The 2016s from Domaine Georges Lignier: A New High-Water Mark for Benoit Stehly

Posted on Posted in Domaine Georges Lignier, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

This domaine possesses among the more astonishing collections of vineyards in the Côte de Nuits, but it wasn’t until young Benoit Stehly—Georges’ nephew—took the reins in 2010 that the wines began to articulate fully the greatness of their terroirs. Benoit began the process of eliminating reliance on systemic chemical treatments in the vineyards, bringing life into the soil by working it, and being more conscientious about harvesting. In the cellar, Benoit prefers long, gentle extractions with pump-overs favored over punch-downs, thereby retaining the nimble, high-toned purity Pinot Noir can achieve in Burgundy’s hallowed soils. He utilizes between 20% and 35% whole clusters depending on vintage conditions, and his oak regimen is particularly conservative, with no new wood employed on the villages-level wines, and only up to 40% on the grand crus. The domaine’s wines have put on a bit of welcome weight over the years Benoit has been at the helm, but they remain adamantly ethereal and delicate, flying in the face of the ultra-rich, hyper-concentrated red Burgundies one sometimes encounters in this post-climate-change era. Additionally, the few white wines produced here constitute increasingly rare examples of Chardonnay in the Côte de Nuits, and provide interesting glimpses into these vineyards as rendered by a variety other than the greatly dominant Pinot Noir.

Benoit produced the finest collection we have yet seen from him in the challenging, frost-affected 2016 vintage, beginning harvest on September 4th, and taking 24 days to conclude rather than the usual ten. He employed 30% whole clusters across the board during fermentations as the stems were generally ripe and healthy, and this was the first year he employed only gravity in moving the wines in the cellar. The improvements Benoit has been incrementally making in the domaine’s workflow are markedly apparent with these 2016s, a collection which points toward an ever-brighter future here.

2018 Bourgogne Aligoté
The domaine’s fresh, textbook Aligoté comes from vines in Morey-Saint-Denis: 70% from a 60-year-old planting in the lieu-dit Les Aires, and 30% from four tiny plots nearby. Vinified and aged in stainless steel on its fine lees for just shy of a year, it shows a satisfying old-vines plumpness beneath its clean, bright acidity and marked floral elements.

2016 Morey-Saint-Denis Blanc
Benoit planted 0.15 hectares worth of Chardonnay in the Morey-Saint-Denis vineyards Clos Solon and Les Seuvrees between 2007 and 2011 in order to be able to produce an additional white wine. Fermented and aged entirely in barrels but with none new, it displays the broad-shouldered character and rich body typical of the seldom-encountered white wines of the Côte de Nuits, with notes of ripe apple and almond, and admirable concentration.

2016 Morey-Saint-Denis Rouge
Georges Lignier’s 1.8 hectares worth of villages-level Morey-Saint-Denis Rouge comes from two parcels: one in the lieu-dit Clos Solon, and the other in Les Crais, from vines averaging 70 years of age. Vinified in steel with 30% whole clusters and aged 18 months in oak—notably, with no new barrels—it emphasizes fruit and spice as per the house style, but this cuvée has put on welcome weight over the years, culminating in the nicely deep yet still nimble 2016.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin
The domaine’s villages-level Gevrey-Chambertin comes from 2.3 hectares worth of 50-year-old holdings split among four parcels scattered throughout the appellation: En Vosne, En Dérée, Es Murots, and Le Forneau. Like the Morey-Saint-Denis, this spends 18 months in previously used 228-liter barrels and is vinified with around 30% of its stems. Benoit strikes a wonderful balance between appellation-typical broad, savory fruit and fresh, lifted tannins here.

2016 Chambolle-Musigny
Georges Lignier owns 0.84 hectares in the northern sector of Chambolle-Musigny near the Morey-Saint-Denis border, split among the adjacent Les Drazey and Les Bussières vineyards which sit just below premier cru Les Sentiers on the slope. A complete lack of new oak during the 18-month élevage allows the pretty, mineral-tinged Chambolle fruit to shine clearly, but like its two villages-level siblings the 2016 version shows the increasing depth and fullness Benoit has been achieving in his wines in recent years.

2016 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Clos des Ormes”
One of the jewels in this domaine’s glimmering lineup, Lignier’s two hectares of this premier cru which sits just below grand cru Clos de la Roche comprise half of the entire surface of the vineyard. Benoit employs 30% whole clusters during fermentation and ages this cuvée in 20% new oak for 18 months. These 45-year-old vines yield a wine of classic Morey spice, with a complex and deep nose that loudly announces its pedigree as a grand-cru-flanking plot. In the vein of the villages-level 2016s above, this vintage offers more energetic tannins and richer fruit than the preceding ones—evidence of Benoit’s diligent improvements in vineyard and cellar management.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Combottes”
The domaine owns 0.41 hectares of 60-to-70-year-old vines in this remarkably situated premier cru, flanked on all four sides by grand cru territory: Latricières-Chambertin to the north, Charmes-Chambertin to the east, and Clos de la Roche to the south and west. Thickly textured, firmly mineral, and very long on the palate, this wears its 40% new oak—the same level as Benoit employs for the grand crus—effortlessly. Like all of its vintage counterparts, 30% whole clusters were included in the fermentation.

2016 Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru
Georges Lignier owns a significant 1.6-hectare portion of this 6.6-hectare grand cru, divided among two parcels aged 50 and 70 years respectively. Aged for 18 months in 40% new oak and with 30% whole clusters employed during fermentation, the 2016 is impressively full, with a silken impression punctuated by an intense spiciness which is typical for this site, and well-coated tannins. This will certainly improve with age but is gorgeously forward in personality, offering an opportunity for immediate pleasure.

2016 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
The domaine owns four small parcels totaling 1.05 hectares in this hallowed grand cru, with vines averaging 55 years of age. Benoit uses 40% new low-toast barrels here, aging the wine for 18 months with two rackings during the élevage, and including 30% whole clusters in the fermentation. Deeply expressive of site, the 2016 is both detailed and broad, with profound tannins anchoring a silky, spice-slathered palate, and a near-saline mineral streak contributing notable freshness.

2016 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Lignier owns a mere tenth of a hectare in this relatively large grand cru, planted in the early 1960s. In the frost-affected 2016 vintage, Benoit produced but a single barrel—a steam-formed low-toast cask from the renowned Berthomieu cooperage, one he favors for their extremely subtle sense of toast elements. This possesses marked tension at this stage, with firm tannins and small-berried fruit beckoning for a bit of patience.

2016 Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru
The domaine owns a high-slope 0.28 parcel planted in 1920 in this legendary grand cru which straddles the border of Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle-Musigny. Vinified with 30% whole clusters and aged 18 months in 50% new oak, the 2016 is dazzling—as beguiling and perfumed as one would expect for this site, but with dense, plush fruit and plenty of structure as well, although it is so intoxicatingly spicy one barely notices the tannins.

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