Lucien Le Moine

Burgundy, France

In two decades of work, Lucien Le Moine has become one of the most talked about Burgundy producers, making some of the most sought after wines from the region.  The approach is extreme – two people, together doing everything by hand, working with a dazzling array of Burgundy’s great terroirs. In the late 1980s, Mounir Saouma’s visit to a Trappist monastery in the Middle East led to a prolonged stay during which he worked in the monastery vineyards and first learned to make wine.  He subsequently studied Viticulture and Oenology in Montpellier, followed by six years working in Burgundy, other areas of France, and California.  During this time he became fascinated by traditional methods of viticulture, vinification, and aging.  In 1999 he decided to push to the extreme all he had seen and experienced, and with his wife Rotem created a small cellar dedicated to the philosophy of making wines of purity and typicity.

Rotem comes from a cheese-making family, and studied agriculture in Dijon, eventually orienting her studies toward wine.  After winning a national prize from the French Academy of Agriculture for her study of the Côte d’Or, she participated in numerous harvests in Burgundy and California.  The name for Mounir and Rotem’s winery, Lucien Le Moine, is comprised of two references: the Lebanese “Mounir” means light, hence the equivalent French “Lucien”; “Le Moine” translates as “the monk”, and refers to Mounir’s initial wine experiences at the monastery.

From their years spent in Burgundy, Mounir and Rotem knew many superb growers in the region.  They devoted themselves to select production of Crus from these growers.  They only produce Grands and Premiers Crus, trying each year to have the most beautiful Crus in each village.  They revise their selection of Crus every year, depending on the quality of a particular vineyard in a given vintage, but do not produce any more than 100 barrels (2,500 cases), the absolute maximum for Mounir, who feels that any greater production would rob him of the ability to give each his personal touch.

The couple produces one to three barrels from each Cru.  This provides the biggest technical challenge, since each barrel needs to be perfect, from selection, through aging, to bottling: there is no blending to cover up even the slightest errors at the end.  They work with growers who are scrupulous with their vines, taste the wines very early (right after press), vinify (in the case of whites) or guide vinification in the methods they prefer (emphasizing phenolic ripeness, acid retention, and some employment of whole clusters), and put the wines in their barrels.

All wines are aged entirely on their lees.  Gentle batonnage is done a few times a month, less or more depending on the vintage, and the wine is never racked during this process.  The cellar is naturally humid and very cool, which pushes malolactic fermentations late into summer.  The natural CO2 produced during these long fermentations allows Mounir to use little SO2 (it should be noted it is best to decant all Lucien Le Moine wines as they can have some residual CO2). Once malolactic fermentation is complete, he and Rotem follow each barrel, tasting several times a month.  Bottling is done by hand via gravity feed when the wine is ready, always after a full moon (when atmospheric pressure is favorable).  No fining, filtration, or addition of sulphur takes place at bottling.

Wines

Montrachet Grand Cru

Montrachet Grand Cru

No superlatives need be stated here about Montrachet. Mounir has worked in several areas of Montrachet, both on the Pernand and the Chassagne side, and has even once bottled them separately. He does not produce a Montrachet every year, only when he feels it will be worthy of the vineyard’s renown, and can stand at the pinnacle of his white wines.

Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

The gentleman, as Mounir calls Chevalier-Montrachet, a wine that always shows lovely definition and everything in place; classic grace.

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru

Bâtard-Montrachet borders Montrachet on the west, and is typically a fatter, more open and more exotic wine than Chevalier-Montrachet, with less grip and a more flowery, honeyed richness.

Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru

Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru

The soils in Criots are a combination of marl, clay and chalk. In fact, the word “Criots” means chalk in French. The south-east facing slope lies at an altitude of around 780 feet - slighly lower than neighboring Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet, so the slopes tend to have a higher proportion of clay. Mounir describes this wine as “a bridge between the body of Bâtard and the class of Montrachet.

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

The commune of Aloxe-Corton, has the unusual distinction of having over half its area covered in grand cru vineyards. These occupy 298 acres divided among 19 climats which take the Corton grand cru appellation for red wines; five among these, totalling 120 acres, take the Corton-Charlemagne grand cru appellation for white wines as well as the Corton grand cru appellation for red wines.

Corton Les Grandes Lolières Grand Cru

Corton Les Grandes Lolières Grand Cru

Sometimes this cru forms part of Lucien Le Moine’s Corton Blanc, other times it is bottled separately. A cru that is not often seen, and is a red cru above all. It has an exotic spicy side to the aromas and flavors, and a broad body that maintains its precision.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Morgeot”

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Morgeot”

This vineyard lies on this Santenay end of the road that leads down from Chassagne to Santenay, widely considered the best area for white Chassagne. The wines here are racier and have more depth than most other white Chassagne.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Romanée”

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Romanée”

Mounir says that Chassagne-Montrachet “La Romanée” is, to make an analogy, the most “Puligny” wine from Chassagne. It has a lot of silkiness and sweetness, and low acidity compared to other Chassagnes; it is a very clean wine, with a particular crème brûlée character that gives way to sweet fruit.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Embrazées"

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embrazées

This vineyard lies on this Santenay end of the road that leads down from Chassagne to Santenay, widely considered the best area for white Chassagne. The wines here are racier and have more depth than most other white Chassagne.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Grande Montagne”

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Grande Montagne”

This tiny vineyard is located - as the name suggests - on the steep hillside of the same name just west of Chassagne-Montrachet. La Grande Montagne itself is the most southerly of the limestone hills which make up the Côte d’Or escarpment. It is located in the heart of the band of the best Chassagne 1er Crus at the top of the slope that includes Grandes Ruchottes, la Romanée and Caillerets.

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Reviews

    Lucien Le Moine Montrachet Grand Cru 2016 (98 VM)

    Vinous Media - “Bright yellow. Very shy aromas of pear, crushed rock and iodine; conveys an almost 2015-like ripeness without any loss of its Montrachet character. This brooding, thick, sappy wine began a bit shy but gained in vibrancy and definition with oxygen, conveying increasing purity. Dominated today by crushed-stone minerality and medicinal herbs, this reserved, utterly seamless wine is barely at the beginning of its evolution. Finishes with remarkable unflagging length. When I remarked to Mounir Saouma that there was something almost obvious and deceptively tastable about this wine, he responded that he still wanted it to develop a bit more volatile acidity before he racks the wine prior to the ‘18 harvest and then returns it to barrel for another couple months before bottling it.”

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