Frantz Chagnoleau, Maconnais
“…stunningly good Saint-Véran that transcends its category.” Stephen Tanzer
“ You expect the wines to deliver and they do …some of the best I encountered …this is surely a rising star for the future.” Neal Martin
Earlier this spring we finally visited the sleepy village of Pierreclos in the Maconnais – on a sort of pilgrimage if you like. It was to see the small domaine of a true star in the making – Frantz Chagnoleau. It was one of those occasions that make us smile a little in the wine game, as there was not, in truth, much to see. Just a tiny, cool cellar with barely enough room to swing a cat – we almost had to taste the wines in single file! But a pilgrimage is a pilgrimage and we were duly stunned, inspired and by the time we said our goodbyes to Frantz and Caroline it was with the tell-tale gleam of the true believer in our eyes!
For those of you not quite in the know just yet you are not going to believe you are tasting St Verans and Pouilly Fuisses when you sip these wines. The quality here would put many Meursault and Chassagne producers to shame. In this southern part of the Burgundy region new developments are springing up from various young bloods of the area but the wines of Frantz and Caroline are blazing a trail no others can match. On our second visit to Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne, in a tasting of well over 100 producers, this young couple’s range simply stood out above all others. Each example shone like a beacon possessing a cool, bright minerality that outpointed the many producers in attendance. Frantz and Caroline’s wines were startlingly good: tremendous definition and a retention of mouth-watering salinity allied to clean, generous well-honed fruit. We promptly jumped at the chance to make the range a UK exclusive for Brunswick FW.
Why so special? Well the first point is the pedigree, energy and single-minded commitment to quality of the two people involved. Frantz’s first hands-on tutelage, post-oenology degree, was under the truly late, great Anne-Claude Leflaive no less, before he started getting to grips with the Maconnais terroirs with the well-established, revered Oliver Merlin. Frantz is now taking all this fine education that bit further, relentlessly perfecting his craft at his own small domaine. Caroline’s path is no less blue-blooded and she remains closely tied to her friend and mentor Dominique ‘Comte’ Lafon. She is still head winemaker at Domique’s Héritiers du Comte Lafon operation in nearby Milly-Lamartine, in fact, but continues to help Frantz in developing their tiny Pierreclos operation. Together they are successfully pursuing their dream of producing pure, mineral-driven wines exemplifying the terroirs of the Maconnais under their own steam. The ethos and techniques gained from their experience working with the greats have stood the couple in great stead and the results are consistently spectacular in their 5 vintages to date. Organic, strictly-managed vineyards; hand-harvesting on a plot by plot basis; use of indigenous yeasts and very limited use of large, used French oak are the basic principles. And the wines – available in micro-quantities only – benefit markedly from this TLC. All of the cuvees below are compelling in their own right and should be snapped-up before the domaine hits the big time. Press coverage until now has been relatively limited although Neal Martin on his first visit noted the pedigree of the partnership and wrote afterwards “You expect the wines to deliver and they do …some of the best I encountered …this is surely a rising star for the future ” and Stephen Tanzer, not a man given to senseless hype or high scores, placed a whopping mark on the St Veran Roche last year, describing how it was “stunningly good…transcends its category.”