2017 Gevrey-Chambertin, La Croix des Champs, Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs, Burgundy
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Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair
Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair is part of our Spotlight on sustainability series. You can view the full range here.Thibault Liger-Belair is cousin to Vicomte Liger Belair of Vosne Romanée. In 2001 he took over an old family property in Nuits St Georges, taking back the vines which had been contracted out to various share croppers, and leased a cuverie just down the road. The family jewels (his branch) consist of Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot and Nuits St Georges Les St Georges, to which he has added further vineyards and a few additional cuvées made from purchased grapes.
The vines are now certified organic and farmed biodynamically, with horses used to plough the vineyards where possible. The grapes are rigorously sorted on a table de tri, then destalked and fermented without much punching down or pumping over. They will be racked once during the elevage, but Thibault is not afraid of reductive flavours at this stage which, he feels, adds to the eventual substance and complexity of the wine. The oak regime is not to exceed 50% new barrels but also not to use any barrels more than three years old. The natural style of Thibault’s wines is plump and full-bodied, though the benefits of his farming methods seem to be bringing a more mineral aspect to the fruit as well.
The natural style of Thibault’s wines is plump and full-bodied, though the benefits of his farming methods seem to be bringing a more mineral aspect to the fruit as well.
Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest wine-producing village in Burgundy’s Côte d'Or, with its vineyards spilling over into the next door commune of Brochon.
Located in the far north of the Côtes de Nuits above Morey-St Denis, classic Gevrey-Chambertin is typically deeper in colour, firmer in body and more tannic in structure than most red Burgundy. The best can develop into the richest, most complete and long-lived Pinot Noir in the world. This is largely thanks to the iron-rich clay soils, though much depends on whether the vineyard is located on either the steeper slopes (Evocelles, Clos St Jacques) or the flatter, richer soils (Clos Prieur, Combottes).
Whereas in the past there have been numerous underperformers in Gevrey-Chambertin exploiting the reputation of this famous village and its iconic Grands Crus, today there are many fine sources to choose from, and overall quality is higher than ever.
Gevrey-Chambertin’s greatest Grand Cru is named after the field of the monk Bertin (Champ de Bertin). In 1847, Gevrey appended the name of this illustrious vineyard, Chambertin, setting a trend for the other principle villages to follow. Le Chambertin may not be quite as sumptuous as Musigny or Richebourg, or as divinely elegant as La Tâche or Romanée-St Vivant, but it is matched only by the legendary Romanée-Conti for completeness and luscious intensity.
In all, Gevrey boasts an impressive nine Grands Crus, with the name of Chambertin retaining a regal omnipresence throughout its finest vineyard names. The other truly great Grand Cru is Chambertin-Clos de Bèze which has the right to sell its wines simply as ‘Chambertin’, and is the only wine allowed to put the Chambertin name before, rather than after, its own. Situated slightly further up the hill, the wines are fractionally less powerful yet full of sensual charm and finesse.
Quality-wise the next best are generally acknowledged to be Mazis-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin. The former is incredibly concentrated and very fine, but its structure is a little less firm than Le Chambertin. Latricières is less about power (although it can be explosively fruity) and more about an entrancing silkiness.
Situated slightly higher up the slope, Ruchottes-Chambertin is impressively rich, stylish and slightly angular. The tiny Griottes-Chambertin, which owes its name to the grill-pan shape of the vineyard rather than the wine’s griotte cherry aroma, is lower down the slope and boasts a velvety texture and rich fruit reminiscent of Chambertin itself. It is generally better than the lighter, although wonderfully fragrant Chapelle-Chambertin and Gevrey’s largest Grand Cru, the pure and seductive (if variable) Charmes-Chambertin.
Gevrey also has some outstanding Premier Crus on the south-east-facing slopes above the town. Les Cazetiers and especially Clos St Jacques produce some exceptional wines. Indeed Armand Rousseau, who pioneered domaine bottling here in the 1930s and is still one of the region’s very best producers, often sells his Clos St Jacques for more than several of his Grand Crus.
Drinking dates for these wines vary, but Grand Crus are generally best from at least 10 to 25 years, Premier Crus from eight to 20 years, and village wines from five to 12 years.
- 315 hectares of village Gevrey Chambertin
- 84 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (20 in all). The foremost vineyards include Clos St Jacques, Lavaux St Jacques, Combottes, Corbeaux, Cherbaudes, Cazetiers.
- 55 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Latricières-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Griottes-Chambertin..
- Recommended producers: Bachelet, Dugat, Esmonin, Mortet, Rossignol Trapet, Rousseau, Serafin, Bernstein
- Recommended restaurants : Chez Guy (good wine list), Rôtisserie du Chambertin (and Bistro)
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
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For more than two decades, Thibault Liger-Belair has been following organic and biodynamic practices. He believes that winemaking starts not with the fruit, but with the soil. “We all talk about terroir, but my focus is on the soil and putting what it needs first,” Thibaut explains. His wines are pure, focused and desirable.Thibault used 55 percent whole-bunch here to add some lift and freshness to a wine which would otherwise be a little rustic thanks to its deep soil. There is some bright red-berry fruit, a rich middle and some whole-bunch sweetness, before the elegant and long finish kicks in thanks to the stems. Drink 2020-2025.
Thibault continues to keep himself busy, having bought more vineyards in Moulinà-Vent. In the Côte d’Or he waited until 13th September to pick, feeling that the skins were not ripe until that point. He describes the vintage as transparent, where each vineyard’s identity is clearly visible, and one where those with large yields will not be able to hide. In the Beaujolais, hail was again a significant factor, reducing the average yield for those wines he made to an eye-watering 8hl/ha. The damage was so bad that it cost more to pick the grapes than he will make on the wines, but he felt a duty to harvest and vinify the fruit. With careful use of the vibrating sorting table, he was able to carefully select only the clean fruit and has made exceptional wines.
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