His name already spread like wildfire in the wine world, but since Charles Lachaux was named ‘Best Rising Star’ at the ‘Oscars of wine’, the fame and the prices are on the bottles for the young French winemaker from Burgundy. Using blockchain and NFT, he tries to get his wine where it belongs: in the glass of wine lovers, not speculators.
‘I have to admit I thought it was a joke when I got the email with the news that I had been named the best young winemaker in the world. I did not know the organization and the event. And when I saw the sponsors – Rolls-Royce, Gucci, Virgin Galactic… – I thought “this is really not normal.” I archived the email and didn’t reply’, Charles Lachaux, sixth generation of a Burgundian wine family, looks back with amusement on a milestone in his winemaker’s life.
Understandably, Lachaux was suspicious. Last year was the first time that the Golden Vines Awards were presented by Liquid Icons, a foundation founded by the late Gérard Basset, once the best sommelier in the world. It wants to use the proceeds from fundraising and prestigious wine auctions to increase wine education worldwide (see inset below). ‘Until a copain urged me to take that email seriously.’ So it wasn’t a joke. “Vous pouvez être fier: toutes mes félicitations,” French President Emmanuel Macron promptly sent to Lachaux in an Instagram post.
What is also no joke is that the wines of the young god Charles Lachaux are valued, sought after and paid very dearly worldwide. A small example: for his Les Champs d’Argent 2019, made with the aligoté grape, you have to pay an average of 1,654 euros (figures including VAT based on WineSearcher). That is almost 33 times more than the original purchase price of around 50 euros. But Lachaux remains modest about it. ‘I know where I come from. And also where I want to go’.
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Like many young people, Lachaux didn’t know what he wanted to be as a teenager. To ensure that the succession of the family domain was not written in the stars. Yet. ‘When I was 16, I helped out for three months in the summer months. And voilà, it was a coup for me. I immediately signed up for the wine course at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune.’
Since 2012, Lachaux has run the family domaine Arnoux-Lachaux with his mother Florence and five full-time employees. ‘I am responsible for all technical aspects of the wine. But everyone does everything. It is our great asset. It’s an art to live, to work well together in a small team.’ Lachaux’s youngest brother Max will soon strengthen the team in Vosne-Romanée. He is still studying viticulture in Switzerland and will soon be doing an internship with winemaker Luca Roagna in Piedmont.
Charles Lachaux has also had his own wine project for a few years now. That project has not missed its start. At the London gala of the Golden Vines Awards last year, Lachaux, sharp in black and white, shone in the spotlight. But he knows all too well the hard, unglamorous side of winemaking. ‘Vigneron’s craftsmanship is warm and makes you dream. Many start, but few break through. I see many businessmen suddenly convert to wine producers. They buy a domain, invest a lot of money, but lack background. I am now 33 and have been in the business for almost 17 years. Half my life, so to speak. So I can say it: it’s hard work.’
Quality Burgundy wines
Even before the global award and the international slide, the quality of Lachaux’s Burgundy wines had already been noticed by a number of wine enthusiasts and wine professionals. “Fortunately,” laughs Lachaux. “This recognition is a huge boost to the reputation of our wines,” he admits. “You know, I used to dream that guests in a restaurant would look admiringly at the table next to them and say “Aha, look, they’re drinking a Lachaux”, as often happens with bottles of Roumier, Romanée-Conti. .. And yes, that dream is now coming true,” he says with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.
‘But’, he says quickly with twinkling eyes, ‘what I enjoy even more intensely is when wine lovers write to us about the feelings that came over them when they drank our wine. It gives me the ultimate satisfaction. I have also been able to taste many special wines myself. I know that feeling.’
‘My parents quickly gave me carte blanche to go my own way. Today it works great. I detest winemaking as taught in school. Focus on oenology, the enzymes… that break the magic. The real magic is when I walk around the wine cellars during the harvest period and take in the aromas of the alcoholic fermentation. And the start of the whole process in the vineyard. I work organically and biodynamically. I let the grapes grow in the most natural way possible. I grow herbs between the vines, I hardly till the soil anymore… Traditional farming tends to do unnatural things. I let nature take its course.’ At the risk of him getting fewer grapes? “That’s right,” says Lachaux. And yet I try to intervene as little as possible. I don’t call it farming myself, but horticulture. We pick away a bush of weeds here and there, that’s all.’
Is it true that Lachaux picks much earlier than the winegrowers in the area? ‘Yes. Why? I leave about five times more leaves on the vine, so I only have a quarter of the harvest of the grapes. Photosynthesis allows these grapes to reach full phenolic maturity more quickly, but with less alcohol potential. It benefits the unique elegance. As a winemaker, you can easily adapt to the changing climate.’
What I really enjoy is when wine lovers write to us about the emotions that overcame them when they drank our wine. It gives me the ultimate satisfaction. I have also been able to taste many special wines myself. I know that feeling.
Invest in wine
The beautiful elegance, together with the international prestige of Lachaux wines, attracts more and more buyers. The scarcity caused prices at wine outlets to explode. ‘Regardless of which wine it is, wine is not for speculation’, sighs Lachaux. ‘I’m really not interested in selling my wines to a collector who already has a collection of 20,000 bottles in his cellar and absolutely wants my wines. It serves no purpose. I buy quite a bit of wine myself, and I drink it too. It should happen to my bottles too. My wines are not to be piled up like a trophy, they are to be drunk. Wouldn’t it be nice if you bought one of my bottles for 100 euros and noticed that it would be worth more than ten times today? Just the realization ‘I’m drinking a bottle worth more than a thousand euros here’, isn’t it fun?’
Lachaux points out the risks of wine investments. “Who says the expensive bottle you buy won’t be corked? Who says wine lasts another thirty years? Wine is a perishable product.’
Blockchain and NFT
‘Because prices have gone through in recent months, I want to protect the market and the real wine lover,’ says Lachaux. He recently decided to no longer offer his wines through the regular retail circuit, but through two other channels. You go through your importers. “I have asked them to make a strict selection of serious wine restaurants and wine bars where my wines can be drunk.” In Belgium, he entrusts this task to the wine importer De Windmolen. “I have a special bond with them. They have fresh ideas and with them the wine comes before the business. They are copains and have already harvested two crops. I have already experienced unforgettable moments with them, which still give me goosebumps.’
The second sales channel is the online platform Crurated. His wines sold in this way receive an NFT: a non-fungible token. This is a certificate of ownership registered on a blockchain that guarantees the authenticity and origin of the bottle to the buyer. “It’s a completely new approach to selling wine directly to the consumer,” says Lachaux. Another illustration of the path that the French winegrower will take.
The wines from Charles Lachaux are imported to us by De Windmolen in Eke.
Gerard Basset Foundation
- The Golden Vines Awards were first organized in 2021 by Liquid Icons, founded a few years earlier by Gérard Basset and his good wine friend Lewis Chester. Basset died of cancer in 2019 and was then the only one who could combine the titles of Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Wine MBA, World’s Best Sommelier and Wine Management at the OIV (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin).
- On the one hand, the organizers want to reward some ‘star performers’ from the world of ‘fine wine’ and on the other hand raise money for the Gérard Basset Foundation. This fund funds wine education programs with a special focus on diversity and inclusion. Last year she raised 1.2 million euros. The money goes, among other things, to wine internships and the education of six young sommeliers and winemakers from Ukraine and Armenia. They each receive 20,000 euros.
- The foundation gets its money from donations, which come mainly from wine auctions whose bottles are donated by the most prestigious estates worldwide. A selection of the donors: Krug, Cheval Blanc, Angelus, Yquem, Clos de Tart, Romanée-Conti, Luca Roagna, Frescobaldi, Antinori, Pingus, Barca Velha, Egon Müller, Opus One, Domaine de la Côte, Screaming Eagle, Penfolds…
- The shortlists for the five Golden Vines Awards 2021 were compiled by 442 leading wine professionals from 55 countries. The selection is based on detailed research for the Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report.
- The 2021 shortlist for the Golden Vines World’s Best Rising Star Award: