All Nuits, All Day

Jun 8, 2006

Day 5, June 7: As it turned out, my 3 appointments are all in Nuits-St.-Georges. And, as in my previous visits, I tasted all the wines non-blind in the cellars.

The Liger-Belair family began in the wine business in 1720, but it wasn’t until 2002 that a family member made wines from the vineyards. Thibault Liger-Belair, 31, works with 17 acres of Pinot Noir in Nuits-St.-Georges, Vosne-Romanée and Clos Vougeot, including the largest parcel of Nuits-St.-Georges Les St.-Georges. He manages the vineyards organically, which he feels delivers more precision in the resulting wines.

These are wines of purity and finesse. There is no prefermentation maceration and very little extraction. “I like fine wine, not extraction,” states Liger-Belair. “I don’t look for color, I look for aroma.” Each vintage and each cuvée is handled differently according the individual sites. For example, in 2004 the grapes were 100 percent destemmed; in 2005, only 25-30 percent were destemmed.

The Richebourg is the star, with the 2004 showing the opulence, sweet fruit and complexity of this grand cru. By contrast, the 2005 from barrel is much tighter and more dense. In 2005, the mineral and tobacco-flavored Nuits-St.-Georges Les St.-Georges and spicy Clos Vougeot are also excellent.

At Domaine Henri Gouges, the focus is on Nuits-St.-George, and the domaine farms 36.5 acres of some of the best vineyards, primarily to the south of the town. These are dense, uncompromising wines that reflect the individual character of their sites and demand aging to reveal all the secondary aromas and flavors derived from the terroirs. “These are not easy wines,” explains Christian Gouges. “Nuits-St.-Georges are terroirs on the hard side and need time to understand.”

My favorite this visit is the aerial, acrobatic Les Vaucrains 2005, a coiled spring of wild berry and mineral that combines both finesse and intensity. The Les St.-Georges 2005 has more flesh and suppleness, with blackberry and mineral notes. The Les St.-Georges 2004 is the standout of the range in that vintage, dancing between flowers and fruit, like rose and wild berry.

Négociant Nicolas Potel now owns a little more than 17 acres of vineyards, but his production also comes from purchases of grapes and finished wine (about one third of his total). He calls 2005 a “classical vintage,” with a long growing season and a September perfect for Pinot Noir. Potel has slowly changed his vinification over the years, and the 2005s are showing more finesse and less extraction than the wines have in past years.

This is an excellent range, with some fine Volnays, but it is the Beaune Clos de Vignes Franches that stands out today, with a very pure cherry flavor, elegance and fine length. The Côte de Nuits range is even more impressive, with a classy, floral- and red fruit-infused Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses and a fascinating contrast between the vibrant, intense Chambertin and dense, peppery Bonnes Mares.

France Burgundy

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