It’s the dawn of new times in Burgundy, with changing distribution channels and various initiatives aimed at hindering secondary-market speculation in certain top Burgundies. Add to this the wish among many producers to serve the finished bottle to its actual clients, including importers, restaurants, individuals, and yes, even journalists.
All these factors are boiled down into a protective cocktail that is individual from domaine to domaine, and which is new to us writers.
Arnoux-Lachaux is one of the movers in these changes. Last year marked the end of barrel tastings. This year, some distributional changes are being put in place.
Thus the tasting of the finished product – the 2020 wines – marked a gathering of some better-known writers. I was in a French-speaking group with some important members of the French media.
I have followed Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux closely for the last five to eight years, and I have therefore established some insight into it compared to other writers. I follow the vineyards with my frequent trips among the terroirs. And please note: Charles Lachaux should be followed closely, as he is constantly making changes, both large and small.
The 2019s were his jumping-off point, and the first of what I call the “fully converted” vintages Charles produced. But this was only the beginning, as many more changes have been implemented. Let’s call 2019 Stage One; 2020 and ’21 were the next steps, and 2022 represent a giga-step into the world of Claver Ceramics (more about this in a separate article).
The Arnoux-Lachaux ’19s are otherworldly, evoking descriptors like joie de vivre. Calling them true vins d’émotion only begins to encompass the huge changes made at this ground-breaking estate.
The 2020s are a different breed, with some difficulties and perhaps a not-so-obviously flamboyant Burgundian nature. It’s an interesting journey, and it has now been quite some time since I focused on the ’20s.
Charles Lachaux is now truly out of sync with the rest of the market, setting his own agenda. Some are (as usual) complaining. I say well done. The renewal of Burgundy has just begun!
Vinification in short
As in most contexts, changes – whether in vinification or viticulture – raise some critical voices amongst other winegrowers and connoisseurs. This is the case with Charles Lachaux.
One of the main criticisms is of his shorter maceration of the wines, and while it is indeed short, the proof, as always, will be in the glass.
The Arnoux-Lachaux wines are made with a short maceration of six to nine days; that’s all, from arrival of the grapes in the winery to press. This is indeed brief (a Burgundian average would be 12-16 days). The vinification is with whole-cluster grapes and no sulphur, and while this worked well in 2019, one could ask what the result will be with the 2021s, where the grapes weren’t as ripe and the wines are less substantial. But first we have to weigh the substantial 2020s.
The ’20s have now settled down in bottle. Some of the top-end cuvees have already developed additional complexity, whereas the lesser wines in some cases are a bit edgy and restrained. This was a somewhat difficult year, especially for Charles Lachaux, who was implementing major changes to his viticulture.
The intense, daring, and concentrated 2020s
The Arnoux-Lachaux 2020s are a constant tango between contrasting elements: the dark, muscular nature of the vintage, and the inherent lightness and airiness that is part of the new Arnoux-Lachaux style. It is where contrasts meet, and surprisingly, even the top-end wines from very low-yielding vineyards (6hl/ha in some cases) show an inherent lightness despite the vintage.
The detail and refinement of the top wines are encouraging and tremendous. But yields below 10hl/ha makes this challenge very real.
Charles Lachaux succeeded, and produced some amazing 2020s created for the longer haul. The top end of the range is showing very well, while some of the lesser wines need some time, as their fruit struggles a bit to mask the dry extract and the robustness of the vintage.
It is difficult to taste the 2020s again, coming from sampling 2021 and 2022. The ’20s are big, robust, and linear – in contrast with both 2019 and 2022 – and they dwarf the 2021s.
Charles Lachaux did a magnificent job of keeping the elegance in his 2020s.
The notes from May 10
Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Bourgogne Pinot Fin 2020
I started with the Bourgogne Pinot Fin, a delightful regional from excellent plots below the road (RD974) in Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, and Nuits-Saint-Georges. Clearly one senses the vintage on the finish, and while it is a good wine, Charles Lachaux was fighting nature to produce this wine. Great effort, but 2020 was a difficult mistress.
(Drink from 2023) – Very Good (88p) – Tasted 10/05/2023 –
Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Nuits-Saint-Georges 2020
The Nuits-Saint-Georges village is a blend from several different vineyards, mainly from the northern side of Nuits. The bouquet offers rich, energetic fruit, flowers, and a good NSG mineral character. On the palate this is quite precise, delicate, and classic. The fruit is charming, but the wine finishes with substantial dry extract. For 2020, very good, but still typical of the vintage.
(Drink from 2030) – Very Good+ (89-90p) – Tasted 10/05/2023 –
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