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The Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair is both ancient and modern: ancient because it was acquired by Louis Liger-Belair, Napoleonic General, in 1815; and modern in that it was re-launched by his successor Vicomte Louis-Michel Liger-Belair in 2000. Since 1827 the diamond in the crown of the estate has been the monopoly of La Romanée, one of the very few grand cru monopolies in Burgundy, and the smallest.
The free run wine and the press wine are then blended and left in vats to settle the lees, a process that takes close to ten days, before transferring the wines into barrel when they are as clear as possible, since the wines are rarely racked during the aging process. Clarification enzymes are used to hasten the process should the vintage require this step. The wines are put into barrel by gravity in the cellar.
The wines are aged in new oak: two different cooperages and three different forests. Malolactic fermentations begin naturally either before or after the first winter succeeding the harvest. The wines stay in barrel with the least number of rackings possible and with no additional sulphur until the racking preceding bottling.
This racking is done without pumping, the wines being pushed by air and blended (by appellation) in bottling vats, usually 13 to 15 months after harvest. The wines are then sulphured and left to rest for two to three months in tank. There is neither fining nor filtration before bottling.
Bottling is done by gravity with the help of a small bottling unit at the bottom of the tank. The bottles are corked with a corking machine enabling the air to be evacuated in the compression chamber. The corks are not placed in a large funnel but one by one in a column so that each cork can be verified so that the best end of the cork will come into contact with the wine.
The wines are then stocked in pallets and are shipped after at least two months of rest. Most of the wines leave the Domaine in wooden cases. Each bottle is wrapped in tissue paper and straw protectors (when authorized).
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.