– DOMAINE ARLAUD CHARMES CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU 2017 –
Let’s see if you paid attention a few weeks ago when we visited Bourgogne to discover the world of Chablis. We’re staying around, but travel south to the city of Dijon (Mustard anyone?), to visit Domaine Arlaud.
Cellar Pick of the Week: Domaine Arlaud Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru
Origin: Morey-Saint-Denis, France
Grape varietal: Pinot Noir
Charmes-Chambertin is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru vineyard for red wine in the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy, with Pinot noir as the main grape variety. The main grape variety for Charmes-Chambertin is Pinot noir. The AOC regulations also allow up to 15 per cent total of Chardonnay, Pinot blanc and Pinot gris as accessory grapes, but this is practically never used for any Burgundy Grand Cru vineyard. The allowed base yield is 37 hectoliter per hectare, a minimum planting density of 9,000 vines per hectare and a minimum grape maturity of 11.5 per cent potential alcohol is required.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
The Estate was among the first in Burgundy to recognize the negative impact “modern agriculture” was having both on the environment generally and on the uniqueness of the wine produced from each of its many separate terroirs. This uniqueness had been recognized and honoured by the Cistercian monks as early as the 1200, and carefully maintained for centuries thereafter. In 2007, in order to formalize this approach, the Domaine started the process needed to obtain the Organic Label, which was awarded in 2010 by the prestigious organization Veritas. The next decision, taken in 2009, was to become completely biodynamic. This methodology demands the use of simple treatments (natural fertilizer, silicates, compost, herbs infusion). These time tested procedures revitalize the soil life and ultimately allow the vines to find the best balance in the vineyard and thus to produce wine fully expressing terroir. In 2014 the Domaine became the first in Morey Saint-Denis to have the biodynamic certification by Biodyvin.
Another negative consequence of modern methods of grape cultivation has been soil compaction. This phenomenon is linked to mechanisation, particularly the continual use of tractors and other heavy machinery over long periods of time. This is a common issue in Burgundy, resulting in observable soil erosion, restricted root development, and diminished soil life in general. It simply impossible for any form of life to thrive in tightly packed soil. In 2004, the Domaine began to address these problems by returning to the use of horses for ploughing. Herve’s daughter Bertille received special training to implement this commitment and now she uses her two horses, Nougat and Oka, to plough all of the Estate’s Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. These 5 hectares are also pruned by hand. Even a quick examination of the vineyards reveals the benefits. The soil has come back to life, and its texture is marvellous. The vines thrive and the wines they yield give full expression of their unique places of origin.
The new facility was carefully designed to preserve the integrity of the grapes from the field to the press. It provides the flexibility to select the best winemaking solution, given the special characteristics of each vintage. The goal is to minimize heavy extraction in favour of balance and elegance. After an initial selection in the vineyard, the harvest is sorted three additional times in the winery. the grapes are de-stemmed, but not crushed. Since 2008, several cuvees included a part of whole clusters. After a maceration period, the fermentation is permitted to start naturally and runs for at least 20 days. Pumping is minimized throughout the winemaking process, relying instead on gravity. During the fermentation period, the cap is seldom if ever, punched down. After the pressing, the free-run juice is age separately from the press wine. The use of sulphur dioxide in minimized. No other oenological product is added, ensuring the authenticity of each wine.
Cyprien Arlaud described 2017 as a vintage that “had a growing season that was much easier to manage than 2016 as we didn’t have any frost damage or intense mildew attacks. However, it was necessary to control yields and particularly in those vines that suffered frost damage in 2016 as they were especially productive. I don’t like doing green harvests as I’m not convinced it’s the best method but the fruit set was so large that there wasn’t really much choice. So I dropped a lot of fruit in July and then did it again in August for any bunches that were still somewhat green. Despite all of that, we still had yields that averaged around 38 hl/ha! We chose to begin the harvest on the 6th of September and we could pick relatively quickly as the fruit was basically spotless. We obtained good maturity levels as potential alcohols mostly came in between 12 and 13% with solid phenolic maturities as well. The seeds were brown and the skins were reasonably thick, which is to say thicker than those of 2014 if not as thick as those of 2016. I used varying proportions of whole clusters, which is to say around 30% for the upper-level wines. I also chose to drop the proportion of new wood and some wines have none at all. Overall, I like the vintage quite a bit as the wines are fresh and should provide for early enjoyment.”
The Charmes-Chambertin sounds right the wine is accessible and charming even in it’s youth. The tannins are light and delicate. The wine is supple and with a very nice evolution potential.