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La Romanée's tiny 0.84ha, under half the size of its neighbour La Romanée-Conti, make it the smallest Appellation Controlée in France. A monopoly of the Liger Belair family since the 1830s, La Romanée is just above La Romanée-Conti and therefore has a slightly steeper slope and shallower soil. Since 2002 the wine has been made by Vicomte Louis Michel Liger-Belair who heads up the Domaine du Comte Liger Belair estate, turning La Romanée into one of the truely great Burgundies it always had the potential to be. Though closed and reserved in its youth, the wine habitually displays an elegance and haunting brilliance, and after a minimum of 7-10 year's bottle age blossoms into one of the very best red wines in Burgundy, if not the world. Approximately 300 cases are made each year.
Louis-Michel Liger-Belair’s wines keep getting better. The improvement is less a reflection of the underlying vintages and more the result of the work the estate has done to convert their vineyards to biodynamic farming. These are some of the most unique and compelling wines being made anywhere in Burgundy. The house style emphasizes the weightless transparency, finesse and sweetness that only Pinot Noir (and perhaps Nebbiolo) is capable of. As good as the 2010s are, the 2009s have also turned out beautifully. I will report on those wines in the April issue. Readers may also want to check out my video interview with Louis-Michel Liger-Belair posted on www.erobertparker.com for more historical perspective on the domaine.
The young Louis Michel Comte Liger-Belair is typical of the increasing crop of fledgling growers who are talented, intelligent and enthusiastic enough to take on the responsibility of bottling their own wines, nurturing them from vineyard to bottle. Until the 2000 vintage, the Liger Belair family’s superb set of well-situated Vosne-Romanée vineyards had been exclusively made and marketed by Maison Bouchard. However, Louis-Michel began to take back plots of land bit by bit and started producing outstanding wines. La Romanée, is the jewel in the Liger Belair crown.
The smallest appellation in France and a family "monopole" situated just above Romanée Conti. Louis-Michel's aim is to make pure, intense terroir-driven wines by respecting his vineyards and their enviroment. Pesticides are not used and other chemical treatments are carried out only when necessary, rather than systematically. Vineyards are grown along bio-dynamic principles and are ploughed by horse to avoid compacting the soils too much. The wines undergo a very gentle maceration in favour of the common trend of over-extraction, which can often result in rather brutal, atypical wines. This, together with a careful selection of new barrels that don’t stamp their mark on the wine, enhances the purity and finesse of his Vosne-Romanées.
These are intense, chic and gently-extracted wines that betray a haunting elegance. One of Burgundy's greatest stars. Louis Michel liger-Belair continues to expand the Domaine through purchases of the top vineyards of the Côtes de Nuits, the latest being the fabulous Clos des Grandes Vignes Premier Cru of Nuits St Georges, as well as the signing of a long term lease of Clos de Vougeot as of the 2015 vintage.
HARVEST REPORT 2013 RED BURGUNDY
As far as weather was concerned, 2013 was not your typical year. It was at times cool, then hot with severe storms, followed by heavy rains hailstorms and then dry times with some occasional warm periods. It is a vintage that growers are calling the ultimate terroir vintage. Whenever you have a vintage that is not over ripe or alcoholic, or under ripe and very acid, the terroir can show through. This is not a vintage that lacked fruit or acidity or charm, it had all three, but it did not have a lot of power or concentration. This was true for many, and especially those who went for more production, or panicked and harvested too early resulting in the lowest sugars since 2008.
The average temperatures for the first 3 months of the year were 5.4oF cooler than normal. Temps were normal in April; May temps were below normal resulting in a very late flowering – the last time flowering took place that late was in 2008. May was also rainy, 34% above normal rainfall levels. It was rainy in June as well which resulted in uneven flowering with shatter and a bad fruit set. This trend (of bad and uneven fruit set) has been going on since 2010 with 2012 having a particularly poor fruit set.
In July the weather became warmer with periods or rain and a devastating hailstorm on July 23rd. Hardest hit were the communes of Pernand, Savigny les Beaune, Beaune, Pommard Volnay and Meursault. Some of the appellations were so badly hit that 100% of their crop was lost, this was particularly the case in Volnay and Pommard. Some of the same appellations were also hit in 2014 making it 4 years in a row with significant hail damage. The fact that this hailstorm came late in the vegetative cycle caused the wine to have a very dry harsh edge which covered up what little fruit there was to begin with.
The amount of sunlight hours was very low in the first 3 months of the year, 30% below normal. However, in July the amount of sunlight was plus 20 in July and August when it counted most. It did not get really hot during the normal summer months of July and August. There were 8 days in July that hit 86oF and above and only 3 in August with the latter half of the month quite cool. As far as rain was concerned, there was nothing more then a trace from August 1st to the 24th, and then nothing much again until September 9th when 1.02 inches fell. There were periods of rain after the 24th, but nothing serious enough to cause any problems with rot.
The fact that it was cool during the month of August prevented any recurrence of mildew and odium which were problems in early July. The cool weather, plus the late flowering, meant that veraison occurred on August 15th and harvest did not begin until the last week of September. Growers harvested in October for the first time in years – not since 2008. The quality of the fruit was far superior in the Côtes de Nuits, as has been the case for many years, other than in the truly great years where all regions were successful. The fact that full flowering was between June 23rd and the 26th made for a later harvest but possibly one of the reasons that the soils were so expressive in the juice.
I was very surprised at the quality of the 2013’s – the fact that they were very fresh and juicy and low in tannins and were not green. They should be drunk in their youth, but some of them were far greater than I could imagine. It is possible that certain appellations are superior to 2012 in the Côte de Nuits if there was careful attention paid to production or hand sorting. It is not a vintage without problematic wines but there is a lot to enjoy.
As far as pricing is concerned, most wines were the same price as in 2012; no one went down in price and a few growers went up. There is very little wine to be had and prices are high in bulk with so many small crops. I am afraid that the lesser appellations such as Bourgogne Rouge are going to go way up because that was the category that was affordable, the Grand Crus from the Côte de Nuits are only for millionaires now.