Domaine Frantz Chagnoleau

France, Burgundy

Frantz Chagnoleau and his wife Caroline Gon, who was until 2022 also the winemaker at the Comte Lafon Mâcon operation, are rising stars of the Mâconnais. Together they have a small domaine consisting of 3.5 hectares of Mâcon in a single block in Saint Albain, and several small plots in Viré Clessé, Saint Véran and Pouilly Fuissé, making up 6.8 hectares in total. All the vineyards are organically farmed (Ecocert certified).

Great care is taken at harvest to pick at the optimum moment for sugars, acidity and aromatic precursors, and they will stop the picking between parcels if they think that the ripening is not even across the whole domaine. Grapes are manually picked into 25kg cases, so as to get whole, undamaged grapes to the winery. After careful pressing, a very non-interventionist vinification takes place with natural yeasts in oak foudres.

The wines are kept on the lees to preserve freshness until the beginning of summer, when they are racked and lightly filtered, before bottling before the next harvest, except for some of the top wines which are aged for another six months in tank in order to develop fully. The wines are in a style which is bright and incisive, expressive and pure - and well worth seeking out.

Macon Villages Le Clos Saint Pancras : 3.55 ha
These vines were planted in 2000. Frantz uses a little bit of new wood - 10%. Élevage in demi-muids. This is the most northerly plot he works and it is high (350m) - facing east and made up of mineral, stony soil.
Viré Clessé Les Raspillères : 0.73 ha
Planted in 2005. A 30% slope and poor soil, thin at the top. Originally planted with Gamay, it was abandoned after phylloxera, then brought back from being scrubland by a forester who was passionate about wine and who realised it had once been a vineyard.
St Véran Prélude : 2.3 ha
Poor, calcareous soils. 15% new wood in demi-muids (500l barrels). 45 year old vines in several plots - the earliest ripening.
St Véran la Roche : 0.42 ha
70 year old vines at 200m in Chasselas, on marl, in mid-slope. Some is aged in demi-muids, but mostly it's in barrel with 10% new wood.
St Véran à La Côte : 0.25 ha
The highest vineyard of the domaine at 400m, on red earth, in Chasselas. Aged in demi-muids with no new wood.
St Véran La Fournaise : 0.21ha
All aged in demi-muids with no new wood. The whitest and most mineral soil they have.
Pouilly Fuissé Pastoral : 0.45 ha
Pouilly Fuissé Madrigal : 0.25 ha
From Vergisson, (mostly 'en Carmentrant') and all aged in barrel, but no new wood even if some are recent.

Knackered. That is how Frantz Chagnoleau and his partner, Caroline Gon appeared when I met them for a quick baguette and tasting at their small, rudimentary winery. The sheer amount of labour in the vineyard in 2021 means the couple have enjoyed few light days of work since the beginning of the traumatic season. Chagnoleau was cellar-master at Olivier Merlin between 2004 and 2009, whilst Gon is the chef de cave at Dominique Lafon’s Héritiers des Comtes Lafon. In total, they farm 9.5-hectares, including vines not yet in production, and they have never purchased grapes (they will have 5-hectares of Premier Cru from 2020.)

“We are very careful with the day we pick,” Chagnoleau told me. “One day early or late can have consequences. We started on 9 September. It was easy to find the acidity and concentration in 2019, easier than in 2018. We try to avoid excessive alcohol, aiming for around 13°, by picking earlier, keeping the grapes green with no hedging and by keeping leaf cover. I don’t need to stress the vines too much. We began to harvest the 2020 on 23 August, the earliest since 2003. We do lees-stirring only if we taste that the wines need some air and if we feel there is a little sugar, since stirring can fatigue the wine. So far, we only did it in 2012.” Readers should check out their 2019 Saint-Véran La Roche, which comes from 75-year-old vines and the 2019 Pouilly-Fuissé Madigral, that is a selection of five barrels with a lovely saffron-tinged finish.

Neal Martin,  (Nov 2021)

These are tangy, tensile expressions of the Mâconnais, picked early and often displaying a subtle reductive edge... At times, I find the wines almost too racy: one expects a certain modicum of texture and flesh in this more southern region, after all. But it's a style that will win—indeed, is already winning—ardent adherents. What cannot be doubted is the sincerity or seriousness of intent behind these chiseled, incisive wines from this small artisanal domaine. William Kelley, The Wine Advocate  (Aug 2018)