Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes, Côte de Brouilly

Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes label

Country & RegionFrance, Burgundy
ProducerPaul Jambon and Laure Jambon-Mareau
FoundedAcquired by the Jambon-Chanrion family in 1861. Paul Jambon started in 1987.

Sans le Beaujolais, la France ne serait pas tout à fait la France. (Without Beaujolais, France would not quite be France.)
   -Raymond Dumay, Guide du Vin 1967

This remains one of my absolutely favorite examples of Côte de Brouilly in the appellation and the wine deserves to be even better known.
   -John Gilman, View From the Cellar, issue 85, 2020

Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes’ vineyards are the highest in Côte de Brouilly. The property comprises 12 hectares of vines, seven of them planted at least 40 years ago. The fruit from those old vines is used for the Cuvée des Ambassades bottling, which is one of the most delicate and precise wines in Beaujolais.
   -Josh Raynolds, Changing Perspectives in Beaujolais, August 2021

Mont Brouilly rises to a height of 1,587 feet all by its lonesome, an old volcanic thumb sticking out of a plain. Paul Jambon grew up in the shadow of this geological skyscraper—the first one encountered as you drive west from the River Saône into this southern sector of the Haut Beaujolais. Mont Brouilly marks the beginning of the Beaujolais hills. The Romans cultivated vines on its flanks, and almost certainly vines to one degree or another have been raised on its steep sides ever since.

Its crown is forested, much like the crown of Corton along the Côte d’Or. The summit was once part of Jambon’s Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes and was donated for the construction of the Chapel of our Lady of Brouilly, built to celebrate the victory over downy mildew (a fungus which wreaked havoc in Europe’s vineyards upon the heels of phylloxera—both American exports, along with those other two vine scourges, black rot and powdery mildew, or oidium).

Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes vineyards
The 18th century owner of the domaine intended to build a château, but died midway through construction and never realized his dreams. Hence Pavillon, a building with more modest aspirations and a reference to a hunting lodge (see photo above). Chavannes is the lieu-dit.

Philip the Bold issued his famous 14th century edict banning Gamay from the Côte d’Or and limiting it to Beaujolais with good reason—the grape makes far better wine growing in the Haut Beaujolais’ granite hillsides than it does in the Côte d’Or’s limestone escarpment (limestone Gamay is usually rustic stuff). But of course not all granite is equal, especially if, like Mont Brouilly and Morgon’s Côte du Py, the terroir is granite and schist with andesite–that “blue granite” for which both sites are famous–thrown into the mix. This mixture, combined with the elevation (AOC Côte de Brouilly is confined to the upper, better ripening vineyards; AOC Brouilly is lower, and, as the biggest of the Beaujolais crus, far larger), accounts for Côte de Brouilly’s highly scented and finely—fine is the adjective that comes to mind—concentrated wines. This profile is particularly apparent in the wines of Pavillon de Chavannes because its vineyards are among the highest and the steepest in this elevated appellation. It helps too that winemaking at this domaine is traditional and simple, with little extraction in the modern sense (Pavillon’s wine could well be labeled the antithesis of modern extracted power). The alcoholic fermentation is done in concrete vats, and until the 2015 vintage the wine was racked into old foudres for aging. Nowadays, it’s racked into steel.

Pavillon de Chavannes was acquired by the Jambon-Chanrion family in 1861. Its history became intertwined with that of Château Thivin when Yvonne Chanrion married Claude Geoffray shortly after the First World War. Claude had inherited Thivin, then a small estate. Yvonne took with her one-third of her family’s highly regarded vineyards as an inheritance. Over the years, Yvonne and Claude added to Thivin’s holdings with other land purchases, but the couple never bore children. Yvonne outlived her husband, and upon her death in 1987 her inheritance reverted to Paul Jambon of the Jambon-Chanrion family, along with fifty percent of the land Yvonne and Claude had purchased over the course of their marriage. The remainder of the Thivin holdings went to Claude’s great nephew, also named Claude. Nephew Claude further inherited vineyards from his immediate family, enabling him to maintain Thivin’s volume.

The Art Deco wine label, created in the 1930s, was a product of that marriage. After Yvonne’s death and the restoration of the Chavannes vineyards, this label became joint property, and now it is used by both domaines under their respective names.

For a generation now Pavillon de Chavannes has been managed by Paul and Betty Jambon. During this time, they farmed 37 prime acres on Mont Brouilly’s steep sides and made a traditional Beaujolais and the Cuvée des Ambassades. The Cuvée had always come from 12 acres of the domaine’s best vines until this surface was reduced in 2018 when Paul sold two parcels of very old vines. One of the two had been used for the Ambassades but both parcels had become economically unviable and needed replanting.

Paul and Betty Jambon of Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes

The other thing that happened in 2018 was that Laure Jambon-Mareau, Paul’s daughter, made the momentous decision to quit her job and take the reins from Paul at the domaine. Among other changes, this meant enrolling in a two-year enology course. Her first vintage was 2019, with help from Paul, Betty, their cousin Nicole Chanrion, and the domaine’s long standing consulting enologist. That’s Laure below.

Laure Jambon-Mareau of Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes

With two friends in 2019, Laure purchased a six-acre parcel of old vines on the north side of the Côte de Brouilly, which will no doubt be a positive hedge against global warming. The parcel is essentially a rectangle, running longways down the steep hill, with its upper end bordering the crown of forest at the top. The entity with the two friends is such that the lower 2.5 acres are reserved for the Cuvée des Ambassades, while the remainder of the parcel is reserved for a new cuvée named Les Bertaudières, after the parcel. The lower end has somewhat deeper soils, giving a less tannic wine and fitting in well with the Ambassades profile. Vintage 2020 was the first where this fruit was blended into Ambassades, which historically came entirely from vines high on the western side of Côte de Brouilly.

Today, the domaine farms a total of 12 acres, of which 7 are parcels averaging 40 years of age that are reserved for the Cuvée des Ambassades. The name comes from the fact that this wine has long been–and continues to be–purchased by the Quai d’Orsay for use in certain French embassies.

Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for the photo of Betty and Paul Jambon.

The Wines

GamayThis is a very old school Beaujolais in the best sense: beautiful garnet color, beguiling aromatics, and a burst of refreshment in the mouth—and that burst is a savory, mineral, toothsome thing because of the domaine’s high elevations and because of Brouilly’s meager volcanic soils. Some crus emphasize soil notes, others give fruit, but only good Côte de Brouilly gives stone in the flavor.