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When I started here at Chambers Street in 2020, I was totally unfamiliar with the wines of Antoine Lienhardt but they were there on the shelf the first day I arrived. Specifically it was the two single-vineyard bottlings from the Cote de Nuits-Villages that have become his calling card here in New York. I asked my colleague John McIlwain about them, and he rhapsodized as he is wont to do when asked about bottles he really believes in. I made a point of tasting both wines in my first weeks here and I was genuinely knocked out. These are serious wines, that speak simultaneusly of their place of origin and of the grower's commitment to doing everything the right way from beginning to end. In the two years since, I have had the chance to taste some other vintages, all of which were as compelling and I am very excited to be able to offer out these outstanding 2020s.
Antoine, and his sister Heloise who manages the estate alongside him, are based in Comblanchien, a village perhaps more noted for the quarrying of its eponymous limestone rather than viticulture. Though the family had grown grapes for years, Antoine was the first to bottle wines in 2011 after taking over his family's vines, which had been leased out since the early 1990s; Prior to this he had worked for Amiot-Servelle in Chambolle-Musigny.
Though he has managed the vineyards strictly according to organic principles since he took over, and always vinified using natural yeasts, the domaine is now biodynamic, as well as certified organic. Additionally, Antoine has always been one to push boundaries and has begun to move towards regenerative farming. He is planting trees and diversifying the cover crops between rows in the vineyards to fix nitrogen and offset carbon output, and to move towards no-till farming to further reduce the estate's carbon footprint and increase the microbial health of the soil.
The Cote de Nuits Villages wines are the core of the estate and we have a handful of bottles available today. Separated by a mere 200 meters, Les Plantes Aux Bois and Les Essards both have shallow top soils of calcareous clay (50 cm) overlying mother rock of hard limestone. The main differences between the parcels are the rockier top soils in Les Essards and greater clay content of those in Les Plantes Aux Bois (in addition, though of similar exposure, the rows in the former run east-west, while the latter run north-south). Both wines feel eminently serious, in a way that belies their relatively humble origin.
However, the Bourgogne level wines feel just as poised. The Aligote and Chardonnay both come from dense chalky soils and have a real sense of lift and elegance - 2020 is shaping up to be a very good year for white Burgundy. The Bourgogne Rouge is vinified, like all the reds, with one hundred percent whole bunches and just a small addition of sulphur before bottling. The beautiful and intense ripe fruit and stems make for a deeply aromatic wine that feel a touch hedonistic but never gloppy or unbalanced.
I have spoken to so many growers in the last few weeks about the future of viticulture in Burgundy and have found them both inspired and inspiring when it comes to ensuring the region's future in a rapidly shifting climate. Antoine Lienhardt is absolutely part of that vanguard and is producing top-drawer wines in the process. (Also, I am deeply grateful to him for the detailed notes about his vineyards that he took the time to include in his website). These wines are all in stock so get them while you can! Sam Ehrlich
Aligoté from rocky soils of clay and limestone, aged in old barrels and concrete eggs. The vines are on average 40 years old. This is very serious Aligoté, saline and delicately aromatic, with fine texture. An example of the next generation of Burgundy growers taking vineyards with potential and realizing it by treating it with respect.
From 60 year old vines planted in the same parcel as the Aligoté, with rocky clay and limestone soils in Comblanchien. Aged in a combination of older barrels of varying sizes.
Primarily from two parcels in Comblanchien, with vines averaging about 50 years old. The soils are red clay over limestone and the wines are aged for seven months in a combination of concrete and old barrels (between five and eight years). This is excellent Pinot for the price and should satisfy classicists and hedonists alike. Semi-carbonic fermentation with 100% whole cluster, and aging in large cement tanks (some eggs) and old barrels.
Essards is a single parcel within Comblanchien, with rocky soils and vines averaging 55 years old. The wines spend about seven months in barrels between three and eleven years old. This is nearly always the most precise and chiseled of the two Cote de Nuits Villages wines, with serious mineral presence. Great value for the cellar.
From a parcel of 70 year old vines, planted in clay soils with some limestone, this is one of the few reds at the domaine to see any new oak. Supple where Essards is pointed, this is incredibly aromatic and spice driven, with deep red fruit aromas. A wine of great pleasure.