About Stefan Chaligne

stefan-chaligneMy name is Stefan Chaligne. To be quite clear about it, my relationship with wine started under quite dark auspices. Several particularly frustrating factors marked my initiation into the world of wine.

In the middle of the 80s, I was given the task of organizing my grandparents’ move from Paris; the city had become too busy for their declining forces. They were to settle in Normandy where my grandfather would be able to satisfy his love for forests and woods. He was an atypical and sharp investor, attracted by exotically situated investments; a farm in Vanuatu, transport in Indochina, forests in Columbia, but he had no interest in wine or alcohol. Even worse up until the age of 85, no matter what time of the day, he drank only water or milk and the culinary event of the day was a gigantic casserole of hot chocolate ladled out with an equally gigantic spoon. To return to the removal, before dealing with the cellar, my grandfather told me that I should find two cases of Chateau Margaux which a friend had given him to thank him for some good financial advice. I did indeed find the 24 bottles, neatly stacked together, but, to my great dismay, found they were all empty. Suspicion fell on the young cook who every other day served my grandparents quite tipsy. That was the end of the story.

Another sad discovery also took place in a cellar; that of my parents who lived in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a bourgeois suburb of Paris. My father, Jean-Claude Chaligné, as family tradition dictated, was also uninterested in alcoholic drinks, but wanted to give me a special present for my 20th birthday. He asked me to draw up an inventory of his cellar with the idea of giving me a few good bottles. Unfortunately he never went down to the cellar except to deposit the cases of wine which his friend Jacques Seysses gave him. Jacques Seysses, founder of the well-known Burgundy vineyard, Domaine Dujac, was the son of Louis Seysses, a famous gourmand, President of the Club des Cents and the director of a large packaged food company. This friendship between the two families has continued with the younger generations, but that is another story. Very excited to discover treasures that my father had kept hidden from me for too long, I descended the steps to the promised land.  Yet again, disillusion; I entered an overheated room next to the main boiler room of the building, the heat was suffocating. The dozens of cases of wine from Domaine Dujac and the Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Jacques Seysses’ first vineyard in Volnay before moving to Morey Saint Denis, were most certainly undrinkable. Everything from Clos de la Roche to Gevrey Chambertin had perished in the stifling dry heat. I found it hard to hide my frustration at the loss of these precious bottles, my father remaining extraordinarily indifferent.

To crown it all, I cannot leave out another missed opportunity which took place in the 1960s. With his acquisition of the vast Ile Cazeau in the estuary of the Gironde, close to Bordeaux, my grandfather Paul Chaligné had turned himself into a farmer, specializing in the cultivation of corn. This farming enterprise was marginally profitable in contrast to the surrounding vineyards which engendered recurrent losses. A local notary offered Paul Chaligné the possibility of exchanging his corn island for one of the most prestigious châteaux in the Margaux area. Needless to say the man of the hot chocolate casserole did not, for a single minute, contemplate such an exchange.

After such a long series of failures, redemption could not be far away. Once again the Seysses family offered us the opportunity to redeem our ignorance in the domain. Jacques Seysses gave me the opportunity to join a small group of friends who were planning to buy a magnificent vineyard in Morey St Denis, whose grapes were to be vinified by Domaine Dujac. This was in 1996 and I immediately grasped the opportunity which allowed me, at least in my thoughts, to escape from the materialist ghetto of the City of London.  And the greatest satisfaction of all, the co-owners were to be paid interest for their investment not in vulgar banknotes but in kind, with wonderful bottles bearing the Domaine Dujac label. I had taken the first step in what was to become a great passion and adventure.

Stefan Chaligne.