Chardonnay & Le Chardon History
Chardonnay is a small village in the heart of the Cote Mâconnais halfway between Chalon-sur-Saone and Macon and is probably the most famous place in the world you’ve never heard of!! It dates from 988AD and it’s most obvious claim to fame is the grape variety that originated here. It has a chateau dating from the 12th century that looks more like a fortified farmhouse (a part of the moat still exists).
We were invited in by Mme Bretin, the owner, who showed us her fireplace which has to be 8 feet high by 15 feet across, made entirely of carved stone and still bearing damage incurred during the French Revolution. The rest of the village is a collection of stone houses around the ‘lavoir’, a stream-fed wash-house and several ‘domaines’ – wine producers. There is also a co-operative ‘cave’ that produces wine from the grapes of all the small growers in the area. These can range from people who have a few rows of vines to those with a hectare or two. To justify the expense of producing your own wine you need a minimum of eight hectares.
The village recently celebrated its thousandth anniversary and the name comes from ‘cardonnacum’ or the ‘place full of thistles’. Chardonnay grapes most likely originated here and was then spread throughout France by the monks. The earliest recorded reference to Chardonnay occurs in 1330. Cistercian monks built stonewalls around their ‘Clos de Vougeot’ vineyard exclusively planted to Chardonnay grapes.
A number of old photos of Le Chardon have emerged recently. This one from the late 1800s features a family not unlike the current owners. You can easily imagine Nick holding up the tree, Agathe and Sophie dressed in their finest and Rebecca hanging on to the chair. The maid and bicycle delivery man were probably added to make them look more affluent! Hasn’t changed much, has it?
The previous occupiers rented the place from the owners and ran a restaurant/bar on a shoestring before finally being shut down one busy night by the Health and Safety. It was last renovated in the 1920’s. We discovered newspaper glued on the walls behind the wallpaper dated 20th December 1919. Boxes in the attic have revealed old school books and bills going back to 1905 and propped up against the wall behind the boxes is the frame and hood from an old car (more investigation needed here – we’ll let you know!
Three men and a dog featured in the post card (left) circa 1907 (right), probably taken late 1800s or early 1900s. Does anybody else have old photos of Chardonnay?and a young boy at the Chardonnay village washing area ‘lavoir’.