You have to go back in time a little, seven centuries to be exact, to find out that the Cru gets its name from the oak forests (chêne in French), that were pulled up by Royal decree in 1316. The granitic soil and the aspect of the hills being eminently suited to vinegrowing. The woodcutters of the time turned their hands to vinegrowing and winemaking and, very naturally, named their new lands Chénas.
Louis XIII made Chénas his favourite wine. It is even said that this was the only one he would have on his table! A long-standing reputation for excellence that has never been lost. Chénas is ever a pleasure on the palate…
A few years later, Chénas wines were to be found in King Louis XIII’s cellars. It was, they say, the only wine he would have on his table. In the 18th century, Chénas was one of the three Beaujolais parishes known to export its wines as far as Paris at great expense with records dating from 1722.
Success on this scale had been arousing resentment for no small while and this brought about a long court case (1616-1625) where the aldermen of Villefranche opposed those of Mâcon; the latter being determined to block the expansion of Gamay vines to the granitic slopes of the Southern Mâconnais area. The fight that was lost once and for all in 1642 with the opening of the Canal de Briare, which allowed supply of Chénas, a wine famed for its quality, to Paris and other big towns and cities at a better price.
At the summit of ‘La Montagne des Chasseurs’ (hunters’ mountain), the highest point in the appellation area at 515 m above sea-level that gives a 360° panoramic view, rise the walls of our famed ‘Cabane des Chasseurs’ (hunting cabin). All around it spread the Cru Ckénas vineyards. You could really mistake this cabin for a Chappe Telegraph Tower.
Problem: the Paris-Lyon route is well-known to all, and there was never a tower in Chénas. Could this tower have been built before they realised that the site wasn’t suitable? Could some eccentric person in Chénas have wanted their mountain to have its own Telegraph Tower?
The mystery remains! What if it just got its name because it was built to shelter hunters? Rather, it appears to have been a meeting place for Lyon and Mâcon high society on hunting trips to the surrounding area.