Founded in 1750, Chanson is one of the five grand "shippers" of Burgundy's Côte d'Or-an estate steeped in centuries-old tradition and rich in viticultural history. As a négociant (winemaker and merchant) and a domaine (vineyard estate), Chanson has represented the best of Burgundy for more than 250 years, growing its own grapes, partnering with other growers, bottling, selling, and shipping its own wines.
Chanson's holdings comprise some of Burgundy's most coveted vineyards (over 38 hectares, seven in white, the rest in red), including 10 Premier Crus, one Grand Cru (Corton), and a rare monopole Premier Cru vineyard (where the entire vineyard is owned by a single grower), Clos des Fèves. Located in the heart of the Côte de Beaune (the historical center of Burgundy) and surrounded by some of the greatest vineyards in the world, Chanson can count French philosophe Voltaire, romantic poet Lamartine, and the Bonaparte family among its clients.
Its celebrated bastion, a 15th-century fortress first rented and then acquired in 1794 to cellar the wines, is an internationally celebrated icon of Burgundy (the largest of six bastions that form part of the wall surrounding the city of Beaune).
Burgundy is the most "parcelized" grape-growing area in the world. The 22,000 acres (roughly 8,900 hectares) of vineyards are divided among myriad growers, sometimes with a grower owning just a few rows in a given plot. This is due to the seizure and subsequent sale of the monastery-owned vineyards after the French revolution in 1789 and the equal division of inheritance among beneficiaries guaranteed under the Napoleonic code.
Chanson is one of the handful of domaines that remained intact following the redistribution of ownership in the 18th and early 19th centuries (Jadot, Drouhin, Bouchard Père, and Louis Latour are the other four members of this "most distinguished" club of shippers).
To visit Chanson is to travel back in time and experience the magic of the 1000-year-old tradition of winemaking. Chanson still vinifies and cellars its wines in the bastion as it has for over 200 years. The 10-meter 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" (Chanson boasts one of the greatest collections of vintage Burgundy in the world), vinification and cask-aging take place on the second and third floors.
"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." Minimal intervention is the guiding philosophy today at Chanson. "We use only the best cuvées and we never hurry the process," says De Courcel. "This is how we maintain the freshness, purity, and fragrance of the wines."
With Beaune at its heart, Burgundy has been a center for the production of fine wine since the 12th century. Chanson has endured as an integral part of that legacy for more than 250 years.