Over the ages, through marriages, births, deaths, retirements, leases, and purchases, stewardship of the finely-rendered grid of hallowed terroir that is the Côte d’Or shifts constantly. It is the roving lens by which we have come to know these vineyards over many hundreds of years–the ever-moving human counterpoint to the relative permanency and fixedness of these great crus and climats. In the most ideal of scenarios, the succession from one generation to the next is smooth and easy–a gradual, careful passing on of both land and sensibility. In many other instances, however, these transitions are fraught with complications. They are, after all, human affairs.
We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant have long maintained that, of all the talented and singular growers with whom we have had the pleasure of working over the past forty years, there is perhaps none greater, none more skilled, none more possessing of raw genius than Hubert Lignier. Neal began a relationship with the Lignier family in early 1982, having successfully overcome the then-prevalent Burgundian suspicion of outsiders to purchase a mere handful of cases of the 1978 vintage from Hubert. Throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s, we enjoyed vintage after vintage of Hubert’s masterfully wrought, classical Burgundies from his broad and enviable holdings in the Cote de Nuits—wines that we still open with great pleasure and wonderment to this day.
And, as his dynamic and intelligent son Romain began to assume more responsibility in the mid-to-late ’90s, the future of the domaine looked bright indeed. Suddenly and tragically, the Ligniers lost Romain to an aggressive malignant cancer, which claimed his life in 2004. Sadly, the succession became fraught with bitterness and complications between the family and Romain’s American widow, which resulted in the partial (but significant) loss of access to vineyards and wine for Hubert and his wife, Francoise. During almost ten years of legal drama, the Lignier family devoted its resources to expanding their holdings and, in 2006, had the good fortune of bringing Hubert’s elder son, Laurent, back to the domaine to pick up where his brother left off, working and learning side-by-side with the master vigneron, Hubert. Now, the transition is complete, the legal battle is over and, as of the 2014 vintage, the family has regained complete control of its vineyard holdings, augmented by sage acquisitions of prime parcels throughout the Cote d’Or and a new “old” cuverie, “Les Cedres”, with deep cellars situated immediately off the Route Nationale.
We celebrate together the glories of this wonderful domaine with the introduction of the 2014 vintage—a spectacular and classically-built vintage that will reach our shores in a matter of weeks.
Always a man of quiet, gentle intelligence and restrained thoughtfulness, Laurent has truly come into his own as a vigneron in the past few vintages, and his sensitively rendered wines are perhaps even closer in spirit to his father’s than the sometimes slightly more brash and forward creations of his late brother. Laurent has steered his father’s already meticulous vineyard practices in an even more rigorous direction, having eschewed the use of chemicals entirely, and working toward organic certification (to be awarded in 2018). In the cellar, fermentations begin naturally, as they always have, and the wines are never pumped—only gravity is ever employed when moving the wines. As his father did, Laurent allows the wines plenty of time in barrel to develop their distinctive personalities and harmonize their elements, bottling after two full winters in the cellar at minimum, and after a full 24 months in most cases. The finished wines are the epitome of that classic Burgundian marriage of power and grace—both amazingly concentrated and layered yet utterly nuanced and transparent.
With the 2014 vintage, the newly restored Domaine Hubert Lignier reclaims with authority its rightful place in the top echelon of the great estates of Burgundy. They have long been, and remain emphatically, the most complete, profound, and satisfying red Burgundies that we have the pleasure of importing.
2015 Bourgogne Aligote
Lignier’s broad, impressively complex Aligote comes from an old parcel in Gevrey-Chambertin planted in 1943. A few inter-planted Chardonnay vines comprise around 15% of the wine and contribute a roundness and depth of texture, and this 2015 has extra breadth due to the plentiful and generous sunshine of the vintage. A standout Aligote by any measure.
2014 Saint-Romain Blanc
The Lignier family sources the grapes for this miniscule-production white wine from a 0.3-hectare parcel in the south-facing “Sous le Chateau” cru. They began making this wine in 2004—the year Romain passed away—and they continue to produce it today in honor of his memory. This 2014 showcases the crystalline acidity and racy mineral punch that this underappreciated appellation offers at its best, with that ineffable sense of regal harmony that runs through the entirety of Lignier’s lineup.
2015 Fixin Blanc
A rare white from the Cote de Nuits, Lignier’s Fixin Blanc comes from a tiny quarter-hectare plot in the “Champs de Vosger” vineyard. As tends to be the case with Chardonnay from this zone, it offers a more broad-shouldered and rich iteration of classic white Burgundy, but with a finesse and restraint more akin to the great whites of the Cote de Beaune. The balance of fat and poise in this 2015 promises great aging potential for the patient drinker, though the wine is showy and delicious now.
2015 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain
Lignier’s Passetoutgrain has long been a benchmark of its category, offering the balance and grace of far loftier appellations and capturing all the elegance and nuance of the house style. The wine comprises a mere 0.4 hectares worth of vines: roughly two-thirds Gamay (from 1960) and one-third Pinot Noir (from 1998), both planted within the confines of Morey-Saint-Denis proper. Snappy but ripe and concentrated, with attractive notes of freshly turned earth and small berries, this 2015 illustrates what Passetoutgrain is capable of in the hands of a great grower.
2015 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 and mineral depth rare for a Bourgogne, and this 2015 is particularly impressive in its amplitude and intensity. A mere 10% new oak allows the energetic and spice-tinged flavors to shine through unimpeded.
2014 Pommard “Les Chanlins”
In 2009, in the thick of their inheritance struggles, the Ligniers acquired 0.4-hectare worth of very old vines (planted in 1932) in this vineyard. Part of “Les Chanlins” is designated premier cru (situated just south of the great “Les Rugiens”), and part is designated villages-level. The Ligniers own a parcel in each part. Situated as it is on the northern border of Volnay, this cru offers a bit more elegance and prettiness than a typical Pommard, but with plenty of power in reserve. It deftly handles its 50% new oak (only two barrels were produced, one of which was new).
The Ligniers purchased the fruit for this wine, but they oversaw the vineyard work from July onward, as well as the harvest itself. Produced from parcels in two lieu-dits—15-year-old vines in “Epointures” and 60-year-old vines in “Reniard”—this 2014 is pitch-perfect Gevrey-Chambertin, meaty and succulent, with classic Lignier poise and a long, mineral-drenched, driving finish.
2014 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. This 2014 is a showstopper, offering greater density of fruit and a firmer structure than the Gevrey-Chambertin above, with an even more intense Gevrey meatiness.
2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Aux Combottes”
“Aux Combottes” is one of the more stealthily situated premier crus in the Cote de Nuits, flanked on three of its four borders by grand crus, and immediately north of Clos de la Roche on the slope. The Lignier’s own a mere 0.15 hectares here, with vines planted in 1957, and this wine is a perennial standout. The nose alone of the 2014 is worth the price of admission—an utterly enchanting aromatic vista of vivid spice, warm earth, and cool minerality that extends far out in all directions. The palate is youthful and tightly knit, with immense tension and a tightly coiled sense of explosive energy. This will take some time to unfurl, but it will undoubtedly prove to be a stunner.
2014 Morey-Saint-Denis “Tres Girard”
Since 2009, the Lignier family has purchased grapes from a half-hectare parcel in this well-situated cru that lies just below premier cru “Clos Sorbe” on the slope in southern Morey-Saint-Denis. The nose of this 2014 is sexy and open, with vivid notes of freshly turned earth and an almost Chambolle-like sense of grace. It is vibrant and delicious in the mouth, with a supple texture and generous red-spectrum fruit that fully enrobes its present but gentle tannins.
2014 Morey-Saint-Denis “Trilogie”
“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. This impressive villages-level wine is denser and more concentrated than the “Tres Girard” above, showing a more classically savory Morey character and a highly attractive sappiness of fruit, as well as a expressive nose. Although it’s relatively generous and open-knit for a young Lignier wine, it should reward a few years of cellaring as well.
2014 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “La Riotte”
Among Lignier’s ever-impressive trio of Morey-Saint-Denis premier crus, “La Riotte” tends to be the most feminine, gentle, and lithe. Located on a gentle part of the slope at the foot of the grand cru Clos-Saint-Denis, the vineyard is full of small stones, and the wine boasts a firm, tightly woven minerality from which all of the other elements of the wine seem to flow. This 2014 has a beautifully spice-inflected, floral nose, but the palate is chiseled and tensile at the moment, demanding a bit of patience. Firm but filigree tannins frame a very long, ringing finish, promising great things down the road.
2014 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. “Les Chaffots” is the muscular, brooding counterpart to the more elegant “La Riotte” above, offering an immensity of structure and ruggedness of fruit that allows the wine to age effortlessly for decades. The 2014 is even more profoundly mineral-driven than “La Riotte,” with a deeper register to its spicy, meaty aromas, and an almost shocking intensity and concentration on the palate. This is rich and broad, but still amazingly graceful—beautifully “old-school” in its demeanor.
2014 Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru “Vieilles Vignes”
Perhaps the most iconic wine from the Lignier cellar, the Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Vieilles Vignes” encompasses miniscule 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 stature and “x-factor.” The 2014 is downright dazzling on the nose, offering earthy Morey fireworks and a deeply-ingrained sense of warm spice. The finish is a long, commanding, electric interplay of savory succulence and mineral intensity. One for the ages.
2014 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. This 2014 combines classic Chambolle elegance and mineral precision with the savory guts of Morey, with loads of spice and floral accents to the nose and a focused, linear palate that should soften and expand with a few years of cellaring.
2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Chabiots”
“Les Chabiots” is a dreamily situated premier cru that lies just north of Musigny, perched just above the fabled “Les Amoureuses” on the slope in the southern sector of Chambolle. Hubert and Laurent began purchasing grapes from a parcel of 20-year-old vines here during their recent inheritance battle, and they have continued to produce wine from this great but tiny cru ever since. The 2014 is intoxicatingly ethereal on the nose—open, enveloping, and inviting. The palate is round but well-structured, with generous, sappy fruit, and a hedonistically succulent finish.
2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
Located at the foot of the legendary 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 less than a fifth of a hectare of 55-year-old Pinot Noir here, and the wine is always incendiary and majestic, capable of long aging. This 2014 is beguilingly spicy, elegant in its aromatic spectrum, and strong-boned on the palate. A beautiful interlocking of tannins and mineral thrust creates a real sense of energy, but the wine’s stern structure and intense concentration suggest the need for a bit of patience.
2014 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. The 2014 is gorgeous, offering a lift and freshness not often seen in these more rugged environs, but with plenty of ripeness and concentration. It has that driving, pure-fruited energy that characterizes the best 2014s, and it should develop beautifully as it puts on some weight in the bottle.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Didiers”
The Hospices de Nuits owns the entirety of this 2.5-hectare vineyard which sits alongside “Les Saint Georges” on the slope, and, since the 2005 vintage, the Ligniers have purchased a few highly-sought-after barrels of this cru through the Hospices’ famous annual auction. Following the character of previous vintages, this 2014 is very attractive even now, offering relative openness and drinkability. A background note of suave oak spice underpins a gutsy but elegant Nuits soil imprint. The fruit is full and sumptuous, and the tannins are present but very fine-grained.
2014 Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru
In 2014, Hubert and Laurent sourced grapes from a 50-year-old plot in this hallowed grand cru—a total of only two barrels of wine. Of the three grand crus issuing forth from Lignier’s cellar, this is the most elegant, airy, and feminine, emphasizing higher-toned spices and floral elements in its aromatics, and with a mineral-drenched, vibrant palate full of lift and energy. Nonetheless, its tightly coiled structure and slightly inward-facing demeanor signal the need for some cellar time in order for the wine to fully blossom.
2014 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 here (planted in 1948), they render a wine of immense power and concentration, yet always with a sense of underlying refinement—an element this beautifully balanced 2014 seems to emphasize. Its broad, explosive nose of black cherry and gutsy earth gives way to a rich, brooding palate, full of big but elegant tannins and vibrating with kinetic energy.
2014 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
Lignier Clos de la Roche is near-mythical in stature—a colossus of a red Burgundy that is not just the pinnacle of the domaine’s lineup, but a wine that exists in its own lofty realm, alive and glowing in the minds of Burgundy lovers like only the very greatest and most soul-stirring wines from this region are. The family owns just under a hectare of 50 to 60-year-old vines here, split among two holdings: 0.62 hectares in the climat of “Monts Luisants,” and 0.28 hectares in “Les Fremieres.” Clos de la Roche possesses an unusually broad variety of soil types, and Lignier’s rendering of this cru seems to capture this complexity in its endlessly layered mineral core. It is a wine of imposing power and density, massive in scale but also incredibly nuanced—in fact, it’s almost paradoxical in its ability to express such size but also render such fine detail. Needless to say, the wine develops beautifully, regally, and glacially in bottle, as many older wines enjoyed over the past few decades have so emphatically illustrated. This 2014 is utterly classic, possessing all the savory depth and mind-melting complexity one would expect, but on an exceptionally pure, balletically poised frame. This is the kind of Burgundy that turns dabblers into obsessives, and it is worth every penny. Happily, after the struggles of the previous decade, the Ligniers once again have full access to their historical holdings of Clos de la Roche as of the 2014 vintage.