Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanée
No other estate in Burgundy, or perhaps the world, has achieved such an enviable reputation in such a short amount of time. Admittedly the seeds were planted two centuries ago and at a certain point in history, the Liger-Belairs owned a dizzying collection of vineyards that included the monopolies of La Romanée, La Tâche and La Grande Rue as well as considerable parcels in Clos de Vougeot, Chambertin, Saint-Geroges, Malconsorts, Reignots and Vaucrains.
The Napoleonic code eradicated most of this enviable ownership in 1933 when one widowed Comtesse Liger-Belair passed away leaving the estate to 10 children, including 3 minors, who were unable to reach an agreement as to the future of these holdings. Miraculously, two of the children were able to buy back certain vineyards at auction, most notably the famed La Romanée.
Sharecroppers tended the hallowed land for a few generations of Liger-Belairs while the wine was marketed by negoçiants. When still a child, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair told his parents that when he grew up, he wanted to live in Vosne and be a winemaker. Hoping to shake such patently wild notions out of his son’s head, Louis-Michel’s father declared that he wouldn’t be permitted to manage the wine estate until he had obtained a degree as an engineer.
Louis-Michel proceeded to pursue a degree in agricultural engineering, perhaps not what his father had envisioned, also completing a degree in commerce and acquiring an oenology diploma from the university of Dijon.
By 2000, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair was a dynamic and driven young man, ready to re-claim his family’s vineyards and make his name as a winegrower.
In 2000 there were only 1.5 hectares for Liger-Belair to hone his craft, but as sharecropping arrangements ended and rental agreements and purchases in additional vineyards were established, the domaine grew to its current 11 hectares or so.
All of the holdings are in Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-St. Georges and Flagey-Échezeaux, covering a small but covetable corner of the Côte d’Or. The pearl of this, of course, is the undistinguished-looking monopoly of La Romanée, France’s smallest wine appellation and one that provides one of the world’s most brilliant examples of red wine.
Farming at Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair is biodynamic and the winemaking touch is light, if not absent. Liger-Belair bottles wines of considerable nuance, persistence and harmony. The hype around the domaine generates considerable interest, often amongst people who have never actually tasted the wine, but those who are lucky enough to try it are often flabbergasted by an uncommon union of subtlety and focus with unbridled, rippling succulence.
Comte Liger-Belair bottles are ones that get emptied! They are precious, yes, and very expensive, but kaleidoscopically complex, dangerously appealing when young (though their aging capacity is assured), and they never let you forget that wine’s primary mandate is to taste great.