The Arnoux name has been prominent in the Côte de Nuits since the mid-19th century, but all families need the influence of an outsider from time to time. In 1957, at the age of 26, Robert Arnoux became the fourth winemaking generation of the family in Vosne-Romanée and took production to genuinely commercial levels, acquiring additional parcels in neighbouring appellations including Nuits Saints Georges, Clos de Vougeot, Chambolle-Musigny, Echézeaux et al.
Robert had three daughters, one of whom, Florence, married a young pharmacist named Pascal Lachaux and prevailed upon him to help his father-in-law with the 1987 harvest before taking up a new job. He took winemaking like a natural and didn’t turn up at the new job, instead working with his father-in-law until Robert’s death in 1995. Pascal and Florence took on the mantle and, in 2007 changed the name of the Domaine to Arnoux-Lachaux in preparation for the arrival of generation number six. Armit Wines took on the exclusive agency for UK import and distribution from the 2008 vintage. Pascal and Florence’s son Charles Lachaux studied in Beaune and gained experience in Oregon and South Africa, before returning to Burgundy to take over some vinification in 2012. Like his parents before him, he is gradually taking over production.
If Robert set the Domaine on the road to success, Pascal and Florence have done most of the driving. They renovated the caves, built a new cuverie and a stylish tasting room, as well as adding further parcels. The acquisition of Latricières Chambertin, in 2008, took the estate’s total to 14.5 hectares.
Above all, it was technical mastery of Pinot Noir where the couple made the greatest changes. Without baldly stating it on labels, they took up methods of viticulture which could be described variously as sustainable, organic or biodynamic. Pascal refers to the approach as “reasonable” - whatever the terminology, it’s an approach which has increased the health of the vines.
They pruned for lower yields and totally destemmed the grapes. More recently, they installed a vertical press, using non-interventionist principle of gravity, which is gentler than pneumatic alternatives, extracting less (and better) juice and keeping the tannins to a minimum. In the ageing of the Domaine’s wines, too, Pascal moved towards increased use of new oak. After three or four weeks of maceration, wines are aged in 30 to 100 percent renewed barrels, depending on the appellation and vintage. Charles, in turn, has introduced his own touches, including whole bunch fermentation - another step away from interventionist winemaking. All the family believes that the key to good wine is looking after the terroir and vines and letting the appellations speak for themselves.
Armit Wines has access to a wide range of Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux’s appellations - regional wines such as Bourgogne Pinot Fin; villages including Vosne Romanée; premier crus such as Nuits Saint Georges Les Procès and Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots; and the grand crus Romanée Saint Vivant, Echézeaux, Latricières Chambertin and Clos de Vougeot.
Arnoux-Lachaux has a highly prized parcel in the upper part of Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots, which produces Pinot Noir with bright crimson fruit on the nose and a lovely freshness on the palate. The Domaine’s Latricières Chambertin vineyard is similarly located at the very top of the appellation. Bound by woods on three sides, the parcel has a very rocky soil,which produces fresh and mineralic Pinot Noir. Half the vines are 25 years old, while the other half are 60. In contrast, the Clos de Vougeot vines, planted near the castle, average 65 years, and tend to produce a dense, gamey Burgundy.
At the more regular drinking end of the scale, the Bourgogne Pinot Fin is the only wine the family produces without new oak, and also the only one where they buy in grapes. However, it is largely built from their own rootstock in Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne Romanée and Nuits Saint Georges. It’s called Pinot Fin because these vines tend to produce lots of small and concentrated millerandé berries.
In 2015, UNESCO declared the Côte d’Or, including the Côte de Nuits, a World Heritage Site. Drinking the wines of Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux is a pretty good way of travelling through this region and discovering the subtle differences in its terroir.