Lucien Lemoine is a small, haute-couture négociant house was established by Mounir and Rotem Saouma in 1999. Their aim is to bring to the market each year a maximum of 100 barrels of premier cru and grand cru burgundy which they have raised in their vaulted cellars in Beaune according to their most exacting standards of élévage.
There is no winemaking involved as the wines reach them after fermentation. Often there is but a single cask of each wine – their 100 barrels of 2007 cover 68 different wines.
There are no contracts with growers, though they will frequently return to the same sources, and no specific requirements as to how the grapes should have been grown or the wines made. Indeed it was very interesting to taste a line-up of Vosne-Romanée wines and see some which had evidently been vinified with stems and others not.
According to Rotem, her husband’s strength is that he can sniff out the quality and style of a vintage at a very early stage. They work closely with their barrel supplier, Stéphane Chassin, to ensure the right barrels for the style of a given wine, using wood from the Jupilles forest which is apparently the slowest growing in France, thus giving the most fine-grained wood. One hundred per cent new wood is used.
The general recipe, although of course each vintage and if need be each wine may require its own treatment, is to ensure late malolactic fermentations, to stir up the plentiful lees for both red and white wines, to rely more on CO2 than SO2 to preserve the wine from oxidation and to maintain the wines unracked in new barrels until the final preparation before bottling.
Typically the wines end up with a soft, sweet-fruit character but otherwise little other evidence of new oak, and those I have tasted have displayed good typicity of their vineyard origins. They are not cheap.