Burgundy Day 3 – 06 June 2007

by Mike Supple

After another full night of 3 or so hours of sleep, we were off to try more wine. This time we headed north to Chablis. Chablis technically falls under the Burgundy appellation, but it is often argued that it really is not Burgundy at all. The climate and soil are rather different, and the Chardonnay produced in Chablis is generally much racier, crisper and more acidic (although not any less balanced). Due to the northern latitude, the climate is cooler and the harvest is generally later in Chablis than the rest of Burgundy by about a week. However, in 2006 the harvest began (depending on the Domaine) about a week earlier than in the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. This put the Chablis harvest some time in the first couple of weeks in September. 2007 has been an even warmer year, and the harvest is likely to take place by the end of August throughout all of Burgundy and even in to Chablis.

To give a little more geographical location, the town of Chablis is just under a two hour drive north from the center of Burgundy, and approximately two hours south-east of Paris.

Domaine Rene et Vincent Dauvissat

Our first tasting of the day was with Vincent Dauvissat, of the acclaimed Domaine Rene & Vincent Dauvissat. Unfortunately for us, Dauvissat’s production is absolutely minuscule, and very little reaches the United States. He has a very loyal following among France’s most esteemed restaurateurs, hence the availability of his wines for export is sharply limited. He also reserves approximately 25% of each vintage to be sold directly out of his cellar to local fans. That being said, if you can find it, I highly recommend it. His wines, from the Petit Chablis through the Grand Cru all over deliver at every level. (Of course we are only visiting domaines whose wine we absolutely stand behind, so saying that is somewhat of a moot point.)

The Dauvissat domaine consists of approximately 23 acres, which Vincent farms himself. During the spring and summer his cave is usually closed to the public because he is working in the vineyard from 5:00AM until 10:00 PM. We were thus very fortunate to have the opportunity to drag him out of the fields today. He practices rather traditional methods of winemaking, even using many smaller wooden barrels generally used only in Chablis. These barrels hold approximately 20% less wine than the larger barrels used worldwide. The smaller sized barrel increases the ratio of surface area to volume of wine, increasing the amount of oxygen contact with the wine. This method is not used in other parts of Burgundy, as the extra oxygen can cause the wines to over oxidize and have a shorter lifespan, but the power and acidity of Chablis allows for it, creating rounder more balanced wines. Dauvissat uses 20% new oak for his Grand Cru wines ad 15% new oak for his premier crus.

Larger barrels on left, smaller on right – la cave de Dauvissat
In 2006, Dauvissat had a smaller crop than 2005. The harvest took place on September 18, 2006. The crop was very concentrated with good acidity, which should lend itself to a long ageability. 2005 also had more botrytis, which causes difficulties for the yeast during alcoholic fermentation, so 2006 underwent a much faster, smoother fermentation process. The 2006 vintage to him is reminiscent of 1989; early harvest and powerful wines, yet 2006 has better acidity than 1989. The alcohol levels are very similar to 2005 and the acid is slightly higher in 2006.

2006 Dauvissat Petit Chablis
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dauvissat Chablis
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru Sechet
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru Forest
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses
Very rich with riper fruit aromas, yet retains a very steely mineral focus and purity. In the mouth candied pineapple flavors surround light lemon notes. Great, round mouthfeel; delicate and bold at the same time with an amazing, lingering finish. -Mike Supple

2006 Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
Light green herbs and a hint of asparagus are underscored by a very bold minerality, accented with light floral and lime aromas. This wine is fat and powerful with very focused acidity, keeping it well balanced. A streak of minerals runs under deep fruit flavors of apricot and white peach. -Mike Supple

Following the barrel samples he brought out an amazing treat:
1988 Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru La Forest (91)
I just want to go on the record and say that the Wine Spectator rating of 74 for this wine is absolutely crazy. Granted, I don’t know what it tasted like in 1990, so it very well could have merited that rating at the time. If you still have any bottles of this wine around, or you can find some, DRINK THEM! The aromas are amazingly rich and smoky with sweet wild honeycomb and dried apricot balanced by lemon curd. In the mouth the wine is still showing amazing acidity. Powerful and ripe with flavors of lemon, smoky white peach and bold minerals. Although the smoke, minerality and cream come over top of the fruit, the balanced and mouth feel are still incredible. The finish is long and lingering, touched by hints of apricot. -Mike Supple

Domaine Louis Michel & Fils

Domaine Louis Michel et Fils is run by Jean-Loup Michel and Annick Gicqueau-Michel, the son and daughter of Louis. This morning, Annick’s young son Guillaume came home to help in the family business, leaving a web-design based job in Paris. We had the chance to meet with the all, and they are all quite excited about having Guillaume around to help. The learning process for the next generation of Domaine Louis Michel is underway.

The focus of the Michel domaine is to let the grapes express the individual terroir in as pure a manner as possible. For this reason, they do not use any oak at all for fermentation or for aging. Rather, all of the fermentation takes place in large temperature controlled stainless steel vats. The land of Domaine Louis Michel & Fils consists of approximately 45 acres, the majority of which are premier crus. The soil in their vineyards is laden with limestone, and not using oak allows the limestone to show forth as pure, focused, racy minerality in all their wines.

Like Dauvissat, Jean-Loup harvested his 2006 vintage before the rest of Burgundy this year, and the alcohol content is similar to 2005; these two vintages are the highest in alcohol in Jean-Loup’s memory.

An interesting side note: a few of the Louis Michel et Fils Village (not 1er or grand cru) wines are bottled in screw cap for the American market. This option was made available to the rest of the world, but not many are interested. I would have thought at least some of the newly emerging markets in Russia and Eastern Europe would be open to the idea, but Annick says that in these countries where they are just beginning to develop a wine culture, they want everything to be strictly traditional: screw caps are right out.

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Petit Chablis
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis
Two versions of this wine are in separate tanks: a clean, crisp version destined for the screw cap bottle and then the American market, and a wine still on the lees. There are slight differences, but both have the same crisp minerality and focus.
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Montmain
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Forets
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume
Always one of my favorite vineyards in Chablis. Fourchaume is actually split into two sections, and contains a smaller sub-appellation called “Vaulurent”. The Michel Fourchaume vines are within this sub-appellation. This is the only 1er Cru vineyard which actually touches a Grand Cru vineyard (Preuses). The next closest is the Cote de Brechain vineyard, a sub-appellation of the 1er cru Montee de Tonnerre, however Cote de Brechain is separated from the Grand Cru “Blanchot” by a road.
Rich aromas of honeycomb and sweet dried apricot are supported by a bold minerality. In the mouth the wine has an incredibly nice feel; both full and round. The wine is balanced and the acidity and minerality offset the almost swee white peach and lingering apricot finish. -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple
2005 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Montmain (90)
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume (91)
Rich pear, white peach and nectarine surround a high mineral core with notes of wet flint. The wine presents a light herbaceousness on the palate. The wine is very full, and has a nice, balanced acidic structure with citrus flavors and underlying sweeter nectarine and tropical notes leading in to a bright mineral finish. -Mike Supple

2005 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos (93)
Sweet and spicy with pure and focused fruit aromas of nectarine and dried apricot accented with light floral notes and dense minerality. Rich and creamy on the palate (and no oak!) this is a very full yet focused wine with a strong minerality and bold acid throughout the palate. Hints of white peach and creamy hazelnut linger on the finish. -Mike Supple

After the tasting, the Michel family took us to the Micheline Rated “Hostellerie des Clos” where we were treated to lunch.

Wine:
2001 Louis Michel et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
2000 Domaine Thierry et Pascal Matrot Blagny 1er Cru La Piece Sous le Bois

Meal:
-Amuse Bouches: Layered butter pastry, smoked salmon puree on brioche, cheese puffs
-Chilled seafood bisque
-Oeufs en meurette a l’Irancy – poached eggs in a Pinot Noir reduction sauce, topped with mushrooms and lardon
-Roast free-range duckling and glazed vegetables
-Roast free-range duckling leg on a bed of mixed greens

Domaine Laurent Tribut

After lunch we traveled from the clean and modern style of Domaine Louis Michel et Fils to the more rustic farming approach of winemaking at Domaine Laurent Tribut. Laurent entered the wine-making tradition when he married Marie-Clotilde Dauvissat, the daughter of Rene Dauvissat. Laurent is a very friendly and hard working man, whose rough hands clearly show the dedication he has to his vineyards. His approach to vineyard management is very similar to the intense hands-on style of Vincent Dauvissat. Like Dauvissat, the wines in 2006 have approximately the same alcohol content as 2005 (about 0.5% lower in ’06) and the ’06 wines are higher in acidity. I have mentioned this several times, because this is somewhat of a rare and exciting combination in wine: the high alcohol comes from the high sugar in the rich, ripe grapes. Usually acid is lost when the grapes get this ripe, but in 2006 the natural acid levels remained very high, giving better balance to the wines and allowing great aging potential.

Laurent produces only three wines: a Chablis Villages and two Premier Crus. In Laurent’s opinion his two premier cru vineyards esentially are no different: they have very similar soil types, same southern exposure. The major difference is that the Beauroy is approximately 5 years older than the 25 year old Cote de Lechet.

1 down, 4,392,747 bottles to go
2006 Laurent Tribut Chablis
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Laurent Tribut Chablis 1er Cru Cote de Lechet
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Laurent Tribut Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Laurent Tribut Chablis (88)
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Laurent Tribut Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy (90)
(Notes to come.) -Mike Supple

Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair

Two hours and a brief rain shower later, we were back in the warm sun of Nuits-St-Georges for a visit with Thibault Liger-Belair. Readers take note: Domaine Liger-Belair is the hottest thing in Burgundy right now, and this name will be on the lips of every critic; it is only a matter of when, not if.

Winemaking has been the Liger-Belair legacy, with vineyards passing from generation to generation since 1720. After a brief restructuring period, Thibault took over the vineyards in 2001 (at the age of 26) and harvested his first wines in 2002 under his own name: Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair.

Thibault has the utmost respect for the land and the vines, and for this reason began organically farming his wines in 2002. He decided that was not quite enough, and made the change to biodynamic farming in 2004. Thibault is young and passionate about his wines and brings his energy and ideas to the vineyards and the winery. Rather than work with set ideas in mind on his method of wine production, he constantly adapts to the needs of the individual vineyards and barrels. Rather than use modern equipment to check for sugar levels, ripeness, acidity, etc in his grapes, he instead relies on his palate. It was through a series of trial and error that he decided that just because a wine is statistically perfect, it does not mean that it tastes right. When the grapes taste right in the field, they will taste right in the bottle.

Through his methods of biodynamic farming, Thibault has brought life back to the soil of his vineyards. When he began working with them, the vineyards were tired and the soil was gray. By applying various biodynamic methods, his soils have all revitalized, re oxidized, and are now a vibrant iron red. He also plows a few of his vineyards by horse, rather than tractor (including his vines in Clos de Vougeot and Richebourg). His dramatic new approach to a classic style of winemaking is turning heads, and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee Conti recently began using horses in Richebourg as well. There are 9 owners of vines within Richebourg, and Thibault’s holdings are the third largest, behind DRC and Leroy. At an age of 70 years, Thibault’s vines are the oldest in Richebourg. An interesting side note: Thibault’s family sold the vineyard La Tache to DRC in 1936.

Thibault is intent upon making wines that he likes; striving to make each wine truly express its terroir, he never makes thick, extracted, inky black Pinot Noir. In order to express this terroir, he works with each vintage on its own, allowing the good qualities to show through, rather than trying to force it to be something it is not. In 2003 the acid levels after harvest were somewhat low, and many winemakers added tartartic acid to their wines in an effort to stabilize the wines and protect them from bacteria. While this does work in the short run, tartaric acid never truly integrates itself in to the wine, and after 3 to 5 years the acid will begin to destabilize causing an unpleasant metallic character in the wine. Thibault instead worked carefully in the winery and let the wines express themselves in their true manner, and ended up with some monstrously gorgeous and intense Pinot Noir with amazing ability to age.

For Thibault, 2006 “is a light vintage, but not thin; a real basket of fruit in ’06. It is a very long wine with a long finish and very ripe acidity”. 2006 was a little more challenging of a vintage than 2005, and Thibault took many steps to allow his wines to show their true potential and terroir. By keeping his cellar cool while the wines were fermenting, he kept an intensity of fruit and aromas and reduced extraction in his wines. Nor did he use any punch down methods and used very minimal pump-overs. Again, this reduced the amount of extraction and tannin present in the wine. The end result are beautiful elegant, supple wines, in many ways reminiscent of Mongeard-Mugneret.

We caught Thibault on film describing the 2006 vintage, comparing it to others, and explaining why he started making biodynamic wines. Look for those videos here shortly!

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Hautes Cotes de Nuits Corvee de Villy
Cool and spicy on the nose with hints of orange zest and ripe black cherry. The wine enters the mouth with a smooth, silky feel. Nice balance with a good tannic structure on the mid-palate. The fruits are rich and dark yet not overpowering.
This vineyard is biodynamic as of 2004. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Bourgogne Rouge Grand Chaillots
Dark fruit aromas of blueberry, candied red cherry and a hint of cranberry are accented by a light charcoal minerality. Nice mouthfeel and a good tannic backbone.
Only 5 barrels of this wine were produced in 2006 from a 1/2 hectare piece of land. Aged in 3 year old barrels (the oldest barrels used by Dom Thibault Liger-Belair). -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-St-Georges la Charmott
Light sage and other dried herb aromas are followed by rich black cherry, raspberry and strawberry, surrounded by a light toasty quality. Very well balanced – this is lush and supple on the palate without getting too dense. Fairly high tannins, but well integrated on the palate. Rich cherry is backed by lighter charcoal and hints of earthy minerality. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanee aux Reas
Light caramel and spicy cassis aromas with hints of melted licorice and blackberry. Supple on the palate. Nice purity of fruit – rich raspberry – and solid tannic structure. Very bold minerality on the finish.
These vines are on the southern part of Vosne-Romanee, across the street from the 1er cru vineyards. The vines are 60 years old. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru Toppe au Vert
A little wild and rustic on the nose. Full minerality on the palate with hints of slate and nickel. The mouthfeel is very full, but the finish is a touch short.
One of his negociant bottlings. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Grunchers
Very toasty aromas with a bright herbaceousness over rich black cherry. Well balanced on the palate with hints of mocha over the rich fruit and full bold mineral body.
One of his negociant bottlings.-Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Gevrey Chambertin La Croix de Choix
A new wine this vintage for Liger-Belair.
Great nose – powerful fruit aromas of raspberries surrounded by spicy anise and lighter floral notes. Delicate on the front of the palate, building to a nice full finish. Round on the mid-palate with light herbs, rich fruit, nicely balanced tannins and a bold mineral streak in the finish.
54 year old vines. Production: 17 hectoliters/hectare. No destemming, no sulfur treatments. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Corton les Rognets Grand Cru
Very bright on the nose with floral notes and spicy fresh anise. Candied cherry and licorice dominate the front palate, with darker blackberry fruit coming in on the mid-palate. This is a very balanced, soft and lush wine with a fantastic mouthfeel. Should be approachable at a young age, but have the ability to age well.
One of his negociant bottlings. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Corton Renards Grand Cru
This wine just finished going through malolactic fermentation, and has slightly reduced qualities to it.
Ripe, fresh fruits on the nose with light herbaceous notes. Smooth with powerful fruit flavors, but less intense tannins. The fruit is rich and has a candied quality to it, but not to the extent where the wine becomes cloying.
One of his negociant bottlings. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru
Very herbaceous up front, with bold fruit rushing in behind. Ripe raspberry and blackberry are followed by sweet and spicy strawberry notes. Round and full in the mouth, with bolder more powerful tannins. Great depth with sweet dark fruits and a lingering toasty quality. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St-Georges
Rich caramel aromas over ripe, full cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry surrounding light hints of earth and mineral. Supple and rich on the palate. Great mouthfeel with full ripe fruits, yet stays in balance with the tannins. Good structure and minerality with cherry and hints of spicy anise on the finish. -Mike Supple

2006 Thibault Liger-Belair Richebourg Grand Cru
A little tight and shy on the nose: light yet elegant fruit aromas waft over nice violet and lilac floral notes. Good power on the palate: great depth of fruit with a bold minerality. Manages to remain elegant and never gets too bold. Very long, lingering finish.
From 70 year old vines – the oldest in the Richebourg vineyard. -Mike Supple

2005 Thibault Liger-Belair Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru (92-94)
This wine was bottled one month prior to tasting.
Very interesting nose: spicy nutmeg and caramel accented by bold, ripe cherry and blackberry fruits, followed by a lingering vanilla spice. Great balance on the palate. Very rich fruits with a bold yet integrated tannic structure. Silky and smooth on the mid-palate, and an intense, long lingering finish. Outstanding! -Mike Supple

2005 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St-Georges (91-93)
Cooler aromas with fresh spicy anise ober black cherries, hints of earth and iron, and light notes of cassis. Silky and rich on the front of the palate, and quickly gives way to an underlying deeper power. This wine is naturally 14.8% alcohol, but none of the heat is present on the palate. Outstanding balance of fruit, tannins and minerality. Light orange zest, cherries and cassis lead to a very long finish. -Mike Supple

Dinner with Thibault Liger-Belair at La Cabotte in Nuits-St-Georges

La Cabotte is a fun restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere, owned and operated by a husband (head chef) and wife (hostess etc). Unfortunately, they may be leaving soon to go to New York, but the restaurant will stay open, left in the capable hands of one of their other chefs. I can only hope the food remains as amazing.

Thibault speaks English incredibly well, and has a boisterous, fun and welcoming personality. Long story short: dinner was a blast. At La Cabotte we ran in to Olivier L’Arlot – winemaker of Domaine L’Arlot – and his wife, who were gracious enough to share their dinner wines with us, spreading the fun around.

Wine:
-1999 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc
-We had a the 1999 Leflaive 1er Cru Les Pucelles last night, and were disappointed by how oxidized it had already become. However, this little Bourgogne Blanc had a lot of life left in it, and was drinking beautifully.
-2003 Domaine Bertagne Clos Vougeot Les Cras
-Very buttery minerality on the nose. Great balance on the palate with a spicy cream quality.
-2003 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St-Georges
-This is a huge wine with 15% natural alcohol – that is so well balanced the alcohol does not come through in the least. Intense fruit is accented by light mint and herbal notes with a bold lingering minerality.
-2005 Thibault Liger-Belair Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru
-2001 Domaine Lafarge Volnay Villages

The meal:
-Amuse Bouches: Fried potato balls in a cumin aioli, tempura cone (picture a thin ice cream cone) filled with mashed potato and Comte, gaspazcho
-Tempura frog’s legs over risotto and fresh herbs
-Roast duckling breast with golden potatoes, mushrooms, and a cassis glaze (yes, I chose duck twice in one day – for the record, this one was prepared a little better)
-Fromages: goat cheese from Puligny, Citaux, Epoisse, Comte and 2 Blue cheeses
-Tart tatin with ice cream made from salted cream and caramel

Encore, on a trop manger!

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