St Emilion : Birthplace of the family
Nowadays solidly established in the commune of Néac on the appellation contrôlée Lalande de Pomerol, the CHATONNET family originally comes from the commune of St Emilion.
Thanks to the tracks of several Gallo-Roman villas we know that vineyards exists in the area of St Emilion since the 4th century, there is no doubt about it.
The origin of the name St Emilion is not perfectly established. In the 8th century, the monk Emilian coming from Vannes in Britanny would have chosen to settle his hermitage into the limestone near a pure water spring.
His wisdom and his powers towards the poor and the outcastsbecame soon well-known and attracted many pilgrims. Emilien Piganeaul, historian, notices that at 12th and 13th century the name of the town was spelt "Sentmelion" or "Semilione", in ancient greek "Sémélé ionê" or "Semele's spring", the mother of Dionysos.
Saint-Emilion would literally mean "spring in the heart of the vineyards".
The CHATONNET are active members for Saint-Emilion's economy since the 15th century and have undergone a sizeable expansion between the end of the 16th and
the beginning of the 17th century. The cradle of the family is located in St Martin de Mazerat, the closest parish to the walls of the medieval town. Its members are traders, barrels carpenter and wine growers. From the beginning of the 17th century, the family's worthiness let them collect the wine grown in the vineyards of the St Martin parish.
By marrying Armand CANTENAT, Michelle CHATONNET starts the elite of the local wine-producing bourgeoisie in 17th century. She will have given birth to Jeanne, who will marry Pierre BARAT Sr. and have participated in the foundation of the AUSONE great wine in 1766 - the former Chapelle Madeleine great wine, then Cru Cantenat à la Madeleine until 1781, then Château Ausone, the Crand Cru classé A), nowadays property of the Vauthier family.
The key players of the wine-producing revolution and creators of prestigious great wines.
Since the end of the 15th century, the CHATONNET own ploughable lands, vineyards and caves near St Martin de Mazerat and à la Madeleine. At the beginning of the 17th century tracks of numerous transactions have been found, showing the expansion of the family's patrimony in "Pierrières de la Madeleine", in "Trotte Vieille" (Trottevielle) and in "Roque Blacan". In "la Madeleine", before building the castle, the CHATONNET did their best produce some higher quality wine. From the 1750s, they would be among "the pioneers for high quality" as Henri Enjalbert calls them.
At that time the winebroker Beylot used to buy their wines.
In 1770 he offers £450 for an old wine barrel at a time where everybody used to sell their wines during the spring as they ignored how to keep them.The castle was only built during the "Second Empire" and then the estate expanded by buying "La Côte de Fonplégade". The estate became property of Georges Julien, St Emilion's notary and son-in-law of the CHATONNETs.
According to Frédérique Crestin-Billet, it seems that he was responsible for changing the name Madeleine into Magdelaine, probably because he wanted to differenciate the great wines after the estate splitted as a result of numerous weddings and inheritances.
There were indeed in 1868 four La Madeleine: Chatonnet (the largest), Chatonnet-Crépin, Bon-Barat
(later called Curé-Bon-La-Madeleine) and Domecq-Cazaux.In 1952, Jean-Pierre Moueix buys the Château Magdelaine (Grand Cru Classé B) from Jean Jullien, who let the vineyard fade away.
The Château Fonroque - Grand Cru Classé - was also until the beginning of the 20th century (when the estate had to be sold as a result of the sharing-out) property of the descendant of the CHATONNETs. Since 1931 it belongs to the Moueix family.
During the 20th century, the whole of the CHATONNETs exploited vineyards in Saint Emilion has finally disappeared because of differents sales, sharing-outs and inheritances.