Tasted in Morey St.Denis with Laurent Lignier, 04 May 2017.
Domaine Hubert Lignier
45, Grande Rue
21220 Morey St.Denis
Tel: +33 3 80 51 87 40
Whilst the official address of the domaine remains the house in the High Street of Morey St.Denis, the day-to-day work of the domaine, including the cuverie, is now (since 2008) set on the Route Nationale near the traffic lights. He may be in his 80s now, but Hubert Lignier still pops in – usually on his bicycle – to see what son Laurent is up to.
From the outside, it’s an imposing house with a massive cedar tree in the garden, indeed the steps down into the cuverie are shaped to avoid its roots. The house had belonged to the owners of the bulk wine seller, Corbet, just across the road, but inside the house is not at all ostentatious and is used as a gite – you may rent it if you wish!
When I visited, work to extend the cuverie was about 75% complete – a large storage area was still to be finished which will sit directly under the steps up to the house. Laurent Lignier was just back from a trip to the US, but had been in constant contact with the team at the domaine because the frost danger was very high – fortunately there was no real damage. Laurent is the 5th generation of the family, since 1880, working the domaine – his great, great-grandfather, Jacques Lignier, was a chef de culture for another domaine with vines across Flagey and Chambolle. It was the time of phylloxera and some people were losing parcels, others were even being paid in parcels of vines, so it was relatively easy to buy land. In Morey St.Denis at the time, there were lots of fruit trees cultivated, also it was a centre for cassis and strawberries – the Gibourgs, for instance, made a lot of cassis. At the bottom of Morey there were many of fruit trees planted amongst the vines.
Jacques’ son, Jules started planting vines about 1920, then Henri too in 1930s. The Georges Lignier and Lignier-Michelot domaines came from that same family line. It was Hubert who was the first one to started ‘domaine bottling’ in the 1970s, and the success that this brought allowed him to buy extra parcels – some in Chambolle for instance. Laurent and his brother Romain worked with their father, Hubert, in the early 1990s before ‘for a little liberty‘ Laurent decided to work instead for Albert Bichot in Beaune. So the domaine was mainly run by Romain from 1992, then from 2006 with Romain’s wife Kellen. That was a time of disagreement between Hubert and Kellen as to the best way forward for the domaine, and Kellen worked effectively as a metayeur so delivered grapes to Hubert (as rent) during this period. Hubert, via the courts, eventually recovered the domaine from Kellen – some vines that were owned by Romain and Kellen are now with the Cave Coopertive de Hautes Côtes. Laurent came back to work with Hubert from 2010. In 2011 much of the produce was sold in grapes – Laurent sharing his time between Bichot and home. The domaine was reconstituted in 2013, but between 2009 and 2014 Laurent had bought some parcels in Pommard, followed by some Nuits and a little Bourgogne Pinot Noir – next to Nuits Poisets. Today the domaine exploits about 9 hectares of their own vines but Laurent has also been developing a merchanting side to the business, buying grapes – “Complimentary appellations of about 4 ha worth; Morey Très Girard and Riottes, some Gevrey and Chambolle, including Griotte-Chambertin and Chabiots” – all vinified at the domaine. “We make a green harvest if needed, some leaf-thinning and then harvest ourselves. I buy from people who respect the soil – just like the bio conversion here. I’ve been buying over 10 years, starting with some St.Romain blanc in 2004 and Hospices de Nuits Les Didiers since 2005 – 6-11 barrels each year depending on the price-quality.”
Regarding Laurents change of approach i the vines “I’m convinced that products used in the vines have a cause and effect on people’s health, so 2011 was the first year of starting a conversion to bio. You have to expect many things, and certainly a better aeration brings many benefits.” More and more whole clusters are being used here too, up to 25% – historically all was destemmed. “We have old vines with lots of millerandes and these are not easy to destem – if we try, very often the smallest grapes stay on the stems, so are lost. I make a little layering of the whole-clusters and destemmed grapes, cooling the tanks for 5-8 days before the onset of the fermentation. All see barrel elevage except the aligoté – 10-33% new oak from Bourgogne to the grand cru. I like the terroir to be the dominant characteristic so it’s a little less new oak than was once used. I use 4 different coopers because I like the variety and diversity – long and medium toast but not a strong toast. I’m also looking to keep some lees – it’s like the placenta of the wine in gestation. The 2015s are still in barrel, for bottling in a couple of months. I will only use gravity – no pumps. The same for bottling.”
Whilst work continues on the cuverie extension, the barrel cellar was finished in Spring 2014, and everything is already sold from this vintage, the domaine only managed to keep about 60 bottles for their ‘library.’ The domaine exports about 80% of production – Neal Rosenthal, in the US, is the biggest buyer, and for 40 years. Next is Japan, selling there for 30 years, with the UK market in third place for exports – France is actually the largest single market with about 20% of the sales, all to cavistes and to restaurants.
In 2016 the harvest volumes were good in both Morey and Gevrey, but about 50% of the Chambolle villages was lost to the frost, and just a little less in the Chambolle 1er. Aligoté and Bourgogne Pinot Noir saw 70%-80% losses. These regionals were bottled at the start of the year.
A really great result here, and many of the négoce wines are really just as good as those from the domaine:
Bottled. 66% gamay, same Parcel with 10 rows of pinot fin, planted in 2000. No new oak. Lost 60% in 16.
Deep, impressive aroma, a hint of reduction but energy and interest too. Hmm, big wine with lots of concentration and a slightly saline complexity. Yum!
Bottled. This cuvée was originally from two vines; Chambolle and Nuits, vinified separately and then blended before bottling. But now this is just from Nuits, the cuvées having been separated since 2014 – vines planted in ’87.
Wide, silky, very attractive fruit with a gorgeous floral lift. Hmm, delicious really wide, beautiful floral fruit. Fine energy and simply vibrating all the way into the finish. Bravo, great bourgogne!
All the following from barrel:
2015 Chambolle-Musigny Les Bussieres
Next to Roumier’s Clos de la Bussiere – 0.5 ha
A more overt oak – here, creamy with red fruit. Very fine, vibrant fruit from these 50 year-old vines. A little barrel texture, but long, long, long. Yum!
2015 Morey St.Denis Cuvée Trilogie
Name from 3 lieu dits combined – just less than 1 ha assembled.
A deep nose with a faint reduction. Hmm, super depth of flavour here, a modest tannic texture, faintly saline and licorice. Super density here. Yum again!
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Seuvrées
Between Morey and Gevrey below Mazoyeres – about 1 ha. 25% wc like the last wine.
A tighter nose, dark red fruit with and an almost blackberry element. Supple, mobile, energetic wine with a super texture. Finishing a little saline again.
2015 Nuits St.Georges Les Poisets,
A new parcel, below les Cailles, bought in 2010
Good width but a tightness to the depth. Super line, concentration and a growing intensity of flavour. Fresh, super wine.
2015 Pommard Les Chanlins
At the limit of Volnay, next to Rugiens, but villages classification.
A twist of oak but a generally very attractive nose. Plenty of volume in the mouth, a very finely grained tannin, wide, saline and layered flavour. Ooh this is good! A fine panorama of a finish too!
2015 Pommard En Brescul
On the limit of Beaune, about 20-year-old vines. Three terraces that look to the Clos des Mouches
A fresher and more floral nose of super depth. A little mover overt texture from the tannin, but ripe tannin, and this has a super width of flavour. Modestly oaked for now, but lovely mouth-watering flavour. Super!
A negoce wine, label Hubert Lignier, not Domaine Hubert Lignier. After the cemetery, at the bottom of Clos Sorbé
A very perfumed nose, elegant flowers finishing with the fruit. Hmm, super depth and layers of flavour – fully destemmed this year. Elegant but concentrated. Super!
Below Amoureuses, a negoce wine.
Again very perfumed but much more to the floral side. Really a big nose when compared to the modest colour. More brightness, more overt floral references in the flavour. Really gorgeous finishing layers of flavour too. A beauty!
2015 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Baudes
From above Bonnes Mares
Much deeper colour. A tighter nose but of fine purity. More volume, more concentration. Less perfume, less energy, but more layered concentration. Saline. Mineral finishing. Bigger wine, less giving today. But lovely stuff.
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Perrières
Beautiful perfume, floral and mineral too. Direct, a super line of narrow but beguiling flavour. Long and really beautiful wine…
2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Combottes
Planted in 1957.
A nicely attractive width of aroma but rather tight below. Big, bright, energetic, really an extra intensity. More serious, a little more rigour vs the the Perrières but beautifully long with a little fruit stone… A lovely silky wine.
2015 Morey St.Denis 1er Chenevery
North of Morey, ‘giving structured and coloured wines.’
Wide and fresh – it’s a nice perfume edged with some oak. Hmm. A great line of fresh flavour, intense, with a modest grain of tannin, structured and very tasty, with plenty of salinity and finishing width.
2015 Morey St.Denis 1er La Riotte
A nice volume of aroma, dark-red fruited, even as the faint reduction fades – lovely purity here. There’s more of a melting width of flavour, more modestly structured too, slowly melting flavour over the palate. Saline finishing again – maybe the barrel regime. But simply lovely stuff.
Not a massive volume of aroma but a beautiful purity of aroma. Very wide, a little mineral, gorgeously textured. Hmm a beautiful thing!
Next to road, on top of Mazoyères, a car crashed in there recently, destroyed 27 60-year-old vines. Just now replanted.
A tight nose, but with a fine purity. Good volume in the mouth, and it keeps growing – great concentration, and nicely textured too. A bright and beautifully finishing line of flavour here. Really excellent….
The part on high, near Clos St.Denis, 0.5 of 1.5 ha owned.
A vibrant and pure nose – really superb. Lots of flavour dimension, lots of energy, a little ripe tannin. Hmm this is a beauty! Lots of tension and direction here.
A blend of Faconnières and one-third Chenevery, a single parcel over the two lieu-dits, always harvested together. Planted in 1936 for the oldest part. VV on the label since the 1980s, never much more than 25 hl/ha, very little soil here.
The first wine with a little spice element, then growing, generous fruit. Another wine with a fine and fresh volume – a more gentle texture here. Just a superb wine!
2 parcels, 0.65 ha in Monts Louisants, and 0.25 ha in Fremiers on the limit of Clos St.Denis – when they bought their Clos de la Roche it was full of goats and sheep but no vines…
Great colour. A wide and mineral freshness – great purity yet still a little tight. Just a fabulous texture; lithe, mobile wine, a hint of oak, but layers of flavour with a little mineral base. Extra wide and with freshness in the finish. Persistent in the finish too. Really super. A richness and salinity in the finish yet always with freshness…
80 years old vines, 0.4 ha but only 2 barrels in 2016
This has a great nose – top to bottom freshness, faintly citrus – no oak here. A little pineapple freshness, but depth of flavour too – really a great combination of concentration and yet freshness. Wide and long finishing. A super aligoté – particularly the nose, its such an invitation!