Tasted in Chénas with Paul-Henri Thillardon, 14 February 2018.
Domaine Thillardon, Paul-Henri & Charles
+33 6 07 76 00 91
Here in Chénas it’s like the wild west – anything can happen – animals in the vines, trees planted, terraced vines – call it the culture of the bistro, where new young producers taste and get guidance from the older guys – it’s different. And here is Domaine Thillardon whose domaine buildings have been here since the 1800s but were abandoned in the the 1960s – they bought them in that condition.
The domaine, began by Paul-Henri, is now two brothers and sister Aude. It’s a family domaine, established in 2008 though the family is originally from the Pierres Dorées, their father working vines there in the local in coop. Paul-Henri began working a little with organics, becoming fully biodynamic in 2012. He started with 3 hectares, though now it’s 12 hectares – 10 of which are in Chénas. Domaine vines reach up the hill behind the house, and it’s here that you might notice their horses – and it’s not just horses – they sacrificed a little area of vines for their chickens, pigs and the horses too – “It’s about a whole system” says Paul-Henri “But the chickens have to be careful – there are foxes in the trees over there…“…
Paul-Henri’s first wines were rather conventional, but that was before he met and tasted with Jean-Louis Dutraive. 2015 was the first year of refrigerating the grapes before long, cool semi-carbonic maceration – all whole-cluster. He explains “We work with very little sulfur, so need a cool cellar. It’s cement for the tanks – I’ve tried some destemming, but I found the wines harder and with less energy. But we make a triage at the vines and on a table too. We take a lot of care during the fermentations, using a microscope, always staying vigilant, but in the end the winemaking is still by feeling. Half our elevage is done with old barrels, including 500 and 600 litre barrels. We work without sulfur today, I did a little before but thought it blocked the fruit a little – the research is perpetual but we have an energy in the wines which we didn’t have before. The wines see a little sulfur before bottling, though we keep a little without sulfur and it works well – at least in the cellar!”
With the aforementioned horses, the vines are ploughed – of-course it wasn’t always easy – “Some of the gaps were just 80cm – planted at 12,000 vines per hectare: Now we prefer 10,000 to give some space to treat and plough.”
About half the production is exported today, but it started completely with export “As it’s not easy to start in France. Now we have mainly restaurants and cavistes in France. But it’s the new generations of restauranteurs and cavistes, where the mentalities are not fixed!”
We only quickly discussed the weather: “2016 was a good, a normal vintage here, 2017 was the problem with losses of about 80% due to the hail.”
Not only did I enjoy my time with Paul-Henri, I absolutely loved the wines from this domaine – they were a treat!
2016 Chénas, Les Carrières
The first vines from 2008. From the sedimentary section towards La Chapelle de Guinchay
Modest colour, a depth of fruit, modest flowers, a little Dutraive in aromatic style, plus a tiny hint of reduction – it’s very inviting. Round, depth, salinity, lovely red fruit that widens and widens after the swallow. ‘The salinity has really transformed with the biodynamics.‘
2016 Chénas Vibrations
Assembly of Carrières and 3 others, ‘It’s slightly different quantities of each year – the aim is the vibration.’ 50% granitic terroir in this. Bottled end of July
Ohh, extra depth but no reductive impression – very open too – lovely. Extra dimensions of flavour and, yes, extra energy, really a super depth of flavour. Super persistence too. Excellent!
1 ha of vines here, 2 in Carrières
More depth of colour. Also a deeper nose – finer, purer, darker red with a pure strawberry too. Much more width and freshness – ooh this is super – growing with weight and intensity all the time, fine salted accent. Great wine – and shows the differences of terroir, not the similarities of technique.
2016 Chénas Chassignol
This bottled in August.
Aromas more in the direction of the first two wines – wide deep, suggesting some reduction, but it’s more of a weight of fruit in the depths. Hmm, here is a rounder wine, one with more volume of freshness in the mouth, a slight tannic texture and maybe a suggestion of gas. Like the others a wine that bursts with width in the finish. The start is good, the finish brilliant today – give it a little time.
2016 Moulin à Vent
Bottled just before the harvest. Just over the Chénas hill behind the domaine. Les Michelons and Pinchons
A little paler colour. The nose is wide and a little saline. A tighter pure red fruit at the core. Good volume, a wine of fresh, mineral, directness. A hint of tannin in the finish. Less directly energetic but with a growing intensity and line of flavour. Super finish here. Probably for waiting a little longer but this is a super wine in the making!
From magnum – he’s having a ‘get-together’ tonight so it’s going to be drunk! This all destemmed, today there’s no destemming. IT changes the tannic structure – but we only did remontage then – this wa good to start but closed for about three years – now I really like it, but for a while I didn’t know where it would go.
Deeper colour like the 2016 – complex and wide nose lots of purity and interest – darker fruited. Ooh, this is gorgeous – wide, fresh, depth of dark fruit, melting flavour, mineral energy – simply delicious. I swallowed. Bravo!