Sunday, March 8, 2015

Thibault Liger-Belair 2012

Thibault Liger-Belair's 2012 red burgundies are a step up from any previous vintage I recall from this producer. I hadn't drunk many of his wines in the past, simply because on the occasions I had tried them, they had left me uninspired. However, the 2012's are high-quality, albeit not necessarily all to my liking in terms of style and flavor. The domain is relatively young, though the vineyard holdings go back for generations. In its present shape under Thibault's name, it was established in 2001 by then the 26-year-old passionate Thibault Liger Belair who took back family vineyards from share-croppers. It is perhaps not surprising that several years were required for the results of that work to start showing. The 2012's certainly make me re-consider the 2012 as a more serious vintage for reds than I have been giving it credit for.

Recently, I had an opportunity to taste several of Thibault's 2012's and though not exhaustive, the tasting pulled this producer from the shadow of his cousin Louis Michel Liger-Belair of Comte Liger-Belair, a hugely successful vigneron and owner of the monopole La Romanee from Vosne Romanee. Thibault is back on my radar, especially considering he is one of the few owners in the famed Richebourg terroir.

Tasting Notes

2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges "La Charmotte" village wine - very light cranberry color, especially compared to others. Lovely spicy red berries, licorice, oak, a bit like a light Vieux Telegraphe (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) from a lighter vintage (like 2006 and 2011), in a good way, but with more Pinot elegance. Very light body, strange, perhaps the lightest red from 2012 I've had, almost makes me imagine a second tier village (like Savigny or Pernand) from a lighter vintage. I asked the owner of the wine shop if other bottles of this wine have been like this, and he said yes. The color and palate suggest hints of secondary flavors and some premature development, with earthy caramelized carrots, but in a good way. Pine forest, game / pate / leather, hint of metallic, earthiness. This is really good, for short-to-mid-term drinking (3-5 years).

2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Gevrey-Chambertin "La Croix des Champs" village wine - (open for 2 hours). Nose: meaty, very fine pepper spice dust and (expert use of) ripe stems, floral, attractive. Palate: a lot of extract, hint of leather, stems, smoky spice on the finish. Clean, pure, balanced, meaty and dark. Quite leathery, soft persistent tannins. Good.

2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanee "Aux Reas" village wine - (open for 2 hours). Nose: redder, velvetier, sweeter than the Gevrey. Palate: consistent with nose. Smoother, riper, sweeter. Plush and delicious. Vanilla, wood. Velvety tannins, spices, none of the stemmy character of the Gevrey, lovely hint of apricot / orange. Pretty decadent for a village wine.

2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Clos Vougeot Grand Cru - (pop and pour). Yummy nose of black cherries and cream. Palate: silky smooth, black cherries, plums and vanilla cream, some earthy beets. Nice silky cushioned texture gives the wine very luxurious feeling, gently tannic. Very good! My favorite of the tasting, and a wine that vindicates Clos de Vougeot for those who doubt the vineyard's grand cru pedigree. I would be happy to buy this wine.

2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru - I heard this wine is over 15% alcohol. While it was big and rich, the alcohol wasn't sticking out for me. However, the wine did very much remind me of an elegant version of a Northern Rhone, i.e. it was very robust for a red Burgundy, and not really my style, at least at this stage of its life. Nose: almost Northern Rhone-like pepper, floral/stems, oak. Palate: spicebox (exotic peppercorns), again reminds me of Northern Rhone, tarry cherry and plum, rich black cherry. Looking at and tasting the Charmes-Chambertin side-by-side with the Nuits-Saint-Georges (in the first photo above) shows the two dramatic extremes of this producer's range - the light and elegant Nuits-Saint-Georges and the dark, rich and robust Charmes. On one hand, this makes Thibault Liger-Belair interesting for me, but on the other, one should be aware that tasting is necessary in order to calibrate the wines to one's own preferences, because the range is strikingly diverse.

Friday, March 6, 2015

2012 Raveneau Chablis

Raveneau is the top Chablis producer, everyone knows it, the prices are sky high, yet worth it in my opinion, as the quality experience is virtually guaranteed, both young and especially with age. 2012 vintage in Chablis was particularly strong, and Raveneau's 2012's that I tasted were fabulous. Riesling-like minerality, honeyed, spicy butteriness that lingered on the lips for hours, viscous oily textures and exotic seawater / seaweed salinity were the hallmarks of this lineup, with the bonus 1999 Montee de Tonnerre showing amazing seamless silkiness and marvelous complexity. Yet with all those admirable attributes, these are not wines of weight and obviousness, but rather of elegance, complexity, texture, precision and enormous class. My oh my, I was smitten, they were the best 2012 white burgundies (if you can call Chablis that) I have had! In 2012, there were other excellent Chablis producers that cost a fraction of Raveneau - the likes of Dauvissat, William Fevre, Christian Moreau, etc... Personally, I hold Dauvissat in almost as high esteem, yet Raveneau is still the king!

Tasting Notes

2012 Raveneau Chablis "Vaillons" 1er Cru - satiny seawater, creamy pillowy oiliness, intensely spicy and very long finish lasting more than a minute. This is great!

2012 Raveneau Chablis "Butteaux" 1er Cru - slightly riper than the "Vaillons", more orchard fruit, still nice honeyed salinity and oiliness. I preferred the Vaillons by a tiny margin.

2012 Raveneau Chablis "Montee de Tonnerre" 1er Cru - beautiful creamy scent, spice, oil, spicy florals, intense finish, silkier and softer than the "Valmur" and "Butteaux", slightly more elegant if perhaps less powerful than the previous two.

2012 Raveneau Chablis "Valmur" Grand Cru - more power and punch here, more flavor, oily buttery finish, Riesling-like minerals, actually reminds me of an Italian wine too, in terms of focus and minerality, but with cream/butter/oil adding an enormously pleasurable dimension of class, very obvious crushed stones covered with honeyed butter, very long finish that reverberates on my taste glands. Wow!

1999 Raveneau Chablis "Montee de Tonnerre" 1er Cru - note of petrol and butter on the nose. Palate: silky smooth, buttery, slightly roasted nuts, wow!, really complex and delicious, great balance, rich! In a perfect place to drink now. Wish I had this in my cellar! Marvelous!

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