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.
Burgundy 2018: An ideal vintage
The 2018 vintage was met with a unanimous show of satisfaction from the north of Bourgogne to the south. The exceptional weather, especially during the harvest period, resulted in grapes with perfect health, allowing picking to extend over almost a whole month. Initial tastings ahead of the Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction have given an early idea that 2018 will be a truly great year.
The vines had built up some reserves over winter thanks to some very rainy weather, and the growth cycle began on the late side. When the sun started to show in April, the vines sprang into life, with budburst taking place very rapidly. The mild weather then allowed the plants to make up for lost time, even getting ahead of the average. Frosts in April sent a shudder across the whole region, but damage remained very limited. Flowering and fruit setting took place without hindrance.
Summer saw constant heat and drought, apart from a few hail storms in early July that were of no great consequence. The vines continued to grow at a fast pace until mid-August. Veraison took a little longer in places, the heat and lack of water affecting some of the younger vineyards. Nonetheless, since the hydric reserves had been restocked over winter, most of the vines came to maturity nicely thanks to the ideal weather conditions.
The first grapes were picked in the last 10 days of August. Since the dates of flowering, the rainfall and temperature varied greatly from one area to another, harvesting extended into the last 10 days of September.
The fruit was in extraordinarily good health, and the weather was perfect, allowing each winemaker to harvest at the optimum moment. The mood was serene across the whole wine region, producers enjoying this magnificent vintage that combined quality and quantity. Many think this will be one of the best vintages in many years.
Vinification of the whites went without a problem, the grapes having retained a good level of acidity despite the heat.
The reds required a little more attention during vinification due to the relatively high level of potential alcohol.
In 2018, the aromatic complexity of the white wines is incredible. They are explosive on the nose, with an amazing diversity that reflects each terroir. The wines have a certain crispness and good minerality. In the mouth, they are rounded and generous, balanced with a nice tension.
The 2018 reds have a seductive intense color. They are already well structured and powerful, with nicely- integrated tannins and good concentration of fruit. These exceptional wines are perfectly balanced, and are already tasting well in their first flush of youth.
This is a delicious vintage with splendid maturity.
Crémant de Bourgogne
This is a benchmark year, with expressive aromas that vary from one varietal to another, promising balanced and aromatic base wines. The Pinot Noirs are generous, with notes of cherry and rose, resulting in balanced wines with a pleasant freshness. The Chardonnays are powerful, with moderate acidity, making them well- rounded. The fruit aromas reveal some exotic notes, nuanced by fragrances of apple and peach. The Gamays have delicate aromas of raspberry and strawberry, underscored by citrus touches (clementine, lemon). The Aligotés are sharp and lemony, as usual, with good length in the mouth.