Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru, Les Saint George, “A wine with a big personality, but a wine that you need to ‘go to’, rather one that ‘comes to you’,” says Thibault Liger-Belair of Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
In this film Thibault speaks about the soil in Les Saint Georges. The soil and the wine have changed since his first vintage in 2002. The organic and biodynamic work in the vineyard has made the soil more powdery, lighter and more aerated. This is not just the effect of ploughing which affects the top soil, but the earthworms and the effect of temperature change at a lower level. In particular he has noticed the calcite which is surfacing throughout the vineyard and this he considers may account for more ‘verticality’ (depth), freshness and minerality in the wine.
We tasted a vertical from 2002 and the impression of minerality, freshness and energy did appear to increase over the vintages. The winemaking has also changed, but these three elements are more likely to be a result in the changes in the vineyard.
Thibault likes to draw an analogy between the texture of the soil and of the wine. Les Saint George has quite sandy, powdery type of clay giving a tannic grip with elegance while Chambolle’s soil would be softer and the texture and tannins in Chambolle reflect this.
Thibault considers Les Saint Georges to a wine of good bones and good body. It’s on the ‘earth’ side, but moving in recent years more to the ‘light’ side – showing more floral and fruity elements in recent years and freshness…and fewer earthy and spice characters. As he remarks Les Saint Georges is among the least tannic wines of the southern side of NSG which has a reputation for burly tannin. It is more sophisticated and delicate with more integrated tannins than Les Porrets Saint-Georges for example.
For the past 10 years Thibault and fellow owners of Les Saint Georges have worked to persuade the INAO to elevate it from premier to grand cru. No applications for grand cru were put forward in 1936 when the growths were classified. Three that might have been considered would be Les Saint Georges, Les Cailles and Les Vaucrains, but Thibault believes the growers were dissuaded by the negociants on whom they relied to buy their grapes and, as he point out, this was a time of economic hardship. The INAO may be concerned about opening such the ‘Pandora’s box’ However there are precedents for change of status – Clos de Lambray (in Morey-Satin Denis) was elevated from premier to Grand Cru in 1981 and La Grande Rue (in Vosne Romanée in 1992) so it may happen in time. And in the meantime Thibault quite rightly remarks that Les Saint George is already world renowned and if people know one red in Burgundy it is likely to be Nuits-Saint-Georges, so the appellation has not been too badly affected by the lack of grand cru.