Profile: Domaine Lignier-Michelot (Morey St.Denis)

Update 7.10.2009(8.9.2008)billn

lignier-michelot morey saint denis

Virgile Lignier is the third generation of his family to work the vines of Morey St.Denis. He started to work with his father in 1988 at which time all the wine was sold in barrel to the négoce. Virgile says that his father, Maurice, was a good winemaker so he convinced him to start bottling some of his produce for the first time in 1992. Year on year the proportion of own-bottled wine increased until 2000 when everything was done this way. Virgile’s father stopped working in 2002, but 2000 was actually the first vintage where Virgile made all the decisions.

The Vines

Virgile’s 8.5 hectare domaine specialises in Morey St.Denis: There is the villages cuvée of Morey St.Denis Vieilles Vignes which is a blend of Très Girard, Cougets and Chenevery – the Cougets was classed as Bourgogne 20 years earlier – plus the villages Morey St.Denis En la Rue de Vergy whose vines sit just above the Clos de Tart. Then there are three 1er cru Moreys; Cheneverys, Aux Charmes and Faconnières before we move to his two Morey Grand Crus; Clos de la Roche from just below Ponsot’s Monts Luisants section, and a tiny parcel of Clos St.Denis which produces only one barrel.

The Clos de la Roche is a mix of 45 and 18 year-old vines, whereas the Clos St.Denis vines were replanted in 2003. To round off his range, Virgile has tow villages cuvées from either side of Morey; a Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes and also a Gevrey-Chambertin. Virgile is very fortunate as a number of his holdings are parcels of old vines, including 50 year-old vines in Chambolle, and each of his three 1er cru Moreys, where the vines range between 55 to 60 years-old. In 2006, about 60,000 bottles were produced.

BGO – CUVEE AXELLEWhite0.48 ha1992240 cases
BOURGOGNE ROUGERed0.39 ha1966195 cases
CHAMBOLLE MUSIGNYRed1.48 ha1965625 cases
GEVREY CHAMBERTINRed0.53 ha1969224 cases
MOREY ST DENIS EN LA RUE DE VERGYRed1.9 ha1975844 cases
MOREY ST DENIS 1ER CRU AUX CHARMESRed0.25 ha195496 cases
CLOS DE LA ROCHERed0.27 ha1968-199390 cases


Wine making

virgile lignier of lignier-michelotFather and son had worked well together, and without conflict, but in 2000, right from the start, Virgile chose to make changes that reflected his own philosophy – mainly in the vines. Green pruning and working the soil without herbicides were the starting point, but there were also some changes in the cuverie; a sorting table for the grapes and more new barrels for the elevage.

Virgile describes his wine making as ‘traditional vinification’; destemming (usually 100%), a short 5 day cool maceration with fermentation starting naturally thereafter – the vinification is usually about 20 days and there is no post-fermentation heating. There is much tasting to decide on the punch-down regime – and it is often tailored to each cuvée. Francois Freres is the main choice for barrels with medium toast Alliers and a little Vosges wood. As the barrel cellar cannot be extended from it’s current capacity of 130 casks, time in barrel is limited to 12-16 months.

There are typically 1 or 2 rackings; one for making the blends if required, and the second before bottling, which is done without filtration. Virgile also looks to make these operations in-line with a good phase of the moon.

And what is Virgile looking for in his wines? “Wine with good fruit, good ripeness and a good balance”. He can achieve this with yields of 40-45 hectolitres per hectare for the Villages and 1er crus, and 35-40 hectolitres per hectare for the grand crus. Of-course it is vintage dependent, for example he needed to make a very strict triage of the grapes in 2004, but was very happy with the final result.

A selection of Morey wines

2006 Lignier-Michelot, Morey St.Denis En la Rue de Vergytry to find this wine...
The nose is deep and shows a little minerality and fine herbs over subtle red fruit. Ripe with very nice texture – you can still feel the oak as you move into the finish, but this will soften and there is good length. A nice wine in the making.

2006 Lignier-Michelot, Morey St.Denis Vieilles Vignestry to find this wine...
The aromatics start a little reduced, but 2 minutes and a few swirls and it is clear; again red fruit and nice herbs. The palate shows an extra, more serious depth of structure before providing a burst of interest in the mid palate. Slowly fading into the finish. Again a worthy buy.

2006 Lignier-Michelot, Morey St.Denis 1er Les Cheneverystry to find this wine...
The nose shows a fine and spicy bouquet garni over deep red and black fruit. Concentrated, and showing a little texture to the tannins, but it’s well balanced and the fruit flavours have an extra depth that embed their flavour into your tongue – lovely length.

2006 Lignier-Michelot, Morey St.Denis 1er Les Faconnièrestry to find this wine...
A little more red and cream to go with the bouquet garni, just a hint of creme brulee too. Really executive texture – plenty of svelte tannin. Perfect balance, the fruit that follows just grows and grows on the tongue. Again this shows some oak flavour and texture on the finish, but it will soon fade. A super buy.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 5 responses to “Profile: Domaine Lignier-Michelot (Morey St.Denis)”

  1. Pierre-Alexandre Humblot6th October 2010 at 4:36 pmPermalinkReply

    I just drank recently 2 MSD 1er Cru (Chenevery and Faconnieres) in the much-criticized 2004 vintage. Well, not the slightest hint of the green trait so often associated with this vintage. The wines also feel like they have enough ripeness and stuffing.

    They drink very nicely. That begs the question as to why some domaines were able to avoid the problem.


    • billn6th October 2010 at 4:55 pmPermalinkReply

      Thanks for your comment Pierre-Alexandre. Please note that there are no absolutes here; many of Fourrier’s wines are ‘clean’ to me but not his Morey. Likewise Lignier-Michelot’s Chambolle ‘Gammaires’ is not clean to me. All I can say is that some domaines did better for my level of sensitivity, but some people might be more sensitive and disagree even with that statement.

  2. Paul Wilton4th November 2012 at 4:16 pmPermalinkReply

    I am off to Burgundy in a couple of weeks. Does anyone have an email address for Virgile Lignier as i would like to pop in here for a look!

    Thanks all,


  3. goughie1318th October 2014 at 8:42 pmPermalinkReply

    Good piece. I’d like to meet Virgile and know his wines better albeit my own time is always invariably taken up with another Morey domaine dear to me 🙂 . The photo though so reminds me of the Arlaud vendage team in its disparate make-up. Wonder if Lignier-Michelot have an English vendangeur in their midst – probably not I guess !

  4. Peter Bamford17th October 2015 at 8:07 pmPermalinkReply

    Bill, your review was of some of the estate’s 2006s. I’ve come by a couple of bottles of “Virgile Lignier” 2006 Clos St Denis. It’s labelled like that, rather than Lignier-Michelot, and, from your information, would be made from 3 year old vines. Any ideas to explain all this? Actually instead a negotiant wine he made?! Many thanks

    • billn18th October 2015 at 1:14 pmPermalinkReply

      Hi Peter
      As far as I’m aware, all ‘Virgile Lignier’ wines are ‘maison’ as opposed to domaine
      Cheers, Bill

  5. Peter Bamford18th October 2015 at 4:34 pmPermalinkReply

    Hmmm, I’ve been mis-sold, then: sold as L-M, with critics’ reviews appended. I’ll keep it, though; I’m doubting it’ll be bad wine as such. Many thanks.

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