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It's fascinating to see the imprint of a new generation taking the reins at venerable domaines in Burgundy. Sometimes the results are subtle, such as the excellent work of the talented Anne Morey at Domaine Pierre Morey in Meursault, and sometimes the changes are more striking such as those at Berthaut-Gerbet, where the wines top-to-bottom seem suppler and more dynamic. Perhaps nowhere is the evolution more pronounced than at Arnoux-Lachaux in Vosne-Romanée, where the quietly assured Charles Lachaux is making deft changes is farming and the cellar.
Blessed with a number of top climats, older vines, and perhaps most notably, great vine material, Charles has an impressive palette to work from. Whereas the wines of his father Pascal were rather more extracted with perhaps more overt oak in their youth, the current wines are more expressive, supple, and pure. According to Charles, this is due to a number of changes in the vines. He is in conversion to organic and works with biodymanic preparations. Inspired by the legendary Lalou Bize-Leroy, he has changed his pruning to Guyot Poussard to manage sap flow, per Julia Harding and Jancis Robinson, trains the vines higher to create more photosynthetic energy for the bunches, and no longer hedges the top shoots. Additionally, inspired by Olivier Lamy he is replanting some parcels at a density of 20,000 vines per hectare.
In the cellar fermentations are with indigenous yeast. The grapes are pressed with some whole clusters in a vertical press purchased in 2010 (again per Harding and Robinson), which has a gentler extraction and the amount of new oak has been curtailed. The wines are startling in their finesse and purity, with soaring aromas, and finely-etched minerality with distinctive soil signatures and individual terroir expression. And while we've enjoyed a number of his grandfather's and father's wines, there's an added layer of complexity, precision, and energy which lift these to the next level resulting in wines of great sensual and intellectual pleasure. Below is a selection of his brilliant 2017s where his style shines brightly, along with a couple of bottles of his gorgeous 2013 Latricières. Happy hunting! John McIlwain
From a blend of five different north-facing parcels high on the hill by the forest in Chambolle-Musigny. The robe is a pale ruby hue. The nose is fresh and brambly with notes of red raspberry, pomegranate, and spice. The racy, mid-weight palate boasts crunchy, ripe red berry flavors framed by a spicy notes from stem inclusion and finely-etched tannins adding subtle, but assured structure. The finish is lively, lifted, and succulent. Delicious with air, but warrants cellaring to allow the fruit and structure to knit. John McIlwain
From 60-year-old vines located beneath the Les Cailles premier cru. The soils are limestone marls. Fermented 100% whole cluster, 15% new oak.
The 2017 Vosne-Romanée is comprised from a trio of parcels in the heart of the village averaging 50 years old. 80% whole cluster, 10% new oak. Beautiful Vosne spice and lushly aromatic on the nose. Red plum, violets, rose petals, red cherry, hibiscus! The palate is supple and concentrated, with plummy red and black fruits, fine sap, and ripe, serious tannins balanced by a sapid mineral core. This is lovely and should age effortlessly in the midterm. A lovely Vosne villages and well worth a look. John McIlwain
Made from the temperamental, but beautifully perfumed, ancient Pinot Fin cultivar of Pinot Noir, the 2017 Bourgogne offers an effusive nose of wild strawberry, sour cherry and tea roses. The palate is airy, delicate, and high-toned with ripe red fruits, fine-grained tannins and a burst of chalky soil notes on the buoyant, lingering finish. Lovely juice. John McIlwain
Located above La Romanée and next to Petits Monts at the bottom of the vineyard this is another of Arnoux-Lachaux's top premier crus. Balancing salty mineral character with perfumed berry fruit, a wine of great breed.
From the top of Latricières-Chambertin surrounded by forest.