Domaine du Chenoy – Walloon Region of Belgium
During this visit to the vineyards of Belgium, I made some great encounters and discoveries. Belgian wines are wrongly underestimated. They certainly do not have the great reputation of some wines from its French neighbors, but there is still a growing interest in these new northern domains. Domaine du Chenoy, in the heart of a soft green countryside and on this cloudy November day, Pierre-Marie Despatures is waiting for me.
Their story begins with the arrival of Philippe Grafe in 2003, a well-known person in the wine world, former director of Grafe Lecoq in Namur. A company that mainly imported and still imports from France and then matures in barrels. In particular, they aged Pétrus for Belgium. He was more of specialist of aging rather than a winemaker. Thanks to a friend, he became the purchaser of the Domaine de Chenoy, these 18th century buildings and the 11 hectares of land on a 15% slope, facing south. He quickly realized that the soils were perfectly suited to grow vines. He then became one of the first to believe in this potential.
Historically, Belgium had its periods when vines existed between 1600 and 1800 and then with the climatic cooling the vines were abandoned to make beer, a famous product here today. And then global warming brought the vine back into Belgian territory. Of course, the same grape varieties of that time were not systematically replanted. Moreover, the Domaine has a special organic, local and original credo. By going organic, they create disease-resistant grape varieties, to give themselves the best chances of success. They obtained the official label last year.
It is labelled as local because 99% of their production is sold in Belgium. It’s not that they are opposed to exports, they do some with the closest countries a little bit, but it’s mainly to keep a privileged relation with the customer, a small customer. They don’t do business with large customers by choice. The original side comes from the grape varieties that come mainly from Switzerland and Germany. They don’t try to make wine that resembles the others, and they don’t claim to be in any way close to what is done. It seeks that unique side that is difficult to compare. “He creates more of a terroir than a vineyard,” he says in all modesty. Pierre-Marie and his brother Jean-Bernard, both bio-engineers by training, took over the estate in 2017.
Jean-Bernard returned to his homeland after an exile of several years in Bordeaux to study viticulture with some of the region’s great domains. He brings back with him Éric Boissonnot, oenologist and internationally recognized specialist in the elaboration of the best blended wines to assemble now the wines of Chenoy.
The common objective is to constantly increase the quality of the wines by regular work in the vineyard and an improvement of all the stages of the winemaking process; from the harvest, the vatting, the maceration, the fermentation and of course the maturing.
In short, Domaine Chenoy is:
- 10 hectares and 10 grape varietials, 100% interspecific.
- A production of 60,000 bottles per year. The vinification is like in Bordeaux. Note that the harvest is done by hand.
- In the mouth? The focus is on freshness, fruit and ease of drinking.
- And degree? 12 to 13% alcohol rates.
- With five wines: 45% sparkling, extra brut, Crémant Blanc and Rosé, 55% still wines. 40% first red wine Grand Chenoy and a dry white wine La Citadelle. Including 60% wine Terra Nova.
- The latter is the best known of the range, among other things because it was on the Royal table last year and has been widely advertised ever since.