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Founded in 1960 by Fernand Lécheneaut, the domaine started out with two and a half hectares of vineyards divided among the communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges, Chambolle-Musigny, and Morey-Saint-Denis. In 1985, Fernand passed away and his sons Philippe and Vincent took over. Their father had always sold wine in barrel and when the brothers took over, they were the first to bottle, making 1985 the first vintage with the Domaine Lécheneaut label.
We met with Vincent Lécheneaut in February 2018, and he explained that he and his brother gradually added more vineyards over the years and today they have ten hectares total, yielding about 5,000 cases in a normal year. The brothers were born in Morey-Saint-Denis, but their mother is from Nuits-Saint-Georges, so for a small family winery, they have quite a selection of vineyards from different villages in the Côte de Nuits. In addition to their inherited parcels, over the years they added old-vine parcels from Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée, and today, they make twenty cuvées total ranging from Bourgogne to Grand Cru. They have a nice range of village level wines from Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée and Nuits-Saint-Georges—including some single-vineyard bottlings—as well as top 1er cru sites in Nuits-Saint-Georges (Damodes and Prulier). They also make a 1er Cru from Chambolle, and in Morey they own a tiny plot in Grand Cru Clos de la Roche which yields about 500 bottles per year.
While there is no denying that the Clos de Roche is thrilling, the beauty of the Lécheneaut lineup is the opportunity to taste wines from so many different villages made by the same vigneron. The wines have a lot of energy and offer a pure terroir expression. When the brothers started, they were young and Vincent admits to the overuse of new oak for the first several years, influenced by their first American importer, but in 2000 there was a significant shift in their approach, both in the vineyards and in the cellar. Since then, all work in the vineyards has been organic to protect the microbial life in the soil, and in regards to making wine, Vincent passionately explained to us that now, he is, “here to accompany the grapes, not to try and change them.”
After a strict sorting in the cellar, grapes are put into tank for fermentation. Up to 50% of whole clusters are kept, depending on the vintage. Fermentations start naturally within a week of harvest from yeasts found on the berries, and lasts up to three weeks, during which there are gentle pump overs and punch downs to break up the cap and to extract the most complexity from the terroir. Next the grapes are pressed, and the free-run juice and press juice are blended and put into barrel for eighteen months of aging (two winters in the cellar). Barrels are kept for four vintages and one third are purchased new each year. We are very excited to work with the Lécheneaut wines: they are excellent representations of the diverse terroirs of the Côte de Nuits.