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Domaine Hubert & Laurent Lignier’s Ravishing 2016s

Laurent Lignier, now in his fifteenth year at the helm of his family’s hallowed domaine, has achieved an unprecedented level of purity and precision in his 2016s—which are slated to reach our shores in mid-April. During his tenure, he 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. In many ways, Laurent’s wines these days—in their egoless, hauntingly expressive character—echo the mighty and soulful wines of his father, wines that have stood proudly at the apex of the entire Rosenthal Wine Merchant portfolio for almost four decades now.

In a recent presentation of his 2016s in New York, Laurent compared the frost-hit 2016 vintage with the vaunted 2015, remarking that, “2016 is more ‘Pinot Noir’—more mineral, more precise, more complex.” Indeed, although the notorious late-April frost severely compromised yields throughout the Lignier family’s holdings (especially outside of Morey-Saint-Denis), the 2016s are arresting in their equilibrium and their transparency to their underlying terroirs. Having tasted the wines at several points during their long elevage, we were utterly enchanted by the relative openness and grace of these 2016s in their bottled form. These are wines that will age effortlessly but that are surprisingly beguiling at this early stage.

As has always been the case, 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 (displaying a patience and respect that is vanishing in an era when producers tend to rush their wines into bottle for a ravenous global market); no fining or filtration is ever employed; and new oak ranges from a modest 20% on the villages-level wines to 25-35% on the premier and grand crus. Those of you who have the privilege of accessing the pittance of 2016s that will reach our shores are in for a ravishing experience.

2017 Bourgogne Aligote
The Lignier family owns a small parcel of 75-year-old Aligote in Gevrey-Chambertin proper, and this wine—which includes 15% inter-planted Chardonnay—offers a salty, racy profile of blasted chalk and crunchy golden fruit. It is a restrained, finesse-driven Aligote that avoids some of the variety’s occasionally coarse notes in favor of a finely etched mineral character.

2016 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 south-facing “Sous le Chateau” vineyard. The 2016 offers terrific acidity and snappy yellow fruits on a racy, mineral-driven frame—a wine of a piece with Lignier’s reds in its total absence of excess flesh.

2016 Fixin Blanc
A rare white wine from the Cote de Nuits, Hubert and Laurent’s Fixin Blanc comes from a minuscule parcel of exceptionally poor topsoil in this appellation known more for its relatively foursquare reds. Given the gutsy, sometimes rustic Pinot Noir found here, the refinement and mineral precision in this 2016 is quite remarkable—though, given the scintillating nature of the 2016 reds from this domaine—not surprising.

2017 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain
Lignier’s Passetoutgrain has long been a 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: roughly 60% Gamay (from 1960) and 40% Pinot Noir (from 1998), both planted within the confines of Morey-Saint-Denis proper. The 2017 is bright and focused on the nose, with notes of macerated cherry and a touch of pretty spice, and the clean, tangy palate displays excellent purity of fruit and leaves the taster’s mouth watering for another sip.

2017 Bourgogne Rouge “Grand Chaliot”
The “Grand Chaliot” lieu-dit is situated just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Ligniers work 1.25 hectares of 30-year-old vines there. Given its proximity to Nuits-Saint-Georges, this wine possesses a seriousness rare for a Bourgogne, and the 2017 offers deep, spice-drenched, very Nuits aromatics. Ripe and silky in the mouth, its thrilling freshness beautifully balances the somber nose, and the wine finishes exceptionally long for its modest appellation.

2016 Pommard “En Brescul”
Although the Lignier domaine is historically associated with the Cote de Nuits, their firmly classical house style melds beautifully with the mineral sternness of Pommard. Hubert and Laurent ventured into this sector of the Cote de Beaune during the period of uncertainly following Romain’s death (when their old family holdings were fractured), and this “En Brescul” comes from a 0.4-hectare parcel there. The 2016 offers classic notes of iron and earth, but with nimble, super-pure fruit and attractively spicy herbal nuances—a Pommard of exceptional breed and finesse.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin
The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin—primarily from a parcel in the lieu-dit “La Justice”—is wonderfully open-knit even at this youthful stage, with explosive aromas of dark red fruits, cola, and freshly turned earth. The palate, though it displays ample, mouth-coating roundness, possesses phenomenal drive and is completely devoid of body fat. This is a flat-out remarkable villages wine.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Seuvrees”
“Les Seuvrees” 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. The very impressive 2016 is more boldly spicy than the basic Gevrey above, with blacker fruits and a more intense, penetrating minerality. Although it displays more structure, the tannins are clean and exceptionally fresh, and it finishes with great authority. Laurent employed 25% whole clusters for the vinification here.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Aux Combottes”
“Aux Combottes” is one of the more enviably situated premier crus in the Cote 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 parcel of vines planted in 1957, and this wine is a perennial standout in their cellar. Indeed, the 2016 offers even more spice and mineral intensity than the “Seuvrees” above, with an imposing, grand-cru-like density on the palate.

2016 Morey-Saint-Denis “Tres Girard”
Since 2009, the Lignier family has purchased grapes from a half-hectare parcel in this well-positioned cru just below premier cru “Clos Sorbé” on the slope in southern Morey-Saint-Denis. The 2016 shows exceptional purity of fruit, with clearly delineated flavors of Bing cherry, baking spice, and subtle earth. The tannins are mild and well-coated, and this wine drinks beautifully even at this early stage.

2016 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 more structure to this wine than the “Tres Girard” above, with greater mineral thrust and a wilder spice element. Still, the palate is refined and supple, with great sappy depth to the fruit and a long, slowly fading finish.

2016 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 in every vintage it possesses a distinctively firm, tight-grained minerality from which all other elements of the wine seem to flow. This 2016 is thrillingly energetic, with a lifted and exuberant nose of gingerbread and Indian spices, and a laser-focused palate of bright red fruits that is simultaneously concentrated and ethereal.

2016 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Les Chaffots”
The Ligniers own just under half a hectare of 50-year-old vines in this great premier cru, which sits just above Clos-Saint-Denis on the slope. With a powerful nose of black cherries and warm stones, the 2016 offers a bit more amplitude than the Riotte, though the palate is still remarkably tensile given the saturated character of the fruit. The tannins here are slightly brawnier, but very well-concealed by a sense of luscious sappiness.

2016 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 Faconnieres” planted between 1947 and 1960, and 0.2 hectares in “Les Chenevery” planted between 1936 and 1942. Both of these crus are situated just beneath Clos de la Roche on the slope, and the wine always possesses that ineffable grand-cru “x-factor.” Vinified with one-third whole clusters, the 2016 is staggering in its complexity, with intense concentration from those ancient vines and a significant amount of structure to resolve. Even still, the overall purity of the vintage shines through, and to craft a wine of such elegance on such a powerful frame is a remarkable feat.

2016 Chambolle-Musigny “Les Bussieres”
“Les Bussieres” 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 1948 and 1988. The 2016 is exuberant on the nose, full of tangy red fruits and cool spice, and the admirably chiseled palate bristles with energy. Laurent employed one-quarter whole clusters here.

2016 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. The Ligniers own a miniscule 0.18-hectare parcel of 55-year-old Pinot Noir here, and the wine is always incendiary and majestic—and capable of very long ageing. Elegance is the overriding character of this 2016, with a dazzlingly spice-drenched nose and a mineral-driven palate of great finesse.

2016 Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Poisets”
In 2010, the Ligniers purchased a third of a hectare of old vines (circa 1947) in this lieu-dit that sits just below the great premier cru “Les Cailles” in the southern part of Nuits-Saint-Georges. Dark in character without being somber, the 2016 is Nuits in spirit yet with a very Lignier-esque sense of elegance. Fruits here lean more red than black, and the classic dusty-earth elements are relatively subdued.

2016 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—a total of only two barrels of wine. 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.

2016 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. With 25% whole clusters and raised in one-third new oak, the 2016 is aromatically oceanic, with notes of smoke, macerated cherries, Moroccan spices, and chalk. The full-throttle palate offers an almost overwhelming minerality, yet the ultra-dense fruit remains driving and chiseled.

2016 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
The Ligniers own just under a hectare of 50 to 60-year-old vines in this hallowed grand cru, split among two holdings: 0.62 hectares in the climat of “Monts Luisants,” and 0.28 hectares in “Les Fremieres.” One of the most iconic wines in our portfolio, Lignier Clos de la Roche is also one of the greatest wines in Burgundy, and the 2016 is almost shockingly expressive at this youthful stage. The ravishing nose explodes with layer upon layer of Morey spice, and with such reverberating clarity that it seems to carve out its own physical space. On the palate, this ethereal yet profound wine seems to fill up not only the mouth but the entire skull, so lifted is its inner-mouth perfume. It seems nearly impossible that such a powerful wine could possess such focus and nuance, but such is the conundrum of Lignier Clos de la Roche at its best—and this 2016 is indeed a legend in the making.