Louis Chenu is a family domaine based in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The domaine is managed today by sisters Juliette and Caroline who took over the day-to-day management from their father Louis about 3 years ago. Juliette looks after the commercial side and Caroline the viti/viniculture. The domaine was started by Angel, the ‘grandmother of their grandfather’ around 1915 – so five generations – a sixth generation currently enjoy playing between the barrels!
Both the girls and their father have added to the Savigny vines in Les Lavières which were the first of the domaine, such that today they farm 9 hectares, almost all in Savigny. If you’re surprised that it’s the first time you’ve heard of a domaine that is over 90 years old, then don’t worry, until the sisters took over, everything was sold as must or in barrel to the négoce. Each year a little more has been bottled on their small bottling machine for customers mainly in Belgium and France, though they are a long way from commercialising all of their crop.
One of the reasons for me visiting, was that I loved their website (www.louischenu.com). If it means anything to you, I would describe it as ‘Twin Peaks – esque’!
Vines and Winemaking
It’s an interesting mixture of vineyards; four Savigny 1ers, a Savigny Vieilles-Vignes, Savigny blanc, an aligoté and a Chorey-lès-Beaune – there’s a bourgogne too. The Savigny’s provide a couple of less well-known premiers in Les Talmettes and Aux Clous. Juliette mentioned that Aux Clous is usually a favourite of the English because ‘it is so round’ and I’m ashamed to say I turned out to be typical English!
Father Louis is still fully employed in the vines by his daughters – provided he agrees with their ideas! They have slowly reduced yields and are moving to organic farming – one third of the domaine already – de-budding, green harvesting and leaf thinning are now practiced.
The sisters have opted for a particular style, one that they describe as ‘elegant not extracted, refined in that just enough oak is used to provide shoulders for the wine’. To achieve that they have yields just a little lower than the maximum, use only a short cold soak before the natural yeast fermentation, pigeage and remontage and no post fermentation heating. The wines stay only about 10 days in the tanks before moving to barrels. No fining or filtering is practiced. Finally the amount of new oak is just enough to replace old barrels rather than to add flavour.
The following selection of wines were tasted in July 2008. The reds all show medium, medium-pale colour, but by the magic of Burgundy, they do not lack for flavour. Afterwards I greedily bought a mixed case at the excellent ex-domaine prices.
Barrel fermented and from a 2 hectare plot that contains about 10% pinot blanc. Some depth on the nose. This is a wine that really expands on the palate, providing lots of savoury flavour as it heads for the finish. Very well balanced, and would be an excellent match with food.
Also about 2 hectares of vines. An understated nose of transparent red fruit notes. Fine balance and acidity. It’s relatively light but conjures up excellent width and dimensions of flavour. Well controlled tannins and good length.
This family vineyard is ‘en fermage’ from an aunt. It’s a wide nose with plenty of confiture and shows lovely red fruit notes as the glass begins to empty. Lots of flavour on the palate and super acidity. There is finesse and minerality – something you won’t often hear me write for Chorey. This is far from simple, and would make a a really super ‘house wine’.
A lesser-spotted 1er which sits above Les Lavières next to Aux Vergelesses. Enough vines for 6 barrels. There is a little more dimension to the fruit aromas and and extra level of fatness in the mouth. Full of savoury flavours but at this precocious stage just a little less balanced than the last two wines.
Another 1er which you don’t see so often, sited between Guettes and Serpentières. Enough for 15 barrels in 2007, part of the crop coming from ‘very old vines’. There is an impressive depth of serious fruit on the nose. Fatter again – lovely texture – high quality fruit of good intensity and persistence. Very balanced and very super!
From two parcels in the cru. Again there is aromatic depth and seriousness, seems to even deeper with time in the glass. Also super texture and fruit coupled to understated concentration. The length has a faint twist of oak flavour and is very long.
Here the nose is tighter. Nicely fat, showing an expanding width of fruit flavour and decent length. Not show its best, but I think there’s plenty of potential.
Wide, high-toned aromatics that quickly tighten in the glass, perhaps a trace of caramel. The palate shows a little more tannin than the 07’s, but there is the depth of concentration to match and a super dimension of fruit too. Slightly lower acidity also than the 07’s but still mouth-watering, lingering flavours. This is excellent
The nose starts a little tight, but becomes more and more expressive, revealing aromatic width and depth, lovely ripe but fresh fruit that suggests creamyness. Fine texture with super fruit that is concentrated and complex in the mid-palate. This is a very high class Savigny.
The aromatics don’t go as deep as the ‘Clous’ but they show lots of higher-toned width and with a suggestion of baked tart to the red fruit. Again super texture and depth. Bursts with an extra dimension of fruit on the mid-palate before slowly fading.
Finer fruit aromas and a little extra perfume. This shows a little more acid and tannin structure but retains the same fine fruit as the others. Faintly lingers on the tongue. Another success.
Louis Chenu Père et Filles
Grands vins de Bourgogne
12 rue Joseph de Pesquidoux
Phone/Fax : +00 33 (0)3 80 26 13 96