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Maison Lucien Lemoine – Beaune

DSC06706Tasted in Beaune with Mounir Saouma, 13 May 2015.

Lucien Le Moine LM.SAS
1 Ruelle Morlot
21200 Beaune
Tel: +33 3 80 24 99 98
www.lucienlemoine.com

I’ve been waiting a long time to pay a visit to this address…

Lucien Lemoine is a small négoce that was established by husband and wife, Mounir and Rotem Saouma in 1999. They are a great team and they seem to operate unlike any other producer I know.

I visited to taste, sharing the appointment with a troupe of high-flyers – we often tasted at quite some speed, so forgive the occasional ‘minimalist’ wine note.

Mounir is in his element as he hosts half a dozen tasters in his cellar – he’s a great character and clearly a great salesman too. Of-course a great salesman is wasting his talent if the product is lacking – I can say hand-on-heart that none of these products were lacking. Mounir describes his premises more as a library than a winery – and why not!

With the last full moon, they have moved their 2013 1er Crus, with all their lees from barrel to tank. The grand crus remain, un-moved, in their barrels. In this 2013 vintage they have assembled 82 different wines which should deliver, 36,000 bottles – 35 of those cuvees are single barrel sized. And what is Mounir’s secret recipe for his wines?

”If you want purity, you shouldn’t always be present. I try to find the best person for the best barrel – always looking for best producer of a particular cru then beg for 1 barrel. Buying grapes is vulgar we cannot have the same knowledge of the land and grapes as the producers – we believe in our producers.

“We buy from 80 different people. Always with lees, and when I don’t think we have enough lees, we ask for more from the pressing. I want 5-7 litres of lees – just Like you buy orange juice cloudy, wine is the same – normally today its 1-2 litres of lees in a barrel.

“Whites also, it’s different here; we buy when they press, with lots of lees, then have an elevage in cold cellars, with late ferments and malos. It’s 18 months before sulfur. Important here is purity. The whites are also never racked and sulfured…”

And the 2014s?
”The 2014s are still fermenting – no malos yet – elevage can be 18-24 months, the wine will decide. It’s very much like the old days, rather than the modern vernacular – so no sulfuring after 6 months. Many producers’ 14s are already sulfured after finishing alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. We try to leave the wines as long as possible without sulfur, allowing them to grow. We just added 15-20mg of sulfur when assembling, but we have 1000mg of CO2 a so big splash decanting is required – and you should do this aggressively!”

The wines…

And what wines. It’s incredible to think that here I’m tasting 2013s from barrel (or tank!) at the same time I’m tasting 2014s from barrel at other estates. I’d often assumed that I would be assailed by oak at this address, but not a bit of it – in many cases I can only say ‘bravo!’ They work together with barrel supplier, Stéphane Chassin, aiming to match the right barrel to each given wine. The wood is very fine-grained, and all cuvées use only new wood.

I’m lucky to taste at many estates, but it’s only a handful of times per year that an indelible impression is made. This was one of them.

Mounir observes that ”The most important part of a wine is its purity of its aftertaste.” There are many high scores in this cellar when ranked from that perspective!

With the hindsight of another 6 months of elevage (for those that didn’t bottle in 2014) I really think that today you can position the 2013 vintage as excellent, whereas in November-December last year, I could only say ‘very good.’

2013 Beaune 1er Clos des Mouches
Part not harvested.
A really modest nose. Big, round, intense flavour – gets bigger in the mid-palate and finishes long and perfumed. Faintly rustic but a baby… And what an impressive baby!

2013 Volnay 1er Santenots
A nice, wide, almost textured nose. Nicely architectural, a really lovely shape in the mouth – real finesse for a Santenots, and very transparent. Beautiful, faintly salty, stony weight in the perfumed finish – Excellent!

2013 Volnay 1er Caillerets
Faintly reduced, though wide and transparent but very modest. This is also more transparent, maybe a faint pyrazine, but beautiful in the mid-palate – really brilliantly finish – wow!
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux St.Jacques
”For a lot of people, Lavaux is a massive wine – when you over-extract, you miss the point.”
Beautiful perfume. Cool fruit, complex, again beautiful mid-palate flavour. Brilliant. With a faint dryness of extract in the finish…
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Estournelles St.Jacques
”A bridge between the wildness and beauty of Gevrey.”
Perfumed again, but with more aromatic padding. Here is a more obvious structure but a beautiful mouth-watering, sweet flavour. Again a beauty of a wine!

2013 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Hautes Doix
A sweetness of fruit that’s also faintly mineral. A wide perspective of fruit, growing concentration and faint tannin texture. Really a great finish – excellent!

2013 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses
Here the nose is more direct, with a growing width. Cool fruit, very forward, transparent, dynamic wine. Gorgeous. Easily the best finish so far.

Then a quick-fire tasting of grand crus from barrel, in each case we were told the wine after we’d tasted it:

1. The biggest, most forward nose so far. This is beautiful, transparent, a little mineral. A long, long, line of flavour. Simply gorgeous. It’s Clos de Vougeot

2. Not so wide, higher toned, also with more bass aromas. More structure and very good complexity. Fine. It’s Echezeaux

3. Beautiful aromatics, cooler fruit, complex and transparent. Plenty of mid-palate structure and a slowly mouth-watering flavour. Charmes-Chambertin

4. Also cool fruit, but here is more energy and dimension, lots of mouth-watering complexity, and very fine finishing indeed. Great Clos de la Roche – packed full of energy.

5. Almost a saline edge to the nose. Faintly reduced, plenty of tannin, growing mouth-watering flavour. A relatively rustic, yet brilliant wine. The last drops in the glass becoming more floral. Clos Saint Denis.

6. Fine red-shaded core of modest fruit. Ouf! – Brilliant flavour, such a flamboyant wine. Really quite something! Griotte-Chambertin.

7. Big, high-toned fruit. ”The wild and the beauty together.” Beautiful, complex, understated (after Griotte) but beautifully complex in the finish too. Mazis-Chambertin.

8. Beautiful. The nose is rather direct, modest but haunting. Much more saline and a very wide flavour panorama. The finish is discreet, but very long. Clos de Bèze.

9. Very floral and appealing. Lots of mouth perfume, fine growing complexity, the finish is very discreet but holds a very persistent note – impressively so… Northern Bonnes-Mares.

10. Wow, even more floral. The palate, is very mouth-watering, again. Really differentiated by a gorgeous finish. Southern Bonnes-Mares.

11. Here the structure is more accentuated, but it’s a beautifully floral wine. This is the blend of the two Bonnes-Mares.

12. A high-toned muskiness and faint reduction. The flavour profile grows and grows, decent structure too – but hang on a minute, what a haunting flavour. Bravo! Grands-Echézeaux.

13. A modest nose. Sweetness of fruit – indeed a great core of almost citrus flavour – beautiful. Really, long finishing too. Excellent wine. Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Gaudichots.

The whites…
There has been neither racking nor sulfur additions yet.

Mounir is playing with us – the first blind white turns out to be a Côte de Rhone white he’s made: Very forward aroma, bright. A little cushioned, a little perfume to the sweet, ripe fruit.

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Grand Montagne
Not to be bottled before 24 months.
A round, welcoming Chassagne nose. Very fine complexity and lovely energy. Super!

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er La Romanée
A little more weight of aroma, more transparency, indeed beautiful clarity – gorgeous ‘creme brulee au citron.’
2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Les Caillerets
Complex wide nose. The clarity of the last with just a little more brilliance of flavour and an extra dimension in the mid-palate flavour. Some dry extract in the finish too.

2013 Puligny-Montrachet 1er La Garenne
A softer, sweeter nose. Big and round, growing sweetness with fine acidity.

2013 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Folatieres
Plenty of complexity. More width, more lemon, roast lemons – really obvious in the finish… Super wine.

2013 Meursault-Blagny 1er La Piece Sous le Bois
A more direct acidity and fine balanced flavour. Really a lovely fresh citrus – long again with yellow fruit super.

2013 Meursault 1er Les Genevrières
A wide horizon of faintly complex aromas, and faint ginger cake. Very fine and fresh, beautiful piercing citrus fruit, simply gorgeous Genevrières – I haven’t tasted better this year.

2013 Corton-Charlemagne
Deep, faintly reduced, green-skinned fruit. Lovely growth of flavour. Only slowly attenuating long flavour.

2013 Corton-Charlemagne 2
Also a little green fruit reduction, but silkier. Bigger, wider, more complex. Much bigger finishing and staying wide in the finish.

2013 Criots Bâtard-Montrachet
Wide fresh but with weight and complexity – brilliant. Round but complex and energetic. A faint savoury note in the background, super-long, almost with a toffee impression.
2013 Bâtard-Montrachet
A rounder but less impressive nose, understated and pretty though. Direct, mineral, growing intensity – brilliant intensity – it’s faintly salted and mineral finishing. Exceptionally long – wow wine!

2013 Chevalier-Montrachet
Wide, silky, more contemplative. beautiful, silky, complex, relatively modest after the last wine. But fine, fine, fine…

2013 Montrachet 1
A stony depth here. Growing wider and wider in the glass. This is a wine that grows and grows in the mouth too, really not so wide, but very, very long….

2013 Montrachet 2
These are south and north vines. “In years where the blend is not the best, we don’t blend the 2 cuvées. This chassagne side.
More impressive aromatics. Bigger, rounder, more obvious concentration. More oak, more an Ardbeg peatiness?

2013 Montrachet 3 – The blend
Wide, more floral. Also in the mouth, this is really super – and, luckily for Mounir, the best!

2 responses to “Maison Lucien Lemoine – Beaune”

  1. kmilani

    Bill,

    It was reassuring to hear that even a professional taster had a difficult time writing notes while keeping pace with Mounir.

    Regarding the 100% new oak regimen, samples from the barrel infrequently show the effect of it. However, I find the whites can show considerable vanilla and coconut when poured from the bottle, at ages 2 to say 5 years. Of course Mounir scolded me for drinking them so young! Recently, I tasted a 2008 Corton blanc that was remarkably delicious, rich and balanced with no obvious oak. Likewise a 2002 Corton Charlemagne tasted in 2012. Nor were either oxidized.

    The reds can show a deep smokiness when 3 – 6 years but the texture and intensity and brilliance of the fruit make for a captivating drink when young.

    The consistent use of new oak for whites and reds of 1er Cru and occasionally village level is unique, don’t you think? I should curtail my whining and wondering about it and just bide time since my small sampling is convincing me the wines do harmonize with some years in the bottle.

    cheers!

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