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We will readily admit to an abiding love for Burgundy. The great names roll off the tongue: Amoureuses, Musigny, Romanée, Richebourg... The thought of these sets the heart racing. And while we'd love to drink these and savor the organoleptic nuances between the terroirs of, say, Latricières-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin on a regular basis, our budgets simply don't allow for us to do so. But there's plenty of terroir in Burgundy and while not all climats are created equal, there's plenty of compelling tasting opportunities in comparing the wines from the humbler crus and lieux-dits. We've praised the virtues and values of villages such as Marsannay and Maranges before, but another fine source for affordable Burgundy with compelling terroir delineation can be found in Côte-de-Nuits Villages. Sometimes viewed as a catchall, which can include wines from peripheral villages, there are a few growers whose bottles transcend the genre.
One of our favorites is a relative newcomer, Antoine Lienhardt from 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. Viticulture is organic and the soils are worked by horse. Yields are intentionally kept low for greater terroir expression. Fermentation is with native yeasts and there is minimal use of new oak.
At the heart of domaine's holdings are two lieux-dits in Comblancien planted in the 1960s by his grandfather. 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). As in the rest of Burgundy, small variations make for distinctive flavor profiles: Les Plantes Aux Bois is more generous, a touch broader, and more lush; Les Essards a bit leaner, nervier, taut, and more pungently mineral and cool-toned. Both have lively acidity, energetic minerality, and a compelling tension between the pure Pinot fruit and savory earthiness. Decant if enjoying now or cellar for 5-7 years to allow for further knitting of the structural elements. These are delicious and affordable terroir-specific Burgundies to grace the table. Bravo to Antoine Liendhardt! John McIlwain
From low-yielding vines located in Comblanchien (probably more famous for its quarries and eponymous limestone than viticulture), planted in the 1960s by Antoine Lienhardt's grandfather. Les Essards is a short distance from another of Antoine's lieux dits, Les Plantes Aux Bois. There is a thin layer of rocky clay topsoil over Comblanchien limestone and the vine rows run from east to west. A bit circumspect upon opening, decanting reveals red plum and ripe cherry aromas with hints of mustard seed and black tea on the nose. The palate is nervy with bright flavors of brambly red fruit, vibrant acidity, and a pungent, verging on saline minerality on a persistent, and detailed finish. Great lift and purity with wonderful interplay between the pure red fruit and distinctly stony elements. Decant if planning to drink now or cellar for 3-7 years to allow the elements to integrate. John McIlwain
A mere 200 meters from Les Essards, Les Plantes Aux Bois has clay top soils overlying the hard limestone mother rock. The nose is generous, perfumed, and dark-fruited with aromas of black raspberry and plum giving way to notes of game and spices. Flavors of blackberry, cassis, and plum dominate on the ripe, mid-weight palate. There is good freshness, with bright acidity providing lift and drive on a long, lingering, cool-toned finish. Lovely with a quick decant, but plenty of material to justify mid-term cellaring. I love the idea of this with a holiday meal. Light on its feet with good freshness to wake the palate, but enough minerality to whet the appetite of the discerning Burgundy aficionado. Delicious! John McIlwain