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Invited review: Dr Kieron Lim writes on an exclusive tasting of Comte Liger-Belair

March 27, 2021

In his second invited review, Dr Kieron Lim, whose astute palate and impeccable taste are held in high esteem by vignerons and oenophiles alike, recounts about a fabulous afternoon…

On the second Saturday of March 2021, a few lucky individuals assembled at one of my favourite restaurants in Singapore to taste a flight of wines from Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair – affectionately known as “CLB” to its legion of die-hard fans. As a testament to the seriousness of this tasting, there was a compulsory tutorial before the first drop of wine was poured. This delayed gratification provided us with important facts on the history and terroir of the domaine, including nuggets of trivia about CLB, thus enhancing the appreciation of the wines which followed. Allow me to provide a succinct summary of the tutorial:

From 1815, the Liger-Belair family held important stakes amongst the grand crus of La Tâche, La Romanée, La Grande Rue, Clos de Vougeot and Chambertin, along with a smattering of Vosne-Romanée premier crus including Malconsorts, Chaumes, Reignots, Suchots and Brulées. Due to complex succession and inheritance issues, the whole domaine was sold at auction in 1933. Fortunately, the family managed to save La Romanée along with their holdings of Reignots and Chaumes. In 2000, Vicomte Louis-Michel Liger-Belair wanted to rebuild the family domaine and began taking back the prized plots it now possesses. The end of CLB’s commercial contract in 2006 with Bouchard Père & Fils to distribute a proportion of La Romanée saw CLB once again proudly produce and bottle its crown jewel – the monopole of La Romanée Grand Cru.

Armed with new knowledge, the green light was given for the wines to be served. The excitement and anticipation was palpable. All the wines were sourced from abroad three months earlier to “rest” prior to this tasting.  All bottles were popped at 11.45 AM and aired in bottle for about an hour.

2012 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée La Colombiere

0.78 hectares / Average age of vines 70 years / Production 3300 bottles

Bright ruby. Clean, correct and “modern” on the nose, “airy” with abundant red fruit and soft floral notes. Medium-bodied, imbued with fresh acidity. Very enjoyable but rather short on the finish. Outstanding quality for a village. Drinking well.

2011 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée Clos du Chateau

0.83 hectares / Average age of vines 50 years / Production 3500 bottles

This monopole appears more cloudy and evolved on the rim compared with the preceding wine, but it was ironically more closed on both the nose and palate. Typical Vosne spice greets you at the first whiff though rather shy and reserved. A nicer mouthfeel and density than La Colombiere, but sharing the trait of a slightly abrupt finish. A deceptive village wine from a challenging vintage.

2010 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges Aux Cras 1er

0.38 hectares / Average age of vines 95 years / Production 900 bottles

What an amazing nose! Imagine crushed red fruit, rose petals, minerals, and some sauvage thrown in the mix – all wonderfully wrapped in lush cashmere! The palate doesn’t disappoint either. While the tannins are still noticeable, they are in perfect harmony with the dark red fruit countered by refreshing acidity, displaying great density with a persistent finish. It was showing perfectly but I suspect it rewards those who can resist pulling the cork on this 2010 beauty. What a superb NSG!  Kudos.

2006 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots 1er

0.73 hectares / Average age of vines 80 years (33%), 60 years (33%), mix of 40 and 20 years (33%) / Production 2100 bottles. The vines in this vineyard run from top to bottom whereas the others are situated in segments; Cathiard is on top, Grivot in the middle and Arnoux at the bottom

The Reignots was evidently a step up from the preceding wines. This possesses the lightest hue of the entire lineup. Superb bouquet of rose petals and muted spice, highly elegant and fresh – almost akin to Romanée-Saint-Vivant. Pure, precise and proper, not a hair out of place. After that knockout nose, the palate disappointed slightly with a rather austere entry and mouth-puckering acidity. The finish was persistent albeit a little one-dimensional. While many 2006s are drinking beautifully now, this adolescent may need more time to mature and integrate. Yet to peak.

2011 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Échezeaux Grand Cru

0.62 hectares / Average age of vines 70 years / Production 1800 bottles

Deeply coloured, hinting at the abundance of fruit lurking beneath. Muted at first, but vigorous swirling released reluctant aromas of dark red fruit, earth and spice. Lush and rich on the entry. A brooding structure hits the senses first, followed by broad sweeping luxurious waves of complex flavours that impart fabulous mouthfeel. Superb finish. I can’t imagine how amazing it will be in ten years. If only I had a few bottles squirrelled away.

Finally, the pièce de résistance – a vertical of the domaine’s monopole of La Romanée Grand Cru. At 0.85 hectares, this is the smallest grand cru of all Burgundy with an annual production of only 3000 bottles. The vines, at an average age of 75 years, are planted in North-South orientation, facilitating more even exposure to both morning and afternoon sun which, in turn, translates into greater intensity of fruit. Several other top growths are also planted likewise: Cros Parantoux, La Grande Rue, La Tâche, Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart. This final trio was tasted concurrently:

2006 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée Grand Cru

Distinctly aristocratic and sophisticated on the nose, oozing class and breed. Still tightly coiled, but it’s all there: spice, macerated dark berries, violets. I could not stop smiling as I nosed this wine. Dense dark fruit, medium to full-bodied and wonderfully balanced. It has that crescendo I look for in wines of pedigree as it hovers on your palate. Then it just plateaus and persists after it leaves your palate. Truly amazing now, and it will just get better! This gets my vote as the top wine of the entire tasting. Wow.

2007 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée Grand Cru

The lightest coloured of the trio. Are we tasting the same wine? But never judge a book by its cover. The 2007 possesses the most complex nose of the trio. Inviting, open, effortless and classy with an assured confidence. There is no need for any loud theatrics – it shines by virtue of its exquisite elegance, medium-bodied frame and balance. Drinking perfectly and simply on fire today. A shade behind the 2006, but it outperforms the 2008 by a mile.

2008 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée Grand Cru

The youngest La Romanée was caught in an awkward spot. Reluctant despite vigorous swirling, yielding only small hints of what its older 2006 sibling has in abundance. Medium to full-bodied. Slightly clumsy, displaying firm tannins and some earthy salinity with the shortest finish of the trio (although there is still very respectable length). I may be a little harsh on the 2008, but the preceding two wines left me with very lofty expectations! Hope to re-visit this wine in the future.  

This incredible line up of wines clearly demonstrates why Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair is so highly revered among oenophiles. Their tireless pursuit of perfection coupled with miniscule supply fuels the insatiable global demand and ensuing eye-popping prices. These factors propel their meteoric rise and cult following it now enjoys. In my humble opinion, Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair sits at the same high table of burgundy alongside Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine Leroy & Domaine Armand Rousseau. 

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