Hubert Lignier is assuredly among my favorite producers. Neal Martin talks about the Domaine in glowing, reverent terms, situating the Domaine’s ethos and style as on the level of Perrot-Minot and Dujac, though without the polish of the former or the whole bunch quality of the Dujac wines. In sum, the house is traditional and these are elegant wines of great poise and rigor.
I have been lucky to have quite a bit of old Ligniers, and the memories linger among my most treasured Burgundy experiences. What I love so deeply in these wines is their “somehwereness,” their sense of terroir and identity that seems totally devoid of their “Lignierness.” That is, in a Lignier wine, you can feel the imprint of the vineyard clearly, but you do not feel the winemaker intruding on the experience with his groping touch or sight.
This quality is a rare feat in Burgundy, and only a precious few pull it off. Mugneret-Gibourg, Roumier, Rousseau all come to mind. I cannot recommend these wines enough. I have tasted through the 2015s in barrel and bottle and the vintage is as fine here as it is at any of the top Domaines in Burgundy. In short, you should buy all that you can. I’ll close my intro with the wise word of Neal Martin:
“Crown jewels excepting, prices remain reasonable and the only thing really stopping you and I from loading up is the small quantities that some of these are made in.“
Yes, there’s Roumier; Rousseau is pretty damned good, too; then, of course, there’s Mugnier and Mugneret-Gibourg. Titans in Burgundy and sought out the world over. Why? One word: transparency. There are precious few producers who manage to craft wines that illustrate the great Burgundian paradox: weight that seems to float weightlessly – fat, richness, power, intensity that seems to be borne on air, ethereal, like a silk scarf languidly flowing on wind, tickling the breeze itself. Wines from producers such as these can be transformative experiences – as much as you would like to emerge from your goblet with words of praise or assessment, the wines seem to urge you into silence, as you sit in warm, quiet contemplative reverie, and all your world unfolds before you – past, present, future – in a glow of contentment.
Of course, such experiences are rare. You need to meet the wine when the wine would like to meet you, and be ready for such an experience. Moreover, you must have the wine that can extend such promises. The pantheon of modern day Burgundy gods deliver these experiences with such regularity that the entire world is willing to pay many multiples more than the next guy, causing prices to explode and quantities to be morcellated (or concentrated) among too few of us.
Domaine Hubert Lignier is undoubtedly one of these producers. Before a tragedy that left the Domaine without their eldest son and in a protracted legal battle with his widow, Lignier was breaking records at auction and was very much among the brightest lights of Burgundy, sought after by the same people hoarding Roumier and Mugnier and Rousseau. During the dark ages as Hubert and Laurent (Hubert’s younger son) fought it out with Romain’s widow, the wine world receded and their star diminished slightly. Meadows stopped visiting; the press stopped writing about them; no one wanted to get involved in the l’Affair de Lignier.
But, and this is important, the wines have remained as pure, transparent and transformative as ever.
Perhaps the best wines I have ever had have been from the Lignier stable. I cut my teeth on a 1993 Morey-St.-Denis 1er Vieilles Vignes, with many different vintages thereafter fueling my passion for Burgundy, serving as a model of what great Burgundy can be. I have been lucky to have had multiple vintages of his Clos de la Roche, Chambolle 1er Baudes and Gevrey 1er Combottes, each offering their own counterbalance, their own high note, their own peculiar sense of place. Most recently, a small group of us enjoyed a 1999 Morey 1er Chaffots, a too often overlooked cru, that sang an earthy, meaty song, that was balanced, elegant, long and intense, yet totally transparent. A thrilling wine.
I could ramble on or talk about viticulture and viniculture and what happens at bottling, but the simple fact is that these people know what they are doing. You are lucky if you ever have your moment with an aged Lignier wine. I have been, and you now have the opportunity too.