Benoit Stehly’s Ascent Continues
Domaine Georges Lignier 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 fully articulate 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.
In the 2017 growing season, a late-July hailstorm wrought damages throughout Morey-Saint-Denis, impacting the domaine’s yields in several of its important holdings, but also engendering a natural concentration of materials in the surviving fruit. After a scorching-hot August accelerated the ripening process, Benoit began harvesting on September 3rd, slightly before most of his village-mates and 96 days after flowering; he remarked that he would always rather pick slightly early than risk overripe fruit. He vinified his 2017s with 30% whole clusters across the board, bottling the villages-level wines after 15 months of élevage and the premier crus and grand crus after 20 months. These finished 2017s offer outstanding energy and notable density, both in the context of the vintage and of the domaine’s past offerings; they combine ripe, taut red fruits with brisk but not strident acidity, articulating their sites of origin with effortless directness. Though less dramatically scaled than the 2016s, these represent perhaps a greater success overall, as well as a new high-water mark for Benoit.
2017 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. Benoit strikes a wonderful balance here between Gevrey-typical broad, meaty fruit and fresh, lifted tannins. (No new oak.)
2017 Morey-Saint-Denis: Georges Lignier’s 1.8 hectares worth of villages-level Morey-Saint-Denis comes from two parcels: one in the lieu-dit Clos Solon, and the other in Les Crais, from vines averaging 70 years of age. This wine emphasizes fruit and spice as per the house style, with pronounced acidity and a mineral-saturated, focused finish. (No new oak.)
2017 Chambolle-Musigny: Domaine 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. Lilting cherry fruit combines with vivacious acidity here, and the wine’s intense concentration allows its slightly trebly balance to come off as energetic rather than shrill. (No new oak.)
2017 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Clos des Ormes”: The domaine’s two hectares of this premier cru, situated below grand cru Clos de la Roche, comprise half of the entire surface of the vineyard. 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. (25% new oak.)
2017 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 showing a hail-derived sense of ultra-concentration, this finishes with notable length and intensity. (40% new oak.)
2017 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—one 50 years old and one 70. Warmly spicy on the nose, with subtle mineral accents and deep red fruits, this offers large-scaled but vibrant and well-buffered tannins on its long and penetrating palate. (40% new oak.)
2017 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. The nose here is a maelstrom of Indian spice and site-typical salinity, notes of which carry through onto a surprisingly precise and driving palate of exceptional length. Like the Clos-Saint-Denis, its tannins are formidable but thoroughly coated in fruit, offering both early-drinking potential and lots of upside in the cellar. (40% new oak.)
2017 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru: The domaine owns a mere tenth of a hectare of Pinot Noir planted in the early 1960s in this relatively large grand cru. This Charmes-Chambertin gives the impression of small-berried fruit, with a subtly mineral-inflected palate of taut tension and somewhat firm tannins; patience will be rewarded here. (50% new oak.)
2017 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. Compared to the riotousness of the Clos de la Roche, this Bonnes-Mares is aromatically finer, though no less spice-drenched. The palate is all about gentleness and grace, its ultra-concentrated old-vines fruit carried along on waves of silk. Benoit jokes that Bonnes-Mares can be “too perfect”—but there is truly nothing else like it in the entire Côte d’Or. (40% new oak.)