Domaine Philippe and Vincent Lecheneaut is run by the two brother of those names.
They began in 1985, at quite an early age, because of their father Fernand’s illness. Fernand had worked at the Nuits-based négoce ‘Maison Morin’ until it closed in 1980, but he had already about 3 hectares of vines and so concentrated on those. Unfortunately, not long after the sons took over the domaine, Fernand died.
Through purchases and a combination of metayage and fermage contracts, the brothers Lecheneaut now work a shade over 10 hectares of the vines centred on the Côte (and Hautes Côtes) de Nuits, plus one small outpost in the Côte de Beaune in Chorey-lès-Beaune. At the same time the brothers developed their sales in bottle – everything was sold in bulk in the early years. This duo are highly regarded by their peers for the work they do in the vines – the bottled results are worth celebrating too!
I’m met at the domaine by the welcoming Vincent Lecheneaut – all smiles, and ears that show he was an enthusiastic rugby player ‘trophée de la guerre’ he laughs!
He recounts that the domaines 10 hectares are rather morcellated – 18 different cuvées and of-course several of those are also blends of multiple vineyard plots. The domaine is focused on red wine, but has one cuvée of Hautes Côtes de Nuits from chardonnay. Vincent almost pushes his chest out as he notes that the domaine have no licence for négoce, so everything that they make comes from their own vines and no-one else’s. In a good year that can amount to 60,000 bottles or about 200 barrel – of which a little over half is exported but the largest single market remains France.
‘In the vines’ Vincent say that they have no particular ‘culture’:
“We use a number of biodynamic treatments, but use what fits. we aren’t interested in certification but we remain committed to our ‘bio’ convictions – even so-far in 2012 – so no chemical treatments, no herbicides and the manual working of the soil.”
At harvest time the grapes are mainly destemmed, but depending on the cuvée and the vintage some whole clusters may be used – perhaps 20%, perhaps a little more: “It’s a bit like cooking” says Vincent “Some years don’t support it, others, including 2011 do. 2011 had some maturity problems, but I’m a firm believer that good vignerons make good wines” he smiles! For instance the domaine’s 2011 Vosne (below) actually used 50% whole clusters and very little pigeage yet was deeply coloured and rather impressive. We have pneumatic pigeage but it is used rather sparingly.
There is a pre-fermentation cold-soak (but no warm soak at the end), with thermoregulation set to a modest 28-30°C. “We taste and taste, every day until we think we have the right moment to make the ‘decuvage'” (empty the fermenting tank). The wine is then placed into (mainly) François Frères barrels – François must ahve been a good salesman here as even the villages wines can see 50% new oka – yet the results are far from oaky. One or two demi-muids can also be seem ‘as tests’. That said the Hautes Côtes de Nuits sees elevage in older barrels – none new. Total aging is usually around 18 months without racking where possible.
Tasted in Nuits with Vincent Lecheneaut, 12th July 2012. Discussing the 2011s:
“They haven’t been racked and not all the malos are completed. We put more emphasis on phenolic, rather than suger ripeness and I think because of that we’ve seen a gradual improvement in how elegant the wines show. 2011 needed a little extra sugar so we did some chaptalisation, but we still have very good freshness.”
Overall I think the wines from this domaine have become close to benchmarks in the last vintages, but with an important caveat – I see more and more reductive elements. A bottle of Morey St.Denis bought in Bar du Square in Beaune (September) was still clearly reduced as the last drop was poured – 90 minutes after opening – I can only view this as a fault…
Depth, quite dark and glossy fruit. Effortlessly fills the mouth with a cushioning texture – yet there seems no ‘fat’. This is very fine villages and with a good length too.
The colour seems a little lighter than the villages. There’s a depth of red and black fruit aroma, but much of that black aspect is twisted from a reductive note (I think). The reductive note slowly fades and the colour fruit gets more red in tandem. More linear than the villages. The concentration slowly grows, the intensity too in the mid-palate. We finish with on a long, mouth-watering flavour. This wine, overall, has less impact than the villages, but it is much, much longer…