Friday the 13th in Burgundy this month dawned sunny and mild. I was looking forward to the day: I planned a visit and tasting of the 2008s with Kellen Lignier of Domaine Lucie & Auguste Lignier. The afternoon schedule would begin with a tasting of the 2009 Domaine des Hospices de Beaune wines that were slated for the auction that Sunday. After the Hospices tasting, Alex Gambal invited me to taste some of his 2009s for comparison. He then showed me his range of 2008s. I'll get to those tastings in a future blog.
My first visit on Friday was to Domaine Lignier, and Kellen was in her cellar waiting for me. All her cuvées were still in barrel resting on the lees. A few showed some reduction on the nose, but she prefers to leave the wines to mature quietly on the lees until bottling, explaining that you can rack and clean them up at that time.
We spoke a little about 2008 before tasting. "It was quite an interesting vintage. I thought we would have a normal harvest, starting about Sept. 18, but in the middle of September it began raining, so I postponed everything," she recalled. "The north winds kicked in, but the vines also started to shut down, so no increase in sugar would occur, just passerillage (shriveling of the grapes to concentrate sugar)."
"The north wine dried out the rot, but also shriveled some grapes until they began falling off the vine," she continued. Picking began at the end of September.
Consequently, yields were 20 percent lower than average in the cellar, ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent down by cuvée. Everything was slow in 2008—bud burst, flowering, ripening, the fermentations and the malolactic conversions. Most had finished in August, but one or two wines had yet to complete their malos.
Lignier didn’t do a lot of extraction. There was plenty of color in the must from the high acidities, both malic and tartaric. "I think they will age well because of the acidity," she said.
"I really like wines that stay on a fine, thin line, with structure and elegance."
Lignier has been adding a higher percentage of stems with each successive vintage and has adapted her winemaking according to each growing season and harvest, taking some knowledge she absorbed from Burgundy sages like Henri Jayer and Bernard Noblet of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This was as fine a range of 2008s as any I tasted during my week of visits.
The Morey-St.-Denis Clos des Sionnières offered a lovely nose, elegant, floral and fine, with flavors of cherry and raspberry in a linear style. By contrast, the Morey-St.-Denis Vieilles Vignes, a selection of small parcels from around the appellation was round and dense, showing cherry and black cherry notes.
Moving south to Chambolle-Musigny, the Les Bussières was reduced in aroma, but very fine and elegant on the palate, with lingering floral, black currant and mineral falvors. The Gevrey-Chambertin Les Seuvrées was made with 50 percent whole clusters. Its nose was expressive and juicy black cherry and spice notes held the midpalate, all supported by firm, ripe tannins.
We moved on to the four premiers crus in the cellar. First up was the Morey-St.-Denis Les Chaffots, from vines located high on the slope above Clos St.-Denis. This exhibited finesse, tension and fine length, with a firm structure driving the mineral character. One of my favorites in the 2005 and 2006 vintages, the MSD Cuvée Romain Lignier comes from three parcels in 2008: In addition to Les Faconnières and Les Chenevery from the previous vintages, there are also old vines from La Riotte, which is no longer bottled separately. This revealed a lovely, sappy, old-vine character, with flavors of black cherry and blackberry, all very intense and long.
The Chambolle-Musigny Les Baudes was made almost entirely from whole clusters—some were destemmed by hand, according to Lignier. It was very classy and refined, though marked by oak at this stage, displaying submerged floral, berry and mineral notes. This was an appropriate segue to the pure, supple, spice- and black cherry-infused Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes.
Lignier made very little of the Charmes-Chambertin in 2008 (probably about 80 cases) due to lower yields. It’s 100 percent whole cluster, delivering rich, fleshy cherry flavors, all harmonious and long. Fortunately, there’s more of the Clos de la Roche, with its floral, raspberry, currant, chocolate, tobacco and mineral notes in a classy profile.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions