Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair

Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er cru, Les Saint Georges 2006-2015

I tasted with the ebullient Thibault Liger-Belair.

“There are 2.05 hectares. The first written record we have is in the C18th for two plots belonging to Clos de Marey and Liger Belair. The families joined their businesses in 1815 with a marriage. This came through Elizabeth Liger-Belair. The parcel was 2.28 hectares. It was leased on fermage for 30 years. When we reclaimed it, 0.2 was given to the farmer, hence the decrease in hectarage.

Our parcel is in the middle of Les-Saint-Georges. It’s unique as there is sort of fault in the middle – on a diagonal. Along this fault we can be a sort of crystal of limestone – like a quartz – like a pearl. It’s calcite. I asked a geologist and he explained that the water goes through the limestone and degrades the limestone. The fault offers friction and holds water and this crystallises the limestone and dissolves and transforms it to become calcite.”

“When we work the soil around the fault with the ploughing disperse the calcite over all the vineyard. We are touching at the top of the soil only, but it’s a movement of convection as well as the soil moving naturally.”

“So we have seen a change in the soil. It was brown and now white as this soil has come to the top of the vineyard. It gives a bit more verticality in the wine. So many things have helped. Since 2002 we have been organic in Les Saint-George. I started my first work in the vineyard in 2001.”

“The clay is like a book with lots of leaves – when we open the book we have to re-write everything…we have to redo the mistakes others have done. We have to recuperate. The tractors had compacted the soil. Not so much the ploughing..this helps but more about helping the information.. The best change in the soil is the aeration of the soil from the life of the soil, from bacteria, enzymes ..all these things are moving the soil.”

“The winter was very good this year – very cold. We can see the difference a little each year. I can see the change in the wine – so both in the vinification and the soil. Now I am more focused on the colour of the soil. When we make some holes in the first 20cm of the soil to make tests, we see the soil is more supple and less compressed. What we do at the surface has an effect deeper in the soil. In the past we missed this step in what the soil needs. We focused too much on what the vines needs. Actually we do not need to care too much about the plant, it is the soil we have to work on and this will naturally support the plant.”

“We see reduction in the wine..where does it come from? It comes from unbalanced nitrogen of the soil. The vine cannot take up the nitrogen in the soil. The biodynamics help us with the link between the soil and the wine.”

“Now I use less extraction than in the past. More supple and soft. In vinification I now follwo the grapes and not the other way round. We have to see the potential and the sort of wine we can produce with the grapes the vintage gives us. I changed a lot in 2008. Before I was stressed every year… trying to get the best wine. 2008 was the birth of my first child 4 months before the vinification and this really put things in perspective. I never follow a recipe. I taste every day and do it with feeling. He does this with this cellar master Eric, who has been with him 14 years.

“Since 2010 I have used some whole bunch. I started in 2006 with Gevrey-Chamberin. We pick twice to select the whole bunches. The first time through we pick just the best and this is our selection”

“I taste the whole bunch – in the vineyards. Crushing it all together. If I taste I can see what percentage of the whole bunch we will use.”

“My taste has changed to something more fresh and when I see something more precise from the soil and I want to push my vinification to something more precise.”

“We think of the deep brown soil with the calcite. We start with this vineyard. We are now striving for freshness. Sugar and phenolic maturity are not such an issue. The work in the soil has helped with phenolic maturity and this helps freshness.”

“Henri Jayer advocated using no stems, but the climate was different 20 years ago. We have to evolve with the climate and the season as the texture and maturity of our grapes have changed. Winemaking of 20 years ago is not so suited now. Now we need to focus on freshness and also our tastes change.”

“I prefer remontage – pigeage is used less and less. We may use it 3 to 6 times in total over six weeks. It is too brutal. Better just to turn the cap..with a claw..we do not to compress or extract from the cap and we do not want anything brutal or vegetal from the stem. I like the term of infusion. We want all the elements in the skin..but we can let them come on their own in a long, slow fermentation. I am not so sure about many things in my job, but one thing I know that 31 degrees is important to have some elements which we cannot have below this..but we are careful not to move the wine at this stage…we listen to the vat in the vinification. We open the vat, we smell and we decide if not to touch it. I am never alone – I share with the people who work with me and together we form an impression of what to do. This is the most interesting moment of the year.”

Thibault feels that the Les-Saint-George is now between the earth and the light…with the work in the vineyard more in the ‘light’.

These wines need at least 10 years for the cooler vintages just to begin drinking them and 15 for the riper vintage. They will mature over many more.


Tasting Notes  

This tasting took place in March 2017 and the notes first appeared together with the Burgundy Briefing Vintage Report 2016.

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2015
From 1 fill barrel. 30% whole bunch and the maceration was 3 weeks. “It was a very light vinification just to ‘wait and see’. The pigeage in 2015 was just to maintain the temperature. We layer the whole bunch and the destemmed fruit and so when we punch the berries release sugar and the temperature increases.”
This has beautiful rich berry fruit on the nose. There are delicate top notes. Floral hints. On the strike it is dark, intense and ripe. Hedgerow fruits saturate the palate. It is fresh and impressive in the mid palate. A rich satin texture. Sophisticated tannins. Depth and density to the palate. Very juicy and ripe. It is both seductive and very fresh. Lovely intensity and layering. Lovely fresh finish with graphite minerality supporting this freshness. A very elegant and serious wine. Score 19. This will age for 30 years. From 2025/30

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2014
30% whole bunch and less long fermentation than in 2015. his was bottled in September
This is spicy and more up-toned on the nose than the 2015. Quite perfumed. Violets. A straighter palate than the 2015. The tannins are very obvious at the moment, dominating. They are sturdy and strong. It maybe in bottle shock after the bottling 6 months ago. Good level of freshness. There is plenty of energy here. Less richness to the texture and just moderate depth of fruit. There is not quite the concentration of fruit to envelop the sturdy tannins at the moment. Very bright at the end. From 2023/5 Score 18.

“We harvested from the 22 or the 23 September and we stopped as there was a rain storm n the Monday and then continued.”

*Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2013
A brilliant red colour.The nose is cool and very fresh. Wild strawberries, red and blackcurrants. Sweet on the strike. Slim and trim and juicy. It is certainly sprightly on the palate. Delicate and elegant. It has slim texture crunchy taffeta tannins. It’s a lighter bodied wine with plenty of freshness, peppery and lively finish. You taste a cool minerality at the very end. A lovely 2013. It will come round more quickly, but should age well as the balance is here. Score 18.25 From 2022

Harvested October 10th
200mm rain in spring

“During the vinification of the 2013 the grapes were ok but not so ripe and each day we saw more and more potential and each day the grapes said “I can give more..and so we prolonged the fermentation. So in 2013 we used more pigeage after the temperature reached the 30 degrees as we realised that we have not taken sufficient during the early part of the fermentation.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2012
Just showing a little browning in colour. Deeper aroma, black fruits. Black plums and prunes and exotic spices. Five spice. It is rich and spicy on the strike. Thicker texture. The tannins plentiful and burly not as fine grained as the ‘13 or 1’5. Very compact and dense. Tarry notes. This has a much more robust feeling to it. You taste the quantity of tannins. Dark from, but more savoury characters…coal, tar, liquorish. More umami notes. It needs time. A more typical NSG masculinity. I prefer the 2013. It has potential, but it is not my favourite. Leave for 5 years. It needs a lot of time for the more little rugged character to mature and soften. From 2022. Score 18.25.

“We harvested around the 10th. Very small quality. 11 hl/ha. 11 barrels for the 2 hectares. It was a lazy vinification as we could easily make wines that were too rich. Very concentrated grapes. The smallest grapes.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2011
2 hectares. Paling at the edges, but still red. Showing some evolution on the nose.
Somewhat herbal notes, which are changing to a slight coffee note.It is in an awkward place now. The palate is showing better than the nose. The tannins are not the most sophisticated or mature and are a touch coarse on the finish. The shape is elegant, trim and there is good energy and it is fresh, but the tannins are a little bit coarse especially on the finish. It is not such a long finish. Not so much intensity. Needs another five years at least. Score 17.5

Started harvest in the fist week of September. Pressure of health as well as ripeness.

“We have the texture of NSG but without the envelope. We had to harvest..or it would become unbalanced.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2010
This is changing to slight orange hue. A complex and deep aroma. Seductive and rich with white floral floating above the fruit. It is svelte on the attack. Delicious texture of rich silk…rippling with energy. It is fresh and subtle and very intense. Great depth. Great vigour. Pure and mineral on the finish..long with a saline precision at the very end. Wonderful transparency to the terroir. Leave it for another 8 to 10 years. From 2025 and it will mature during 30 years. Score 19.

“We never expected this wines during the vinification. It came during the ageing. In the vinification is was OK and very healthy, but we did not see the potential in the grapes like in 2009 and 2015 But after the MLF it grew and grew to become very well balanced. It became the very best of harmony we want to achieve. I just did not use much extraction. I was careful. If I did it now. I may have searched for a longer vinification.

“The vintage does not mask the terroir, but offers it. It says today why not, but tomorrow for sure!” The fruit is not too rich. What it does is elevate the terroir and bring it to you.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2009
Spice. A rich and sunny aroma. Juicy strike. Rich and dense. The plentiful tannins which are thick and smooth and should become velvet in time. Full and burnished muscularity..very compact, deep, concentrated and dense. A long a powerful finish, but the finish is fine and refined at the end…right at the end there is freshness. From 2022. It will age for 30 year. Score 18.85

Thibault says that maybe if he were making it now he would step back. He has the confidence to do less.

“If you compare with the 2005 with 2009 you see a big difference. If you consider the season and the rain. 2005 had hydric stress and you feel that stress. 2009 we had one day of rain and 4 days or sun. We had 3 periods of sun and rain, so we had ripeness working with the sap, rather than concentration through dehydration as in 2005. It is a proper ripeness using the minerals in the sap..this is a good precursor of aromatic freshness. Mid September harvest.”

*Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2008
Coffee bean note and cocoa powder. I like the nose. Good intensity. There are herbal notes on the strike, but with freshness and energy. It is quite engaging. Orange zest and even a touch of the bitter pith, in an attractive way. It is not ridiculous after the 2009. Very zesty. It is not long, but it is engaging. There is even a touch of blackcurrant sweetness at the end. I like it much more than the 2011. It is between the fruit and the forest as it is evolving. I like it much more than the 2011. Score 17.85

“I came back in August from holiday and it had rained and there was lots of rot. Then the wind came from the north. We realised that it will save the vintage and we could wait a little for the harvest. We had to take out bunches to separate and to have the aeration.

I made a simple vintfication. Did not take much. Just understand what the grapes can give. I put it in perspective.

This is the first year he used his own wood… “It is finer than in the 2007.” He selected his own trees in 4 or 5 forests.. “I was working with 3 coopers, but two of them did not understand that we have to make the barrels after the vinification to make them to suit the wine. So I fired to 2 who said we will make you the right style. The third said “come with me in the forest.” “He did not think I would select the tree! Some were more pink and the grain was very fine..I said I wanted this. It is like the vinification. If I have a good trunk, I do not have to toast too much. My objective to create a platform for the wine. We manage the selection and the toast. We make a selection of the staves each vintage. We sold a part of my wood in 2016 as we did need it.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2007
“Big sugar maturity, but maybe less phenolic maturity in 2007”
Quite a light colour. Rose garden on a warm day. Very scented and seductive. Slightly exotic note to the nose. Just a delight. Sandalwood. Slips seductively onto the plate. Delicious and sweet up front. It is elegant and rippling. Light bodied and textured. Not so energetic. While it is delicious up front it lacks complexity and is drying and short on the finish. Drink now. No advantage in keeping this. Score 17

“Early vintage on the 4-5th September. It is a surprise. We thought it would be at the top 4 to 5 years ago…not a vintage we could easily understand how it will develop in the future. I advised my customers to drink it early, but it continues now.”

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Saint Georges 2006
An umami aroma. Marmite, coffee and forest floor bouquet. It is very expressive up front, plenty of savoury fruit. Generous and juicy. Fair concentration. It has balanced acidity and finishes on a fresh note after the warm fruit and with a savoury minerality at the end. It is a satisfying, balanced wine. The finish is better than the 2007…this should continue to evolve. I prefer it to the 2007 as it is a bit more complex and has more structure. The 2008 is more elegant and pure. Score 17.5

“Classic vintage in 2006”