- Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France
Charles Lachaux's meteoric ascent continues, and my prophesy several years ago (in one of my first articles in The Wine Advocate) as to the brightness of his future is well on the way to being realized. In the vineyards as in the cellar, Lachaux continues to push the boundaries, and it's immensely gratifying to see someone who considers that inheriting some of the greatest vineyards in the world imposes an obligation to take risks that others can't, rather than merely entitling him to a high bottle price. During several visits to the domaine this fall, I tasted both the bottled 2019s and the infant 2020s from barrel.
As I wrote last year, 2019 vintage was the first produced from vines that were never trimmed during the growing season across the entire domaine, and yields ranged from the modest (24 hectoliters per hectare) to the nugatory (13 hectoliters per hectare). Lachaux picked early, with modest alcohol levels (hitting a maximum of 13.3%), and once again didn't destem. Macerations were short, lasting scarcely a week, and the presence of new oak further diminished. These 2019s were racked to tank and bottled later than the 2018s, and they showed fabulously in late 2021 (I even opened several bottles of Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny from my own cellar to follow the wines over several hours). Perfumed, sensual and seamless, they exemplify the ideal of intensity without weight, and they represent a step up over Lachaux's remarkable 2018s.
In 2020, Lachaux tested the limits of the possible by deciding not to till his soils, nor even to mow the ensuing grass; and combined with the year's hydric deficit, yields were even more radically diminished, well into single figures. Some of the struggling vines barely reached the top trellising wire, producing tiny bunches of ultra concentrated fruit. Alcohol levels came in between 13% and 13.5%, and macerations were a touch longer than in the last few years. Barrels are used five times at this address, so percentages of new oak are very modest, and Lachaux is also experimenting with ceramic vessels with great success. Deep, vibrant and intense, these are Charles's best wines to date, but they're also still incredibly primary, and he intends to extend élevage longer than in either 2019 or 2018. Given the tiny quantities produced, allocations are sure to be commensurately small, and Lachaux is no longer participating in the en primeur system; but for a lucky few, true magic awaits. - William Kelley, Wine Advocate, January 2022
Charles Lachaux, Pascal Lachaux's son, took over from his father in 2012. At Bowler, we’ve always been impressed when tasting at Arnoux-Lachaux and the wines have reached new heights since Charles joined the domaine. Today, Charles' runs the domaine with his mother, Florence Arnoux-Lachaux, the daughter of Robert Arnoux. At first, the changes felt like they were coming slowly, some tweaks here and there, but now, the evolution seems to have come full circle, with the only constant being the land.
From the beginning of his tenure, Charles has thrown himself entirely into the farming of his 14.5 hectares, some of the most prized vineyards in Vosne-Romanée and equally high-quality vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges. He scraped esca out of the wood by hand, vine by vine, but the only option for protecting his old vines. The vines average sixty years old and the oldest, Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Corvées Pagets, were planted in 1921. He's replanted some parcels very densely at 20,000 vines per hectare and put in a tall stake to attach the shoots that soar to the sunlight. He's stopped hedging in all of his parcels. It takes twice as long and four times the number of workers for this canopy management, but the results are worth it. This allows for more photosynthesis, getting more energy to each grape; phenolic maturity happens faster allowing for an earlier pick date and lower alcohol with full ripeness. He follows regenerative farming practices and no longer mows or tills in his parcels.
In 2010, the family purchased a vertical press, making Arnoux-Lachaux one of just a handful of wineries using this type of press in Burgundy. They prefer it to a pneumatic press because it presses very gently and extracts less. In 2012, Charles’s first year, they introduced some partial whole-cluster fermentation and pleased with the results, they used a higher proportion of whole-clusters each year since. Today, the wines are made with up to 100% whole cluster. The amount of new oak has been reduced since 2012 as well: up to 10% on village wines, 20% on premier cru and a maximum of 30% on grand cru in 2019. In 2022, oak was eliminated altogether from the winery and they are opting to ferment and age in round cement tanks.
Today, these are some of the most highly sought after wines in all of Burgundy and rightfully so, the wines have an incredible energy and elegance, and are some of the best expressions of Vosne and Nuits available. - Michele Peters, French Portfolio Manager