Domaine Hubert & Laurent Lignier’s 2017s:

Posted on Posted in Articles, Domaine Hubert Lignier, RWM Contributor

Precision, Finesse, and Approachability

The wines of Domaine Hubert Lignier in Morey-Saint-Denis have stood at the apex of our Burgundy portfolio for four decades now. Our partnership began in 1981, when Neal purchased a small amount of 1978s from the preternaturally talented Hubert, who was then selling off much of his wine to négociant. Our fortunes grew in step with one another, as Neal’s increased purchasing allowed Hubert to bottle more of his production, and Hubert’s masterful wines provided (and still provide) us with a standard against which all other Burgundies should be measured. Inevitably, the domaine has experienced change and upheaval through the years, but the wines are, and have always been, regal, soulful emblems of their great terroirs, combining power, elegance, and complexity as only the very greatest of Burgundies can. We are immensely proud to represent such people and such wines.

Hubert’s elder son Laurent took the reins at the domaine following his brother Romain’s untimely passing in 2004, but tireless Hubert has always remained active, offering his unparalleled experience and wisdom as Laurent has gradually gained full mastery of his craft. During his tenure, the ever-precise and intelligent Laurent has steered the family’s already impeccable vineyard work towards a fully organic regimen, and the domaine has been certified organic as of the 2018 vintage. Laurent has also introduced the inclusion of a portion of whole clusters in certain of his cuvées—a judicious decision that serves to accentuate the innately spicy character of his terroirs but without sacrificing the purity of fruit that is a Lignier signature. The wines under Laurent’s care are handled naturally and respectfully from harvest through bottling: fermentations begin spontaneously in all instances; only gravity is employed when moving the wines in the cellar; wines are left in barrel for nearly two full years with no racking (displaying rare patience in an era in which wines are increasingly rushed into bottle for a ravenous market); no fining or filtration is ever employed; and new oak generally ranges from a modest 20% on the villages-level wines to 25-35% on the premier and grand crus.

The 2017s, slated to arrive in late April, offer a remarkably fresh and precise lens into their underlying terroirs; in fact, Laurent compares them to his 2010s, albeit with less forbidding structure and earlier accessibility. It is a classic Burgundy vintage in the sense that one feels the clear articulation of site, and the progression from regional to villages-level to premier cru to grand cru is well-measured and notable. The fruit character of these 2017s tends toward the vibrant, red-tinged part of the spectrum, and their remarkable purity speaks to the health of the grapes as well as to Laurent’s extremely sensitive hand in the cellar. After the frost-ravaged 2016 vintage, the relative ease of the 2017 growing season came as an immense relief. Aside from a mid-July hailstorm which touched parts of the domaine’s holdings in Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes and the northern sector of Morey-Saint-Denis, the season progressed relatively uneventfully, and harvest took place under lovely conditions between the 9th and 14th of September.

2018 Bourgogne Aligoté
The Lignier family owns a 0.4-hectare parcel of Aligoté in Gevrey-Chambertin proper, planted in 1944, and this wine offers a salty, racy profile of blasted chalk and golden fruit. It is a restrained, finely wrought Aligoté that avoids some of the variety’s occasionally coarse notes in favor of a prevailing mineral character. Vinified and aged in stainless steel on its fine lees, this wine was bottled without fining or filtration just prior to the succeeding harvest.

2018 Saint-Romain Blanc
Hubert and Laurent began producing a Saint-Romain Blanc in 2004, the year Romain passed away, and they continue to make it in his honor today, sourcing the fruit from a 0.3-hectare parcel in the steep, southeast-facing Sous le Chateau vineyard. This site’s stony, poor-soiled terrain yields a wine of notable minerality, framed by luscious pit fruits and a tense acidity typical of the appellation. This cuvée undergoes alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel (20% new), and rests on its fine lees for 15 months with minimal batonnage before bottling.

2018 Fixin Blanc
A rare white wine from the Côte de Nuits, Hubert and Laurent’s Fixin Blanc comes from a minuscule parcel of poor topsoil in this appellation known more for its relatively foursquare reds. While Chardonnay here struggles to reach the heights of the Côte de Beaune’s best sites, this wine deftly balances palate-coating richness with vibrant acidity, and a subtle saline element adds intriguing complexity. This cuvée undergoes alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel (20% new), and rests on its fine lees for 15 months with minimal batonnage before bottling. Unfortunately, 2018 marks this wine’s final vintage, as the Ligniers’ metayage contract for the parcel expired that year.

2018 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain “Aux Poirelots”
Lignier’s Passetoutgrain is benchmark of its category, offering the finesse of far loftier appellations and embodying the authoritative depth of the house style in miniature form. The wine comprises 0.4 hectares worth of vines: 60% Gamay (from 1960) and 40% Pinot Noir (from 1998), planted within the confines of Morey-Saint-Denis proper in a site called Aux Poirelots. Aged entirely in used barrels, this cuvée is bottled without fining or filtration just before the next harvest.

2018 Bourgogne Rouge “Grand Chaliot”
The Grand Chaliot vineyard is situated just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Ligniers work 1.25 hectares of vines there, planted in 1987. Given its proximity to Nuits-Saint-Georges, this wine possesses a seriousness and complexity uncommon in a Bourgogne Rouge. This 2018 displays the vintage’s inherent richness—one which is accentuated by a natural concentration of fruit due to a July hailstorm—but it remains fresh and balanced, in true Lignier fashion. As with the Passetoutgrain, this is raised in used barrels and bottled just prior to the following harvest.

2017 Pommard “En Brescul”
Although the Lignier domaine is historically associated with the Côte de Nuits, their firmly classical house style melds beautifully with the mineral rigor of Pommard. Hubert and Laurent ventured into this zone during the period of uncertainty following Romain’s death, and this “En Brescul” comes from a 0.4-hectare parcel of 20-year-old vines on which the family has a 25-year lease. Effusively stony, this 2018 presents mouthwatering red fruits on a firmly mineral frame, with impressive concentration for its level. It was de-stemmed entirely and raised in 25% new wood.

2017 Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Poisets”
In 2010, the Ligniers purchased a third of a hectare of old vines (circa 1947) in this vineyard that sits just below the great premier cru Les Cailles in the southern part of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The 2017 displays a firm mineral backbone typical of its village of origin, but with a very Lignier sense of drive and freshness. This vintage was fully de-stemmed, and saw a modest 15% new wood during its 18-month élévage.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin “Regnard”
Regnard is a south-facing site in the southern sector of Gevrey-Chambertin, and the Ligniers are in contract to access a parcel of Pinot Noir here between 40 and 70 years of age. 2017 marks the first vintage it was bottled separately, and Laurent decided to de-stem it entirely to preserve its purity of fruit. Indeed, this is a fresh, silken wine with intense minerality and marked tension—a wonderful counterpoint to the more somber “Les Seuvrées” below. Its modest 20% new oak is all but invisible even now.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Seuvrées”
Les Seuvrées sits just below the grand cru Mazoyeres-Chambertin on the slope, bordering the northern edge of Morey-Saint-Denis. The Ligniers own a hectare of very old vines here, planted between 1938 and 1966, and this cuvée always displays a darker, more rugged side of the appellation, with meaty depth and intense concentration even in a relatively easygoing year like 2017. Laurent retained 20% whole clusters during the vinification and employed 20% new barrels for the élévage.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Aux Combottes”
Aux Combottes is one of the more enviably situated premier crus in the Côte de Nuits, flanked on three of its four borders by grand crus, and perched just north of Clos de la Roche on the slope. The Ligniers own a 0.15-hectare sliver of vines planted in 1957, and this wine is a perennial standout in their cellar, offering power in reserve and a chiseled structure that beckons for a bit of cellaring patience. A mid-July hailstorm reduced yields here in 2017 and amplified the wine’s sense of concentration. Laurent produced just two barrels—one second-passage and one third-passage—and the subsequent oak influence is negligible even at this early stage.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis “Très Girard”
Since 2009, the Lignier family has purchased grapes from a half-hectare parcel in this well-positioned vineyard just below premier cru Clos Sorbé on the slope in southern Morey-Saint-Denis. Its 40-year-old vines, which the Ligniers manage during the growing season and at harvest, produce a lithe, energetic wine that leans toward Chambolle-Musigny in its overall graceful character, but with a textbook Morey-Saint-Denis savory underpinning. The 2017 was entirely de-stemmed and raised in 25% new oak, and it should provide for excellent early drinking.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis “Trilogie”
Lignier’s “Trilogie” is produced from small holdings of very old plantings in three different Morey-Saint-Denis lieux-dits: Chenevery, Clos Solon, and Porroux, with vines planted between 1936 and 1972. There’s a greater intensity of structure to this wine than the “Très Girard” above, with deeper mineral thrust and a wilder spice element, yet it preserves a sense of lift and drive. Laurent employed 20% whole clusters for this 2017, which saw just 20% new oak during its 18-month élévage.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “La Riotte”
Situated at the foot of grand cru Clos-Saint-Denis, La Riotte is a cru full of small stones, and it possesses a distinctively vivid, tight-grained minerality from which all other elements of the wine seem to flow. Beneath the dominating calcareous elements of this 2017 are gorgeous red fruits, wispy spices, and a notable floral character; it’s a formidable wine that nonetheless refrains from drawing attention to its power. This vintage was vinified with 20% whole clusters and aged in one-quarter new wood for 18 months.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Les Chaffots”
The Ligniers own just under half a hectare of vines planted in 1968 in this great premier cru, which sits just above Clos-Saint-Denis on the slope. In striking contrast to the “La Riotte” above, this vineyard yields a wine of brooding tension, blacker of fruit and sterner, with a more rigorous acid profile and far more blatant power underpinning it. “Les Chaffots” is unfailingly a profound wine that beckons for some patience, but the purity of fruit—as in all of Lignier’s 2017s—is striking here, even in the context of such tight-grained structure. A July hailstorm reduced yields here by about one-third.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Vieilles Vignes”
The Ligniers’ iconic “Vieilles Vignes” encompasses tiny holdings in two different premier crus: 0.33 hectares in Les Faconnières planted between 1947 and 1960, and 0.2 hectares in Les Chenevery planted between 1936 and 1942. Both crus are situated just beneath Clos de la Roche on the slope, and the resultant wine always possesses an ineffable grand-cru “x-factor” and a striking sense of sappiness from the vines’ extreme age. This vintage displays exceptional finesse, with a kaleidoscopic spiciness on the nose and plenty of freshness to balance the cuvée-typical notes of freshly turned earth and darkly savory fruit. Laurent employed 20% whole clusters and 30% new oak for the 2017, which spent a lengthy 21 months in barrels.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny “Les Bussières”
Les Bussières sits just below the premier cru Les Sentiers (and just down-slope from grand cru Bonnes-Mares), hard on the border of Morey-Saint-Denis. The Ligniers exploit just under a half-hectare of vines here—a total of four parcels, planted between 1947 and 1983—and the wine they produce from here combines a classically Chambolle elegance with a certain mineral-derived strictness, a structure deriving more from intense calcareousness than overt tannins. One-quarter whole clusters were retained in the vinification of this 2017, which spent 18 months in barrels of which 20% were new.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Chabiots”
Les Chabiots is a tiny vineyard of particularly excellent positioning, situated immediately above the fabled premier cru Les Amoureuses on the slope, and just next to Le Musigny. From vines planted in 1997, Laurent and Hubert produce a Chambolle of breathtaking finesse, dazzling aromatics, and all the gorgeousness one would expect from such real estate, made even more vivid by their careful, patient élévage. The Ligniers produced just three barrels of 2017 (one new), and this should drink beautifully on the early side despite its layered complexity.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
Located at the foot of the hallowed grand cru Bonnes-Mares just south of the Morey-Saint-Denis border, “Les Baudes” is the classic Chambolle premier cru of the domaine, and the Ligniers own a scant 0.18-hectare parcel of Pinot Noir planted in 1960 here. Explosive and muscular where the “Chabiots” is delicate, this bristles with energy and possesses real cling on the palate, whose resoundingly long finish promises years of positive evolution. Laurent employed 20% whole clusters and one-third new wood for this 2017.

2017 Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru
Beginning with the 2014 vintage, Hubert and Laurent have sourced grapes from a 50-year-old plot in this minuscule grand cru—producing just two barrels of wine per year. Of the three grand crus issuing forth from the Ligniers’ cellar, this is the most airy and delicate, emphasizing higher-toned spices and floral elements in its aromatics, and with a mineral-drenched, lifted palate of notable energy. This 2017 spent 18 months in wood—one new 228-liter barrel and one older 350-liter cask—and was de-stemmed 80%.

2017 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
The Lignier family owns a mere tenth of a hectare in the Mazoyeres-Haut climat of this Gevrey-Chambertin grand cru. From their old vines (planted in 1948), they render a wine of immense power and concentration, yet always with a sense of underlying refinement. This 2017 is magisterial, with poised intensity but an uncanny sense of equilibrium, and a mineral core of incredible depth. Laurent used 20% whole clusters here, and the wine has all but swallowed its 30% new wood even at this youthful stage.

2017 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
The Ligniers own just under a hectare in this hallowed grand cru, split among two plots: 0.62 hectares in the climat of Monts Luisants, and 0.28 hectares in Les Fremières. Laurent’s grandfather Henri planted the first vines here in 1955 and propagated the remainder of the holdings via selection massale between 1960 and 1966. One of the most iconic wines in our portfolio, Lignier’s Clos de la Roche is also one of the greatest wines in Burgundy, vintage after vintage. The site’s particular terroir—a few inches of pebble-strewn topsoil above solid limestone rock—yields a wine of unfathomable mineral intensity, with rugged spices and a profound sense of earth framing its flinty, smoke-tinged core. It is a site that always asserts itself with force, showing its pedigree even among such lofty company as can be found in the Lignier cellar. This remarkable 2017 was vinified with 30% whole clusters and spent a full 21 months in barrels, a third of which were new; as always, it should be cellared with utmost patience.

2017 Clos de la Roche “MCMLV” Grand Cru:
For the first time, Laurent Lignier produced a separate cuvée of Clos de la Roche in 2017 in honor of his grandfather Henri. The Clos de la Roche “MCMLV” comes entirely from Henri’s first planting in 1955: 27 rows of Pinot Noir in the Monts Luisants climat, which he used to propagate the rest of his holdings during the 1960s. This original parcel is highly susceptible to millerandage, which results in small berries of immense concentration, and Laurent harnessed the full power and intensity of such fruit in this stupendous bottling—of which he produced a mere two barrels. A wine such as this embodies Burgundy’s most profound essence: the continuous spirit and presence of a family whose members’ very hands have worked these same vines, this same parcel, since the vines were planted. How could Henri Lignier, when he was breaking earth in 1955, have ever imagined the course his home region would take over the ensuing decades, or the global acclaim that would be heaped on his son’s and his grandsons’ wines? Yet, despite the incredible changes those ensuing 65 years have witnessed, a Lignier has steadfastly worked each vine among these 27 rows of Clos de la Roche, vintage after vintage, gradually building its reputation as one of red Burgundy’s pinnacles. “MCMLV” is not just a great wine, then; it is an emblem of all that makes Burgundy special.

Print This Post Print This Post