2002 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Chambolle Musigny Vielles Vignes, Burgundy, France

Burgundy is a confounding place to everyone save its most intense devotees. Broken into hundreds of small village appellations which produce red and white wines of widely varying characteristics and qualities, it can be daunting to find a wine that suits your taste, let alone wines of real distinction.

I, like most people, have taken a haphazard path to understanding and appreciating in particular the red Pinot Noir based wines of Burgundy. There are clear benchmarks and icons, some of which I’ve sampled, like the grand crus of Chambertin or Echezeaux or Romanee Conti, but there are far more stabs in the dark — random wines that I’ve picked up at a whim, had recommended to me, or just blindly requested off of a wine list.

This bottle is one of those more casual explorations. I recognized the appellation, but not the producer, and just grabbed it off the shelf because the price was right.

Chambolle Musigny is a small appellation (one of the smallest) south of the town Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits section of Burgundy. Basically, it’s just the side of a long sloping limestone hillside that houses some 30 vineyards, two of which have Grand Cru status and about 20 of which have Premiere Cru status.

I can’t resist snipping a little paragraph out of the newsletter put out by North Berkeley Wine Imports, an importer and retailer that has a strong Burgundy selection, because it’s such a quirky portrait of the little towns in this part of the country:

“If someone in Burgundy looked particularly down on their luck it was common in olden days to say to them, “You look like the Savior of Chambolle-Musigny,” because the outdoor village shrine depicting Jesus on the cross, still visible today, portrays him as extremely emaciated, presumably to match the tenor of the village’s perceived psyche. Who knows? Perhaps the 350 souls of Chambolle got so cranky and parsimonious because of the huge price they must pay in vulnerability. The problem is the biggest gap in the almost continuous Côte de Nuits to the west of the village. It is through this chute that hail often whirls over the village, destroying grapes and vines while other communes are completely spared. The name itself, Chambolle, may come from champs bouillants, or boiling fields, because from time to time, the little Grone river that descends through the gorge has overflown and ravaged everything in its rush to the highway at the bottom of the village.”
This wine comes from none of the impressive vineyards Premier Cru or Grand Cru vineyards in the region, rather, it is from a tiny 2.5 acre vineyard owned and managed by the young Virgile Lignier who took over the management of the estate from his parents in 1992 at the age of 30. Now 43, Lignier is about the same age as the vines in this vineyard, which he gives the designation of “Vielles Vignes” or “old vines” on the label, though he can hardly be judged as old himself.

The estate, Domaine Lignier-Michelot, has grown grapes for quite some time, but only began bottling its own wine in 1996 under the direction of Lignier. Grapes are hand sorted in the field during harvest and brought in separate lots back to the chai for pressing. Lignier. The wine is aged 18 months in oak (30% new) before bottling. 100% Pinot Noir.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a medium ruby color in the glass and has a spicy nose of sweet barnyard aromas and hints of sweat that carries softer fruitier aromas of hibiscus and even citrusy sumac. In the mouth it is delicate, with subtle flavors that swing between fruit and herbs, passing pomegranate, oregano, raspberry, fennel, and strawberry as it heads towards a surprisingly long finish with lingering flavors of chamomile.

Food Pairing:
Because of the delicacy of this wine, it is easily overwhelmed by strong flavors. It would be best with something simple like a roast chicken stuffed with fennel and garlic.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $30

This wine is available for purchase online.