At just the tender age of eight, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair already declared his ambition to become a winemaker when he grew up. His father, an army general, did not share the same enthusiasm, only agreeing on the condition that he first qualified as an engineer so that the option to enlist in the army remained. He did not quaver, and kept his end of the bargain. But he also made sure his dream was always in-check, taking time during his engineering studies to visit Napa Valley, Bordeaux and South of France to expand his winemaking knowledge. When he qualified, his oenology studies finally began and he enrolled himself at the University of Dijon, graduating in 2001 to take over the family vineyards and establish Domaine de Comte Liger-Belair.
It was no mean feat – their vineyard ownership stretches back to 1815, six generations ago, where the family domain, then known as Château de Vosne-Romanée, was established by Louis Liger-Belair. With his adopted son, Louis-Charles, they acquired 40 hectares of top vineyards around the village, including sole ownership of La Romanée and La Tâche Grand Cru. Napoleonic inheritance laws sadly led to the sale of the domain in 1933. Not wanting the family treasures to dissipate entirely, Louis-Michel’s grandfather and his brother bought back La Romanée and several other vineyards from the auction.
Needless to say, this is the prized vineyard of Liger-Belair. Not only is it the smallest Grand Cru and appellation in France (0.8 hectares), it is also just one of few Grand Cru monopoles in Burgundy. It lies directly above Romanée-Conti and also adjacent to Richebourg, at an altitude of 275-300 meters. It bears a similar soil profile to Romanée-Conti, although with less clay.
Like many of the best winemakers in Burgundy, Louis-Michel practices biodynamic cultivation in all his vineyards, converting fully in 2008. He is passionate and hands-on, ploughing the vines himself with his horse Fanny. And in the growing trend of the younger generation of winemakers in Burgundy today, his style gravitates towards lighter and more approachable wines in their youth - less tannins and more aromatic fruit profile are the hallmarks of his wines. Avoiding over-extraction is the key, as he shortens the maceration period, and prolongs cold soaking to a week. As testament to the quality, Jancis Robinson MW notes that Aubert de Villaine “of the hallowed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has nothing but praise for his young neighbor”.