Domaine Chasselay, Beaujolais


Domaine Chasselay label

Country & RegionFrance, Burgundy
Appellation(s)Beaujolais
ProducerJean-Gilles, Fabien and Claire Chassselay
Foundedpre-dates Joan of Arc
Websitewww.domaine-chasselay.com

I was very impressed by the wines from this family, who can trace their roots in the region back to 1418…They make extremely fine wines brimming over with finesse and detail, their prudent approach in the winery allowing their old vine material to shine.
—Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate #213, June 2014

The Chasselay family is one of those deep-rooted European families that can trace their lineage way back—in this case to 1418 and to the very place where they farm grapes today! That would be in the village of Châtillon d’Azergues in the Pierres Dorées, the land of the golden stones, so called because of the local limestone quarried for buildings. The stone is ochre-colored, and gives villages here the hue of the sun.

Claire and Fabien Chasselay

This is the southern half of Beaujolais, the place where affluent Lyonnais families built country estates a short ride outside of their city. The architecture is frequently grand and regal, the villages are often darling postcards, and the wine is ostensibly simple—all straight Beaujolais, sans a hyphenated villages designation, let alone that of a cru. The land here is flatter, the soil richer, and mixed with Beaujolais’s northern granite there is a good amount of limestone (which can make for fine whites). The average Gamay tends to be lighter than its sibling to the north, and for sure it is less expensive.

Domaine Chasselay sign

But that is the average. Fabien Chasselay, his sister Claire, and their father Jean-Gilles make any number of cru Beaujolais from rented parcels up north, but they take every bit as much pride in their own old vines in Châtillon d’Azergues. Since 2000 they have farmed their 30 acres of vines in the south organically, and received certification in 2006. They typically harvest later than most, and they have always undertaken fermentations with indigenous yeast and without sulfur additions (the latter is done lightly at bottling). It’s worth noting too that Fabien did a part of his training at Domaine Bruno Clavelier in Vosne-Romanée, and he came to favor a degree of de-stemming rather than doing Beaujolais’ traditional, 100% whole cluster fermentations. The result of all of this is Beaujolais of unusual succulence and pithy fruit.

The Wines

WineBlendDescription
Quatre Saisons
GamayFifteen acres, parsed among many parcels, are reserved for Quatre Saisons. Some parcels grow in limestone soils, others in granitic soils. Average vine age is 55 years old. Fermentation is normally all whole cluster to emphasize Beaujolais's characteristic fruit. The wine is raised for roughly 4 months in huge, old wooden casks. 1,650 cases annually.
Fleurie La Chapelle des BoisGamayLike all the reds, this is made with indigenous yeast and undergoes élevage without SO2. As much as 80% of these grapes are de-stemmed and the wine is raised in older barrels for 6-8 months, then bottled without fining or filtration or cold stabilization with a very light dose of SO2 (15 mg/l range). Production averages several hundred cases. Tech sheet here.
Morgon Les CharmesGamayThis is also made with indigenous yeast and undergoes élevage without SO2. As much as 80% of these grapes are de-stemmed and the wine is raised in older barrels for 6-8 months, then bottled without fining or filtration or cold stabilization with a very light dose of SO2 (15 mg/l range). Production averages several hundred cases.