There is more than just a passing resemblance between the label on Paul Jambon’s lengthily titled Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly and one of our benchmark sources from the Cote de Brouilly, Domaine Thivin. There is a whole lot of history as well as one of the more intriguing new (to us) discoveries in the world of Beaujolais. Now none of the folks here are newcomers, nor are they another of the wave of vintners from the Cote d’Or that have taken a recent interest in these southern Burgundy vineyards. This estate was acquired by the Jambon Chanrion family around the time of the American Civil War (1861).
The Thivin estate had already been around for quite a while, tracing its roots back to the 14th Century, and possibly the 12th. Fast forward a little to shortly after the First World War when Pavillon de Chavannes’ history became intertwined with that of Château Thivin. When Yvonne Chanrion married Claude Geoffray, he controlled Thivin, then a small estate, via inheritance. Yvonne brought with her one-third of her family’s highly regarded vineyards as an inheritance, and later she acquired her sister’s one-third as well.
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. Upon her death in 1987, the sisters’ original two-thirds inheritance reverted to Paul Jambon of the Jambon-Chanrion family, along with fifty percent of the land Yvonne and Claude had purchased subsequently over the course of their marriage. Chavannes de Pavillon was now a new expanded entity. The Art Deco wine label, created in the 1930s, was a product of Yvonne and Claude’s marriage. After Yvonne’s death and the restoration of the Chavannes’ vineyards, this label became joint property of both Thivin and Chavannes, and now it is used by both domains under their respective names.
Cool stuff, great story, but as you know we wouldn’t be telling it if there wasn’t some pretty serious wine as a part of the latest chapter. Mont Brouilly is a unique spot, rising to a height of 1,587 feet all by its lonesome like an old volcanic thumb sticking out of a plain. 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. Paul Jambon grew up here and is now making some impressive wine in the ‘old way’.
Today Pavillon de Chavannes consists of 37 prime acres on Mont Brouilly and Paul and Betty Jambon make two cuvées from separate vineyards. The top wine is this one, Cuvee des Ambassades, which comes from 12 acres of Paul’s best parcels. The name ‘cuvee Ambassades’ (ambassadors cuvee) is rather a literal one as this Cote de Brouilly is purchased by the Quai d’Orsay for use in French embassies around the world. It is the last wine to be bottled by the estate in a given vintage and it is the most age-worthy.
The Cote de Brouilly is all about the blue granite that is laced with volcanic porphyry, or crystallized mineral deposits. The Cote de Brouilly appellation refers only to the higher, better-ripening parcels (the rest is simply labeled Brouilly) on the upper part of the hill. Within those parameters, Paul’s holding are the highest and the steepest in this elevated appellation. As we touched on earlier, this is a very old school Beaujolais stylistically in the best sense.
Traditional winemaking allows this concentrated wine to showcase pure, intense red-leaning-to-black fruits with hints of spice and plenty of the granite minerality for which this particular ‘rock’ is known. There is plenty of gushing fruit here, almost like a 2015, but the fruit has a cooler profile, more lift to the fruit and brighter flavors. A recent change in the cellar (circa the 2015 vintage) has been to rack this wine in stainless steel instead of old foudres which keeps the fruit all that much fresher. The Pavillon de Chavannes Cote de Brouilly Cuvee des Ambassades 2016 is classic Beaujolais that wants to be Burgundy, and it delivers on that promise. Mouth-filling and delicious, you can drink it now or, like most of the top wines from the ‘Cote’, it will age as well. Yet at $19.98 it definitely won’t break the bank. It’s an exceptional find and a lot of wine for the d’argent.