As unpretentious as it is simple; Hubert Lamy – Vigneron. It says much about the domaine.
The sign is to be found on their impressive and relatively new cuverie on the edge of the village of Saint-Aubin. There are records of Lamys growing vines in Saint-Aubin since 1640 – today the domaine is run by Olivier Lamy who recently took over from his father. The domaine produces around 8,500 cases of red and white wine from their 16.5 hectares; the vines are spread around the Côte de Beaune villages of Saint-Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Santenay. Since 1997 all the production has been bottled at the domaine, prior to this the Lamys supplied wine to the negociants of Beaune. The output is high quality, their Saint-Aubins in particular are often superior to wines from more fashionable villages, wines that often sell for twice the price, or more…
To an extent he may have been sidelined as a premier-league Burgundy critic, but a certain Robert M.Parker Junior nailed this in his 1990 book – Burgundy:
“A star of the 1990’s?… Not every appellation in Burgundy produces overpriced, over-exposed, over glamorous wines that require you to take out a second mortgage on your home to purchase them. Saint-Aubin is a Burgundy lover’s paradise. It is filled with young, aggressive, and ambitious growers, and possesses some excellent vineyards poised to produce both top-quality red and white Burgundy.”
Saint-Aubin produces on average:
- 134,000 bottles of ‘villages’ red wine (21,2 Ha)
- 237,700 bottles of ‘1er Cru’ red wine (37,7 Ha)
- 138,100 bottles of ‘villages’ white wine (19,3 Ha)
- 491,900 bottles of ‘1er Cru’ white wine (68,4 Ha)
There are actually two villages that are a source for Saint-Aubin wines; separated by little more than a road they are Saint-Aubin and Gamay. The wines of Gamay (the village not the grape – though it is said that the grape was named after this tiny village) are also classed as Saint-Aubin.
Bordering both Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet the wines can have elements of both, apart from – as we heard – the prices. The village High Street really does go higher and higher as you head towards the (currently undergoing restoration) church. Even as you exit the village, heading roughly west, you still head-on up – eventually the vines are classed as Hautes Côtes because of their elevation. To the east of the village you head towards Puligny and my personal favourite vineyard – Les Murgers des Dents de Chien – named after the small stones in the vineyard that resemble dog’s teeth. This 1er Cru borders Montrachet – in this case the name of the woody hill that tops the Montrachet vineyard rather than the vineyard itself. When you are driven around the vineyard you can see how ‘non-homogenous’ it is; up, down and lots of different exposures. Talking of driving…
In the passenger seat with Olivier
When I visited on a cold and snowy January day I was lucky enough to get a tour of Olivier’s vineyards by Land-Rover; four wheel drive was definitely a prerequisite as the vineyards are anything but flat, sometimes even precipitous; add 2 or 3 inches of snow into the mix and it was getting more fun by the minute…
Olivier gained experience at Méo-Camuzet before taking over the domaine full-time, his father Hubert is still to be found helping with the viticulture. Olivier was quite busy from the start; it wasn’t just a case of bottling all the domaine’s wine, there were some vineyards to be grubbed up or sold off too, concentrating only on those with the most potential. It wasn’t just a case of buying and selling vineyards, there was also a program of experimentation in the vineyard – not just their lutte raisonnée approach, but also experimentation with planting densities to capture even more from the terroirs. The vineyards typically have a limestone base and are very stony, only 10 to 30 cm of soil with southern or south-eastern exposures.
The vines are trained as Guyot or Cordon Royat, de-budding starts in May. No artificial fertiliser has been used for 10+ years only a little compost.
Things didn’t stand still in the cuverie either; Olivier is, for instance, always checking out new suppliers of barrels, sources of oak and currently with barrel size – there are quite a number of 600 litre tonneaux in the cellar as Olivier tries to retain the purity of his fruit whilst getting just the right balance of oxygenation and benefit from the wood. Yields are kept low by using a selection table in the cuverie to augment the work in the vineyard. Alongside the experimentation the vinifications are ‘traditional’, the wines being matured in normal size oak casks (20-30% new) for 12 months before bottling – if the wines need it there is a light filtration. Retaining one extra element of tradition, the Lamys decided there was no need to change the name of the domaine once Olivier took charge.
2003 and all that…
It was typical that my first visit chez Lamy would coincide with the 2003 vintage, a vintage that, in whites at least, has little in common with my own palate, from my side there was interest, even begrudging admiration but only one or two wines that I might actually consider to purchase. Sounds bad, but like life in general there was balance; the 2003 reds were really impressive and the 2004 whites tasted from barrel were beguiling – if these wines retain only 80% of their aromatics and balance post malo, I will be buying…
Olivier says that because there was so much extreme heat, some of the grapes on the southwest-facing slopes dried out – areas like Chassagne had real problems, fortunately the east-facing vines escaped much of the damage, the cooler climates such as Saint Aubin faired reasonably well.
Some vineyards experienced yields well below half the normal, this was very-much dependant on the age as well as the position of the vines. The older the vines, the less they had problems because their deeper roots had better access to water.
Overall, yields were down between a third and a half, compared to a normal year.
a bunch of worthy wines
14% natural. Medium-plus colour. The nose is both heady and and a little alcoholic. Fat with very big fruit, raisins on the finish. This is a big friendly wine.
14.5% A similar blast of fruit but just a little fresher than the Santenay, a little mint on the nose too. Again a big, ripe, fruity aspect – even better acidity than the Santenay, higher levels of tannin, but well grained.
A less forceful, blacker nose – more style. This, despite the ripeness has really fresh acidity, good tannins and an equally good finish. Very tasty.
The nose is fresh and interesting, ripe but not overly. A very dense expression of fruit, excellent acidity that flows into the long finish. The tannins are fine but a little dry and cling to the side of your mouth. Again good balance despite the ripeness.
A deep core of concentrated fruit. More obvious tannic structure for this wine. Whereas I’d happily drink any of the previous wines today, this begs 2 or 3 years in the cellar.
These are all monsters, but they are very well behaved and balanced monsters! To finish a very interesting novelty…
1997 Late-Harvest Chardonnay
Purely an internal wine, so not for sale. 13% with 80g/L residual sugar. The last pick for this wine was in November. Interesting but very heavy nose. On the palate there’s really surprising balance and it’s very tasty. I can understand why late-harvest wines are not typically made from chardonnay, but this has more than a hint of interest.
Domaine Hubert Lamy
Rue des Lavières
+33 3 80 21 32 55 – Tel
+33 3 80 21 38 32 – Fax