In the 1960s and 1970s Chapelle-Chambertin was owned by a handful of proprietors, the most prestigious being Drouhin-Laroze and Clair-Daü. This Grand Cru is known for producing the most delicate and light colored wines of all the Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Crus (with a little healthy competition in delicacy from Ruchottes). The name "Chapelle-Chambertin" has origins with a chapel destroyed in the French Revolution and originally built by monks at Bèze Abbey.
In 1919 Joseph Clair (1889-1971) founded Domaine Clair-Daü which became known for high quality. Phylloxera followed by WWI had devastated the vineyards in Marsannay when Joseph began. First, he planted chardonnay and pinot noir where there had previously been aligote and gamay (and he encouraged others to do the same). Second, he innovatively made a rose that helped the Domaine survive financially during the tumultuous 1920s and 30s when many consumers couldn't afford fine red wine. His son, Bernard Clair (1920-2005) joined the team in the 30s and worked on isolating and selecting high quality and low yield clones which further increased the quality of the wines. When Joseph died in 1971, French land inheritance laws caused some family tensions which led to the folding of Domaine Clair-Daü in 1985. Louis Jadot purchased the Clair-Daü portion of the Chapelle-Chambertin vineyard, and by 1990 the Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru had 8 proprietors-- the two most commercially prestigious being Louis Jadot and Drouhin-Larose (Parker, 1990:411). Since 1985 members of the Clair-Daü family have not made wines in Chapelle-Chambertin, however Bruno Clair (Joseph's grandson) continues to make wine across the road at Clos de Bèze (and at other select parcels in Burgundy) as Domaine Bruno Clair.
This wine pictured above was made during the period when Domain Clair-Daü was in the midst of family dispute. Some tasters argue that the wines experienced a decrease in quality during this period, and if this is the case, perhaps the 1978 is an exception, because there was nothing poor in quality about this wine. On the contrary, it was really very inspiring. Perhaps the people who were hands-on in the harvesting and winemaking this vintage sensed the end of the Domaine and sighed one last breath before giving up and considering to sell. The wine brought tears to several eyes at the table, as if it were transmitting a sense of sadness. It smelled of broken twigs, crisp earth, dried cherries and pheromones; it tasted tart and chalky, with soft tannins and an amazingly fresh cherry fruit.
Clair, Bruno. www.bruno-clair.com
Gaffney, William. www.princeofpinot.com
Parker, Robert M. (1990) Burgundy: A Comprehensive Guide to Producers, Appellations and Wines. (Simon and Schuster)
Robinson, Jancis (2006) Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford University Press)