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Arnoux-Lachaux Chambolle-Musigny 2017

Arnoux-Lachaux Chambolle-Musigny 2017

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"The 2017 Chambolle-Musigny Village comes from north-facing vineyards toward the upper slopes – the last vines to ripen, as they can lie in the shade. Containing 80% whole bunch fruit, it has a well-defined, slightly tertiary bouquet with touches of black pepper and pencil lead. The medium-bodied palate presents fresh red fruit, lightly spiced with white pepper, sage and a touch of tobacco, perhaps a little Morey-like in structure, but with a very long finish. Excellent. Drinking window: 2021-2038. 90-92 points

Every year there is a domaine that excites more than any other, a new name that seems to sparkle that much brighter, someone who intuition tells you is about to hit the big time. I experienced this feeling when Maxime Chuerlin took the reins at domaine Georges Noëllat, when Amélie Berthaut took over Domaine Denis Berthaut and when I first visited Pierre Duroché. Even though I had tasted recent vintages in London earlier this year with Charles Lachaux, my tasting at the domaine in Vosne-Romanée was still an eye-opener and one of the most memorable. Oddly enough, this was only my second visit, the first having been during my inaugural trip to Burgundy around 1997/1998, when I tasted with Lachaux’s father. To be honest, I often found his wines excessively oaky and modern for my taste and consequently the domaine slipped off my radar, a bit like Robert Groffier. There is no question that Charles has radically altered the modus operandi, changing everything from the name to the vineyard practices to the winemaking. Consequently, the current wines bear little resemblance to his father’s, apart from the fact that they nearly all originate from exactly the same parcels. Inspired by Lalou Bize-Leroy, who seems to have taken him under her wing, Charles Lachaux is clearly an ambitious vigneron with tenets and ideals so strong that he had no hesitation in dispensing with the services of a couple of staff who did not share his vision and dedication.

“We turned biodynamic this year,” he told me as I set up my laptop in the vat room, “but we are not seeking certification. We started the harvest on September 2, one of the first in Vosne-Romanée with Domaines Leroy and Bizot, and finished on September 7. The yields were not huge despite what you see elsewhere. Our biggest was the Bourgogne Rouge at 40h/ha, then 33to 37hl/ha for the Village Crus and around 30hl/ha for the Premier Crus and 18hl/ha to 28hl/ha for the Grand Crus. This is because of the tall palissage [trellising] and because I am strict on de-budding. I want fruit with more flesh and less pulp. In terms of the winemaking process, the shortest cuvaison was 10 days and the longest 13 days, half the normal time. There was no pre-fermentation. The fermentation started quickly and I did not keep them too long [in the vat] as I liked the way the juice was showing. I want the density to come from the vineyard, not the winery.”

This was a deeply impressive showing of 2017s where you can easily see the influence of Lalou Bize-Leroy. There is immense purity and panache, the use of whole bunches assiduous and carefully managed. The shorter maceration period means that Lachaux has to be prudent with respect to the percentage of whole bunch, so as not to obscure vineyard expression. He certainly achieved that this year with a raft of really fabulous, quite intellectual yet delicious wines. The good news is that the quality is evident throughout the range. Why not pick up a case of 2017 Bourgogne Pinot Fin to experience Lachaux’s style first-hand? Otherwise, seek out the stunning Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots or les Suchots, maybe one of the best Clos Vougeots of the vintage, or the sublime Latricières-Chambertin."

Neal Martin, Vinous (01/19)