Thursday, March 9, 2017

Domaine ARNOUX-LACHAUX (Vosne-Romanée) -- 2015 Tasted from Barrel and Bottle

I’ve known the wines of this estate through three generations: Robert Arnoux, his son-in-law Pascal Lachaux, and now Pascal’s son and Arnoux’s grandson, Charles Lachaux (Pascal is still involved, though). There have been changes in styles of the wines during this long period, but the wines have always been of high quality. That said, these 2015s are potentially the best of all the vintages I’ve known here. Of course, it helps to have excellently-sited and cared-for vineyards and old vines (the youngest are in their early 40s, average age for the domaine is 50-60 years, and the Romanée-Saint-Vivant vines are 90 years-old).

Harvesting took place from 3 to 7 September. Yields were small — generally about 25-30 hl/ha for village wines, 20 hl/ha for the premiers crus, and 15-18 hl/ha for the grands crus. Overall, this represents about half a full cellar (and half of 2014). Charles attributes the reduced production to the small grapes due to the grass in the rows competing with the vines for water during the dry summer. All wines are minimum 70% whole clusters, as indicated below. Chaptalization was minimum, 0.1 or 0.2º, in some cases none. New oak is 15% for the village wines ranging up to 35% for the Romanée-Saint-Vivant; Charles said that he couldn’t reduce the new oak as much in 2014 because he did not have enough used barrels. Timing of malolactic fermentations was normal for the estate. The pHs here finished around 3.70, which was lower (i.e., higher acid) than Charles expected for the year. 

The changes that Charles has instituted are major, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Among the changes in the vineyard are a new canopy management system (cutting the tops of the vines later and taller in the past, thereby permitting more photosynthesis and earlier ripening). Another change is in the pruning system. He is now pruning longer using a system that predominated in older days in Chassagne and Puligny. Charles says that he was inspired to used this system by Luc Pavelot of Domaine Pavelot in Pernand-Vergelesses who has always used this system, and Charles says the Domaine Leroy does something similar.

In the cellar, the major changes have been the reduction of new oak (which had been 100% new at one time) and the use of whole clusters, which prior to Charles had been long eschewed here.

These are some of the most successful wines of 2015 at all levels and worthy of your highest interest, even if you have not followed the estate in recent years. (Continue reading here.)