. This shows how unusual it is that Chanson did not increase theirs.
“All smiles in Burgundy! After a very wet start to the year - it seemed as if it had rained every day in the first three months of 2018 - the summer of 2018 was very dry, very warm and very sunny. This pattern started in June and continues even into the first days of October. There have been few interruptions for rain and thankfully no hail, so the crop is large as well as of high quality; indeed the season could hardly have been better. After a number of vintages when the growers have only had a modicum of wine to sell, 2018 offers the comforting plenty all agriculturalists seek. But if you are anticipating a relaxation of prices I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. The Burgundians know their wine is very good (as well as unique) and they are charging accordingly,” Clive Coates MW.
I’ve sold the Chanson before, but let me remind you. Domaine Chanson Père et Fils is one of Beaune’s oldest ‘houses’, originally founded as a négociant business by Simon Verry in 1750. Négociant is a French term for “wine merchants who buy in grapes, must, or wine, blend different lots of wine within an appellation, and bottle the result under their own label,” Oxford Companion to Wine.
Monsieur Verry’s wines sold well. Voltaire became a customer in 1777, as did King Louis XVI’s sister, Madame Elisabeth in 1788 and Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland (brother of the Emperor) in 1806. In 1850, after several years of managing the business, the Chanson family took over. They already owned vineyards in Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Pernand-Vergelesses (appellations within Burgundy) and under their guidance the business continued to expand and prosper. Most importantly they continued to acquire excellent vineyard sites during the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century.
Despite Chanson’s impressive portfolio of vineyards, by the 1980s the quality of their wines had diminished. With its reputation waning, the business was in need of new management and new money. Recognising the potential, the languishing domaine caught the eye of Champagne icon Bollinger, who acquired it in 1999 and invested heavily to restore it.
Bollinger installed two Burgundian heavyweights; Gilles de Courcel to run the business, and the highly respected Jean-Pierre Confuron to make wine. True to the interconnectedness of Burgundy, Confuron makes wines at Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot in Vosne-Romanée with his brother Yves, who also supervises Gilles de Courcel’s family domaine in Pommard. Jean-Pierre’s grandmother was first cousin to legendary winemaker, Henri Jayer.
The new team made considerable improvements. From 2000 they stopped using fertilisers and herbicides in the vineyards and from 2009 the domaine’s vineyards were run on organic principles (although not certified). The winery, built on the outskirts of Beaune in 1974, was heavily modernised between 2008 and 2010.
Significant vineyard purchases were made in 2006, increasing holdings from 36 to 45 hectares with Chanson now one of the largest owners of Beaune Premier Cru vineyards.
The vineyards provide about 25% of Chanson’s needs, which is a pretty standard arrangement, however as Gilles de Courcell notes in The Drink Business, Jan 2015: “We’ve decided that with every single wine from our domaine we should have control over the vinification, so we’ve stopped buying finished wine from our growers… Chanson used to be an old, traditional négociant, but we wanted the word négociant to disappear from our vocabulary.”
Buying only grapes and not finished wine from growers is a big deal and not common practice for a négociant in Burgundy. It indicates the extent to which Chanson is pursuing quality. They also work closely with those growers from whom they purchase grapes.
Chanson’s barrels of wine, as well as company headquarters, are housed in a unique building known as ‘La Bastion’. This imposing 4 storey stone colossus, with its 8 metre thick walls, is one of a series of defensive towers built in the 15th and 16th century to protect the town of Beaune. Chanson’s ‘Bastile de l’Oratoire’ is named after the adjoining chapel and is one of a remaining 5.
Bollinger’s hard work at Chanson has payed off. Clive Coates MW; “The land holdings are impressive, and since 2001 the quality has lived up to the potential.” At the same time as improving quality, a tight rein has been kept on prices. This is a concerted effort to rebuild Chanson’s reputation by offering outstanding value. A great strategy - but unfortunately one that can’t last forever
Despite the generic Bourgogne rating, the fruit for this wine is far from it. It’s sourced from select estate-owned vineyards, from both the Côte de Beaune (southern part of the Côte d’Or) and the Côte de Nuits (northern part of the Côte d’Or). I’m told a lot of the fruit comes from Santenay (south of Beaune), including ‘Village’ and ‘Premier Cru’ vineyards. All Pinot Noir at Chanson, including the Bourgogne Rouge, is 100% whole bunch fermented and is matured in 25% new oak.
In my experience Bourgogne Rouge is often lean, weedy, acidic and overpriced. But the fact that Chanson includes the varietal name Pinot Noir on the label is a clue that theirs is made in a different style. It’s much more generous. And as you’d expect, given the warmer growing conditions, this is more generous and rich than previous vintages.
This is a clear rosy red in the glass. On the nose you’ll find cherry, cigar box and freesia notes. On the palate, cherry and pomegranate fruit is tempered by leaner savoury notes and a touch of anise. Nicely viscous, a clear line of Burgundian acid brings balance to its generous (for Burgundy) fruit with velvety tannins lining a beautifully dry finish. 13% alcohol and sealed with cork.
“Dark ruby colour with purple nuances. Intense aromas of ripe black berries (black currant) mixed with spices and liquorice. Crunchy and generous. Complex and deep texture. Well-crafted tannins. Long and fruity aftertaste.” Winemaker’s notes.
No reviews as yet, but Franck Moreau, one of only two Master Sommeliers in Australia and Group Sommelier for the Merivale empire, has included it on the lists of several restaurants (again). You’ll find it at the trés chic Felix restaurant for $100 a bottle.
This wine is outstanding value and is without a doubt one of the best value Bourgogne Rouge to be found. You won’t regret having a few of these in your cellar.
I can offer it for $32 a bottle (same price as the previous vintage, as well as the one before that, and the one before that).