2011 Burgundy Preview: A Cellar Full of Gems at Lucien Le Moine

Mounir Saouma’s counter-culture winemaking ideology has paid off in 2011, with potentially classic Pinots and Chardonnays.

Tasting the wines of Lucien Le Moine is a fascinating exercise, in part because co-proprietor Mounir Saouma sources excellent wines, but mainly because Saouma’s ideology often runs counter to the prevailing wisdom in Burgundy.

Saouma generally loves a long élevage with plenty of healthy lees to nourish the wines. To that end, nothing in the cellar had been racked or treated with sulfites; every barrel was still on lees.

« On paper, [2011] looks like 2010, » Saouma said. « There’s not a lot of alcohol, not a lot of acidity, but to have 13.2 [degrees of potential alcohol] in 2011, we had to chaptalize. »

« Both vintages started too fruity, almost boring, until 14 months after the harvest. Then both vintages started to become an adult, » he added.

« The difference is that 2010 will age. It has the density, the structure, the concentration. Part of 2011 is like 2007, open, with wines that will drink young; the other part is the dry extract of ’11. In 2011 there are no tannins, but dry extract. They have the combination of maturity, complex terroir, parcels within each cru that achieved very good ripeness and had nothing to do with either clay or limestone [soil]. In ’09, ’10, the wines loved limestone, limestone was the king, » he said.

We sampled 28 of the 54 different premiers and grands crus, in pairs from each village. Here are some highlights.

From Volnay there is an aromatic, almost floral Santenots, elegant in style, with pure berry, cherry and mineral flavors, plus a saline finish (88–91). The Volnay Les Caillerets suffered from a slight reduction, offering red fruits, flowers and black currant notes on a delicate, lacy frame (88–91).

Glorious aromas of flowers, cassis and herbs introduced the savory Chambolle-Musigny Les Haut Doix, which wows with its expressive fruit, lacy texture and long finish (89–92). Yet, it’s overshadowed by neighborLes Amoureuses, whose intense floral, mineral, tuberose, raspberry and black currant flavors were underscored by stone and chalk. Elegant and superlong, it has a finish that seems to last forever (91–94).

The next wine, the Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts evokes pure cassis and violet notes on an elegant, detailed profile, while the firm backbone provides support. Concentrated, but not heavy, it finishes very long (90–93). The next barrel, from the lieu-dit Au Dessus des Malconsorts delivers green spice, tobacco, chocolate and complex, sweet fruit flavors, mouthcoating and long, with a sandalwood and incense finish (90–93).

I preferred the Clos de la Roche to the Clos St-Denis at this stage, for its power and elegance, its pure cherry and green, floral notes building and expanding to a great finish (92–95).

From Gevrey, the Mazis-Chambertin features intense aromas of pure cherry, griottes and spice, with a laser beam of fruit, hint of tobacco, earth and mineral, but this is more about the fruit now, with terrific length (92–95). The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze is simply ethereal, an aerial wine, full of energy and persistence, yet so light on the palate, exhibiting detailed and persistent floral and mineral flavors (93–96).

The Bonnes Mares is often one of my favorite wines in the cellar here, and the 2011 does not disappoint, revealing a mélange of ripe fruit, flowers and mineral flavors. It’s really sappy, intense, saturating and long (93–96). The Grands Echézeaux boasts a beam of energy around which orbits raspberry, cherry, floral and spice notes (92–95).

Typical of the wines here, the whites need more time in barrel than the reds. They, too, had been neither racked nor adjusted for sulfur.

The powerful Chassagne-Montrachet La Romanée, with its rich lemon, cream, pastry and mineral notes (89–92) contrasts nicely with the clean, racy Les Caillerets, full of intense lemon, stone and chalky flavors (90–93).

From Puligny-Montrachet, La Garenne is also racy, showing ripe lemon pie, nut and stony elements (89–92). The Folatières offers a rich, toasty profile, with shades of meringue and lemon zest, ending in a tactile finish (89–92).

A comparison of Meursault giants pit Genevrières against Perrières. The former touches on juniper and lemon notes, allied to a racy yet rich frame, with a long, chalky aftertaste (89-92). The latter hints at lemon, stone, chalk and mineral flavors. A thoroughbred, it’s lean and very long (91–94).

The Bâtard-Montrachet is the biggest of the whites at chez Le Moine, full of raw power and intensity. The flavors evoke lemon-lime and lemon rind, with a cheesy yogurt element from the lees that lingers on the finish (92–95). On the other hand, the Chevalier-Montrachet, despite its intensity, is more restrained, with floral, citronella, lemongrass and mineral notes matched to a creamy texture and long finish (92–95).