Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux

A Legend in the Making: The Rise and Rise of Charles Lachaux

Charles Lachaux has the momentum of a freight train. Since taking over the reins of his family domaine in 2012, with the encouragement of those who inspire him, over the last five years this young grower has been pushing the standards of his vineyard work to such a high level that it is now genuinely difficult to find comparisons. Some fellow Burgundians even think he is going too far! Over the years, Lachaux has doubled the number of vineyard staff to 12 skilled, full-time workers for 14 hectares of vines. There are higher density plantings; organics and biodynamics; Poussard-inspired pruning; tressage (or arching); bush vines; lighter tractors and the use of a horse to avoid compaction; a great deal of handwork; use of sheep in winter; and—possibly the most controversial and riskiest development of all—the avoidance of cultivation. All this, and more, adds up to arguably the edgiest vineyard management program that the Côte de Nuits has ever witnessed. Two of the implications have been lower yields and ever greater quality.

2019 was the first vintage for which all the vineyards were trellised high and not hedged at all: “We prune six to eight buds per vine, which produces twice as much foliage”. In addition, half the vineyard area was left unploughed (all in 2020). Lachaux explains (to Neal Martin, Vinous): “We let the grass grow, and at one point it got so tall you could hardly see the vines. Then instead of mowing it, we roll the grass so that it lies flat on the ground. We found that this helps defend the vines against frost, raising the frosting zone, which was especially useful in 2021. Then, after the grass is rolled, we allow it to decompose so that it increases the carbon in the soil.”

Since 2012, this indefatigable young vigneron has put in place one of the Côte’s most progressive and meticulous, organic vineyard management programs. The results have been breathtaking.

Lachaux has also radically altered his family’s approach in the cellar. The macerations have become some of the shortest we know of in the region, and extractions are correspondingly gentler. The use of whole bunches (previously everything was destemmed) is now close to 100% for every wine. There has been a significant reduction in the percentage of new oak used. As of 2015, Lachaux capped the new oak levels at around 25-30% for the Grand Cru wines and even less for the 1er Cru and village levels. He’s also working with barrels of minimal toast, including a very successful trial of Stockinger, which might soon count as his largest barrel supplier. Since the 2010 vintage, long (and expensive) 54mm corks have been used, which require an exceptionally long bottleneck.

There’s no doubt that Charles Lachaux’s well-publicised friendship and mentorship with Lalou Bize-Leroy has added further lustre to this young vigneron’s soaring reputation. Bize-Leroy is known to choose her friends carefully and taking Lachaux under her wing, so to speak, has sent a powerful message to the trade. The other great mentor of Lachaux (apart from his father, Pascal Lachaux, of course) has been Olivier Lamy. So, he has certainly had some remarkable people to bounce his ideas off.

Despite the changes, it pays to remember that Charles’ father, Pascal, (who still works in the domaine), was already doing great things before his son returned. We have been fortunate in recent years to taste some older vintages that Pascal produced, including vintages such as ’90, ’91 and ’99—the examples from the latter vintage being some of the greatest red Burgundies we have ever tried. With Charles now bringing fresh ideas and new energy to this estate’s pursuit for excellence, we can only imagine the heights that the recent-release wines will offer with bottle age.

The Range

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“With the possible exception of a certain domaine, where all the wines are grands crus, this was the single most exciting barrel tasting I have ever experienced. In a vintage where others have made gorgeous wines in a sumptuous style, these 2019s from Charles Lachaux are perhaps the most magical of all–and entirely deserve the epithet ethereal which I have used very sparingly elsewhere this year.” Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy 

“Thoughtful, intelligent and increasingly self-assured, Charles Lachaux seems to gain in authority each time I taste with him. This is an immensely promising domaine, with one of the brightest futures ahead of any in Burgundy, and readers should start paying attention.” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

“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… Even though I had tasted recent vintages in London earlier this year with Charles Lachaux, my tasting at the domaine was still an eye-opener and one of the most memorable.” Neal Martin, Vinous

Country

France

Primary Region

Côte de Nuits

People

Winemaker: Charles Lachaux

Availability

National

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