Profile: Thibault Liger-Belair (Nuits St.Georges)

Update 21.9.2020(24.9.2014)billn

DSC04560Tasted in Nuits St.Georges with Thibault Liger-Belair, 27 June 2014.

Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair
32 rue Thurot
21700 Nuits St.Georges
Tel: +33 3 80 61 51 16

To be honest, it’s taken me many years to make this first visit chez Thibault, the reason being that I usually found the wines aromatically a little too (toasty) oaky for my taste. It was a note of wood toast that I found distracting, but at a tasting in Lausanne last year, Thibault had some slightly more mature bottles – 2008, 2007 and these seems absolutely fine. Actually, not just fine but very agreeable indeed. Okay, time to give it a try!

Actually, I have to be thankful that I got an appointment, domaines such as this are over-run with requests to taste – if they agreed to all, there would be no wine left to bottle!

The domaine is housed in a big old family house on the main road of Nuits.St.Georges – it once housed the operation of Bertrand Marchard de Gramont. The Liger-Belairs were a négoce family since 1720, but not vignerons – to work the vines was considered a peasant’s occupation. On his side of the family, Thibault is the first vigneron despite being the 9th generation in the wine business. Of-course, Thibault is related to Louis-Michel Liger-Belair – their great-grandfathers were brothers, but their respective wine businesses separated their operations in the 1930s.

Thibault was brought-up in Paris but loved the weekends and holidays that the family spent near the vines – so much so, that he knew what he wanted as a career, and started his training in Beaune at the age of 16. The family had many vines out on long-term leases, but kit takes time to get them back again – that, and the vineyards might not be in great shape once returned! Thibault began in 2002 with 9 hectares, immediately deciding to move away from chemical treatments in the hope that he could return some life to the soils he had. One step further, he started to manage his vines Biodynamically from 2004, noting “I really saw the difference already in 2005!”

In 2008 Thibault acquired a domaine in the Beaujolais; 11 hectares, headquartered in Moulin-à-Vent. Everything is still vinified in Moulin-à-Vent, but the elevage of these wines is in Nuits St.Georges where he can keep a close eye on them.

A ‘third arm’ to Liger-Belair is a small négoce operation. Thibault buys grapes, but prefers to do so close to the harvest, so he’s sure he likes the grapes. So far he says he’s had some ‘nice results.’ Thibault says that he has two teams at harvest; the ‘A’ team triage at the vines, the other team make a normal triage before the destemmer, but then make a second (third) triage after the grapes have been destemmed.

Since 2005, Thibault has chosen a type of oak (tree) for each wine, but decides this only after fermentation. He’s looking for fine-grained wood, with only 5-7 minutes of charring. He likes (as we can see below) to do a long elevage too.

About 80% of this domaines wines are exported from France.

The wines…

2012 Moulin-à-Vent Les Vieilles-Vignes
All destemmed. Just bottling…
This is not overtly gamay in character, showing a pretty, almost silky nose. Round, not much fat, and with a growing fresh intensity. Lovely intense length too.

2012 Bourgogne Grands Chaillots
There are also a few villages purchases that have been declassified into this blend. Again 100% destemmed and all the elevage in barrel.
The nose shows a depth of fruit that’s really impressive. In the mouth it’s more succulent but less muscled that the MàV – yet shows very good density in the mid-palate. Just another brilliant 2012 Bourgogne Rouge!

2012 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Clos du Prieuré
“The soil is white here, and the reflection of light makes a big difference.” Also 100% destemmed.
The nose has a hint of reduction but above, there are beautiful higher tones, and delicate fruit that’s hinting at flowers. there’s a little more tannin here but this is still very fine, with a high-toned flavour that reflects the nose. A super stony length too!

2012 Nuits St.Georges La Charmotte
Next to Les Bouselottes 1er Cru. Here, 30% whole clusters were retained – “but there’s no recipe.”
Here is a very lovely depth of aroma – fresh but ripe dark cherry, with super focus. Fuller, with more velvet to the texture. A little more lithe and mineral too – certainly extra clarity in the mid-palate to go with the long mineral finish.

2012 Gevrey-Chambertin
From east of the RN on red soil that’s low on limestone. 50% whole-clusters used here, but they are introduced into the tank in ‘layer-cake’ fashion: destemmed, not destemmed, destemmed, not destemmed. Just 2 pigeages.
Here there’s a core of redder, ripe fruit aroma – almost approaching orange. In the mouth it starts very silky, though the tannin does slowly build. This shows a higher-toned fruit, more complex perhaps, wider too and even manages to hold that width in the finish.

2012 Aloxe-Corton 1er La Toppe au Vert
Bought grapes here – plenty of limestone in the soil, sited next to Corton-Vergennes, but the soil is no more than 40cm deep.
Beautiful, elegant red fruit – not the classic, powerful Aloxe 1er. Rounder, and again very red fruited in the mouth – I find this layered and very elegant.

2012 Vosne-Romanée Aux Réas
Lots of limestone and rock in the soil here, and no whole clusters.
A totally different nose – crystalline and mineral – its gorgeous. Lithe and energetic, showing clarity and growing weight. Super mid-palate flavour and a long finish. This is very gorgeous, but elegant rather than powerful. Super!

2012 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Gruenchers
Bought grapes from just below Les Fuées.
A depth of fruit aroma that’s covered with a floral top layer. There’s a little more oak tannin in the texture but fine depth of flavour too. Good length here.

2012 Charmes-Chambertin
There was lots of late oïdium in this parcel so the grapes came in at an almost unbelievable 17° potential alcohol. So the wine was made with a little carbonic maceration to try to hold onto some freshness – elevage in 100% new oak. In the end this has come-in at 14.8% and will be bottled into magnums, directly from the barrel.
Deep, concentrated aromas, but round. Actually there is freshness here and a fine depth of flavour in the mid-palate. It’s really super-long and very well-balanced. Really!

2012 Corton-Renardes
From the mid-slope where there’s relatively deep soil. ‘This is normally a very direct wine’ says Thibault.
A little stubborn reduction here – but not heavily so. In the mouth it’s narrower in shape and more mineral. Tasty and direct – Yum!

2012 Clos de Vougeot
A mid-slope parcel, near the southern wall. Thibault says he probably won’t bottle until after the harvest – despite his importers complaining!
High-toned and fresh with a creamy underpinning – but quickly settles to something more modest, and faintly floral in the glass. Actually it adds more clarity with time and is quite beguiling. Lithe and freshly concentrated with a growing intensity. – without fat. Excellent complexity here – super wine.

2012 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les St.Georges
The biggest parcel of the domaine with almost 2 hectares. That said, it yielded only 11 barrels in 2012.
The aroma is faintly reduced to start with, slowly fading to an elegant, detailed and fresh nose. In the mouth it’s rounder and seemingly fuller than the Clos de Vougeot but still complex and fine. Impressive stuff – maybe even a Grand Cru quality!

2012 Richebourg
“A wine that talks only after you spit…”
Rounder, transparent. IT seems to have shape rather than weight. Here is super width that holds very, very well. Surprisingly understated, but long…

2006 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les St.Georges
A super, almost textured nose, plenty of fruit but not too ripe. Full, round and super depth!

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