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Profile: Domaine Louis Chenu Père et Filles (Savigny-lès-Beaune)

domaine louis chenu pere et fillesLouis 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.

2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune Blanc try to find this wine...
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.
2007 Savigny-lès-Beaune, Vieilles Vignes
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.
2007 Chorey-lès-Beaune
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’.
2007 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Talmettes
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.
2007 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Aux Clous
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!
2007 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Lavières
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.
2007 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Hautes Jarrons
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.
2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Talmettes try to find this wine...
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
2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Aux Clous try to find this wine...
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.
2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Lavières try to find this wine...
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.
2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Hautes Jarrons try to find this wine...
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
F-21420 Savigny-les-beaune
Phone/Fax : +00 33 (0)3 80 26 13 96

4 responses to “Profile: Domaine Louis Chenu Père et Filles (Savigny-lès-Beaune)”

  1. harvest 2009 update

    […] Juliette Chenu @ Savigny: So far the vines are very nice, we have had rain ( small ) twice, but it did not affect the general quality. Tha sanitary state is beautiful… We have had a lot of sun this august compaired to the last years. And if we trust the forecasts we will have another week of sun. We are planning to harvest around the 7/10 of September. From the BIVB technical bulletin, depending on the elements, the state of the vines can be compaired to 2006/2002 or 2005..We will know more in a weeks time..But we say that August makes the moût..So it is good news you can give… […]

  2. Glenn

    Phew, it’s reassuring to find this.

    To explain….just a few hours ago I was at Vinexpo and Chenu’s export agent (Georgia Tsouti) urged me to try the three ’07 she had there. I wasn’t enthusiastic as I couldn’t find a reference to the domaine in Coates or Burghound but the ‘revival’ story and Georgia’s background told me I might find myself surprised to the upside.

    Which I did, enough to make a commitment to bring in a pallet to Hong Kong. Still, I was a bit nervous of my judgment as a relative neophyte, and it being 11:00 a.m.

    The ‘Aux Clous’ was also my favourite – and I’m also English – and my tasting notes have much the same vibe as Bill’s!

  3. richard jacobs

    Hi Bill – mainly because of this I bought 2010s in UK (Decorum – excellent prices) and am already savouring the very good Les Clous and the Villages V V which at its price is great stuff!

    So many thanks

    Another great value Savigny is Guillemot – wondered if you know them?

    My favourite village for value


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