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Posts Tagged ‘Vosne-Romanée’

En Orveaux, a tiny 1.79 hectare  Premier Cru climat of Vosne-Romanée, is one of the smallest vineyards of the appellation, producing a rare wine with a very intriguing story to boot.  The vineyard is situated in the northwest sector of the commune of Flagey-Echézeaux, adjacent to the border with Chambolle-Musigny.   

The entire En Orveaux lieu-dit actually comprises 6.83 hectares, but 5.04 hectares of En Orveaux was in 1937 incorporated into the Grand Cru Echézeaux. The remaining piece, which is about the same size as La Romanée-Conti, remains as Premier Cru Vosne-Romanée.  It is interesting to note that Lavalle’s prior classification ranked the entirety of En Orveaux as a  Première Cuvée, superior in quality even  to the two climats  of Echézeaux that are today judged to be the finest, Pouilaillères and Echézeaux du Dessus.

En Orveaux lies at an elevation of 280 meters with a northerly exposition, and the vines are planted in rows running north-south. The rocky soil is noticeably rich in clay but enjoys excellent drainage. Due to its altitude and northern exposure, the fruit is among the latest in Vosne to mature .

The finest example En Orveaux is produced by Sylvain Cathiard, who holds a .293 hectare parcel that was at one time classified as part of Echézeaux.

Wines from En Orveaux exhibit the unmistakable seductive allure of Premier Cru Vosne-Romanée, with perhaps less structure and power than Reignots or Malconsorts but with arguably greater refinement and elegance.

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According to many knowledgeable observers, La Romanée-Conti remains the world’s most expensive wine simply because it has no peers.  In Allen Meadows’ lapidary phrase: “Romanée-Conti  is the single greatest wine in the world, red or white.” The vineyard itself, a clos or walled vineyard, is comprised of 1.81 hectares and is situated in the commune of Vosne-Romanée, west of the village and immediately downhill and east of its sister Grand Cru, La Romanée.  La Romanée-Conti is a Grand Cru climat and a monopole of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which of course takes its name from the famous vineyard. 

The vineyard itself is approximately square in shape, each side measuring around 150 meters. Facing east with a 6% slope varying from 260 meters to 275 meters, the vineyard enjoys ideal exposition as well as virtually perfect drainage. The soil, rich in iron and sodium carbonate, is composed of Prémeaux  limestone, sand and pebbles, with a relatively high (35%) content of clay. The yield of the vineyard averages 35hL/ha, with only 500 to 650 cases available each year.

The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti also owns the entirety of La Tâche (6.06 hectares), 3.51 hectares of Richebourg , 3.53 hectares of Grands-Echézeaux, 4.67 hectares of Echézeaux, 5.29 hectares of Romanée-St-Vivant, and .67 hectares of Montrachet.

By tradition at least, Gauls drafted by Caesar into the Roman army from Burgundy were later rewarded with landgrants, known appropriately as “Romanée” vineyards.  Many of the best of these vineyards were located in and around the village of Vosne, which was not , however, rechristened Vosne-Romanée until 1866.  By the 9th century, much of Vosne, including the Romanée-Conti vineyard, belonged to a Cluniac priory named in honor of St. Vivant. By the 13th century, however, the vineyard came under the control of the Abbot of Cîteaux.

In the earliest extant records, the vineyard was not yet known as La Romanée-Conti .  but as the Cloux des Cinq Journaux (“Walled Vineyard of 5 Journals”). A Journal  (plural form Journaux)is a measure of land that a man, aided by a plough and horse, could work in a single day. (For more on units of measurements, ancient and modern, see here). By 1584, then known as the Cros des Cloux, the vineyard was put under perpetual lease, and held by a succession of powerful nobles, passing finally in 1631 to Philippe de Croonembourg, who recorded his leasehold under the name  “La Romanée.”  The vineyard would remain with the Croonembourg family, under whose skillful cultivation it would achieve unparalleled fame, until 1760, when it was sold to the Prince de Conti, who reserved the wine entirely for himself and the guests he lavishly entertained. In 1794, the vineyard, now finally known as La Romanée-Conti, was confiscated by the Revolutionary government and sold (albeit for worthless assignats) to Nicholas Defer de la Nouèrre.  

In 1819, Romanée-Conti was acquired by Julien-Jules Ouvrard, a famously prosperous wine merchant  who also owned the Clos de Vougeot and Château de Gilly. He enjoyed superb vineyard holdings, including parcels of Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Latricières-Chambertin, Les Amoureuses, Corton Clos du Roi, and Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot. In late 1869, Jacques-Marie Duvault-Blochet acquired the vineyard and it has remained in his family, through whom it descended through marriage to Edmond-Gaudin de Villaine, grandfather of the current co-gérant  (co-director), Aubert de Villaine.  During the Second War, while Edmond’s son was held prisoner by the Germans, the Villaine family sold a 50% interest to Henri Leroy. The Domaine is today owned equally by the heirs of the Villaine and Leroy families.

A certain amount of confusion continues to obtain regarding the relationship between La Romanée-Conti and its sister Grand Cru, La Romanée, a monopole of the Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair.  Allen Meadows has thoroughly studied the relationship and, in his new book The Pearl of the Côte, adduces a great deal of credible evidence that suggests that the two vineyards were indeed once a single parcel.

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          Aux Malconsorts is a 5.86-hectare Premier Cru climat that ranks among the very finest vineyards in Vosne-Romanée. Lying at the southern portion of the appellation, at the border with Nuits-St-Georges, Aux Malconsorts is superbly located just to the south of La Tâche and north of Les Boudots, the  remarkable Premier Cru  in Nuits.  The vineyard is divided by a north-south running vinicultual path, with disparate soil profiles in each half. Above the path the soil is lighter and sandier, whereas the soil below the path is richer, more ferruginous and  compact. The vineyard faces east from a elevation varying between 260 and 280 meters. Soil depth varies from as little as 10 centimeters to a generous one meter.

The etymology of  Aux Malconsorts derives not (alas) from an evil consort but rather from old French descriptors of the thorny brushwood that covered the plot before it was cleared in 1610 and converted into a vineyard.

Aux Malconsorts produces preeminent Premier Cru Vosne-Romanée of commanding presence, with firm, dense tannins, elegantly muscular and richly structured wines that can rival the best of this extraordinary appellation.

The reference-standard producer of Aux Malconsorts has for years been Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, whose .74-hectare parcel, with 35+ year old vines, consistently produces stellar wines. Since 2005, however, upon acquiring the vineyards of Thomas Moillard, Domaines Dujac (1.57 hectares) and de Montille (1.38 hectares) have joined Cathiard in setting the standard. In addition, Domaine de Montille’s holdings in Aux Malconsorts include a .48-hectare parcel (named Cuvée Christiane by Etienne de Montille in honor of his mother) that juts into La Tâche, where it seems geologically quite at home. Regardless of whether this parcel in fact once formed part of La Tâche, as many speculate, Cuvée Christiane exhibits distinctly different qualities from the remainder of  Aux Malconsorts.

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La Colombière  is a lieu-dit located in the commune of Vosne-Romanée in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. The vineyard lies just east of that portion of the village which abuts Grand Cru vineyard Romanée St-Vivant.  La Colombière itself lies halfway between the RN74 and the village. The soil of  La Colombière is similar to the clay and limestone of other village-level vineyards east of the town, such as the Clos du Château, but is significantly less rocky.

Major owners of La Colombière include Domaine du Comte-Liger-Belair, which exploits a .78-hectare parcel just to the east of the Domaine’s monopole, Clos du Château. The southeast-facing parcel is planted with vines averaging 60-80 years. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair uses 350-liter barrels for élevage of his La Colombière.

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Clos du Château is a small 0.83-hectare lieu-dit located in the commune of Vosne-Romanée in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. The walled vineyard is a monopole of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, and adjoins the Château de Vosne-Romanée, where the Liger-Belair family lives and where  the Domaine’s cuverie is located. The vines were planted in 1970 in the rocky, limestone soil of the vineyard. The vineyard produces approximately 325 cases of  wine each year.

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La Romanée, Grand Cru: This diminutive .85 ha. Grand Cru climat in Vosne-Romanée is the smallest Grand Cru in the Côte-d’Or and the smallest appellation contrôlée in France. Arguably one of the finest vineyards in France, the poet Gaston Roupnel extolled La Romanée as “La perle du milieu dans le collier bourguignon“ (loosely, “the central jewel of the Burgundian necklace”).  It lies just to the west and uphill from La Romanée-Conti, to the south of Les Richebourgs and to the north of La Grande Rue. It was originally a part of La Romanée-Conti, belonging to the Croonenbourg family from the Fifteenth Century until it was partitioned off in 1760 and sold to the Prince de Conti. A monopole, La Romanée has belonged to the Liger-Belair family since 1815. It was the only major vineyard retained by the family when the remainder of its holdings were auctioned off in the 1930’s. Facing east, the vineyard lies on a steep 16% slope at an elevation of about 280 meters. The subsoil is friable Prémeaux limestone; the topsoil is a sandy-clay mixed with pebbles. Under the skilled and sensitive direction of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, the wines of La Romanée are said once again to rival in quality the iconic vineyards, La Tâche, and La Romanée-Conti.

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The careers that young children envision for themselves often more closely reflect their cultural milieu than any noteworthy aptitude. Once upon a time in America’s innocence, nearly every eight-year old boy (regardless of hand-eye coordination) dreamed of playing major league baseball. By the 1960’s, with the Space Race in full throttle, the prevailing boyhood ambition – even for those who got queasy in elevators — was to be an astronaut.  What, then, does it say about a community when an eight-year old aristocrat, scion of a celebrated French military family, announces to his father that he plans to become a winemaker?      

Unlike millions of baseball players and astronauts manqués, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair completed the path to his youthful dream. Fortunately for the worldwide community of wine lovers, Louis-Michel possessed at once the artistic talent, scientific ability, and intellectual determination to realize his ambition. The consensus of wine critics is that he today, from his base in Vosne-Romanée,  produces some of finest expressions of Pinot Noir.      

Gen. Louis Liger-Belair

In pursuit of his dream, Louis-Michel benefited from the patrimony of the Château de Vosne-Romanée, and adjoining vineyards, which descended from his lineal forbearer and Napoleonic general, Louis Liger-Belair. In fact, by mid-nineteenth century, the Liger-Belair vineyards comprised over 60 hectares, including the entirety of La Romanée, La Tâche, and La Grande Rue;  the preponderence of Malconsorts;  one-third of Clos de Vougeot, significant holdings of Chambertin, Richebourg and Echezaux, as well as parcels of Les Chaumes, Les Reignots, Les Brulées, Les Suchots ; Les Saint Georges and Les Vaucrains. Nevertheless, his ancestors had merely been the patron, presiding over Domaine. Louis-Michel would become the first of his family actually to serve as viticulturalist and winemaker.      

When Louis-Michel had first announced his career goal to his father Henri, a distinguished general officer, the astonished general had preconditioned his paternal consent on prior completion of engineering studies. In addition, Henri called upon his good friend, the legendary Henri Jayer, to tutor Louis-Michel in some of the arts of winemaking.     

Domaine Liger-Belair is presently composed of twelve appellations, comprising 5.53 hectares,  situated in the communes of Vosne-Romanée, Flagey-Echézeaux, and Nuits-St-Georges. These include the monopole Grand Cru La Romanée (.84 ha.), and a parcel of Grand Cru Echézeaux (.6 ha.); a most impressive lineup of Vosne-Romanée, Premiers Crus — Aux Reignots (.75 ha), Les Suchots (.22 ha) ,  Aux Brûlees (.12 ha) ,  Les Petits Monts (.13 ha), Les Chaumes (.12 ha); 3 parcels of village-level Vosne-Romanée, totaling 2.26 hectares, including the monopole lieu-dit Clos du Château  (.83 ha.) , the lieu-dit La Colombière (.78 ha.), and a third village-leval parcel of .65 hectares ; together with two parcels of Nuits-St-Georges, the one a parcel of Premier Cru Les Cras  (.37 ha.) and the other a parcel of the lieu-dit Les Lavières (.13 ha.).     

Winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair

 Louis-Michel is an adherent of lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced management of the vineyard, with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée allow for the  possibility of limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed.     

A regimen of organic farming and minimal intervention is rigorously followed at the Domaine In order to promote the microbiological life of the soil, herbicides are banned and the soil is turned with a horse-drawn plough. The rationale is that a horse has a much lesser impact on the soil than would a tractor. The hooves compact the soil intermittently and randomly whereas a tractor is continuous and invariable in its tracks.    

When full ripeness has reached, the Domaine harvests the grapes as quickly as possible to assure freshness and vibrancy. In order to avoid crushing the bunches, the grapes are placed into small (14 kilo) perforated cases and rushed to the winery.      

Once the grapes make it to the sorting table at the cuverie, the work is essentially complete. To adopt a musical metaphor of the kind much favored by Louis-Michel, once the grapes are placed on the sorting table, the score is final and complete. It remains to the instrumentalist only to interpret faithfully (and artistically) the music that has been written.      

The grapes are entirely destemmed and conveyed uncrushed to the fermenting vat by belt. Once in the vat, the grapes are cooled to a fifteen degrees C°; at which temperature they remain for about a week. Fermentation then begins naturally with indigenous yeasts.      

Fermentation typically lasts 10-12 days, during which time the carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fermentations, carries solids to the surface where they combine with the skins to form a “cap”. Inasmuch as many subtle flavors as well as color compounds are found in this cap, Louis-Michel coaxes these qualities out of the cap through pigéage (pushing the floating cap back down into the fermenting wine) and remontage (pulling the wine from the bottom of the vat and pumping over the cap).      

The grapes are then lightly pressed. The free run juice and the press wine are blended and left in vats for about ten days to settle the lees. The suspended solids fall to the bottom of the vats, and the clarified wine is a transferred by gravity into new oak barrels. After malolactic fermentation and aging for 12-15 months, the wine is racked into tank where it rests for an additional 2-3 months. The wine is bottled by gravity without pumping, and without fining or filtration.

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