Lucien Le Moine is a small Burgundy négociant located in Beaune and one in a small circle often referred to as “luxury négociants”. This refers to producers/wine houses that purchase their grapes, but aims at only producing truly high-class wines. This usually means that the quantities are small, or even miniscule. This sets them apart from the regular wine houses/négociants, that usually have a large production where a high proportion consists of entry-level wines like Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc. Two other producers in the “luxury négociant” category are Dominique Laurent (who has been around longer than Lucien Le Moine) and Oliver Bernstein (more recently established). These and Lucien Le Moine differ quite a lot in style, such as in how obvious the oak barrel notes are in the wines, but if there is something that these producers have in common, it is a rather concentrated wine style that is more accessible as young than the typical Burgundy producer, and that they aren’t too shy about pricing.
Lucien Le Moine was founded in 1999 by the couple Mounir Saouma and Rotem Brakin. Mounir Saouma was a Trappist monk and then became interested in Chardonnay och Pinot Noir. “Lucien” is derived from the meaning of “Mounir”, which means bringer of light, and “Le Moine” which means the monk, was the nickname of Mounir.
The raw material is bought in primarily from premier cru and grand cru vineyards in Côte d’Or, but there is also a small amount of Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge in their range. They produce 80 wines, but the total production is only 30 000-35 000 bottles per year since their cellar has a capacity of about 100 barrels. This means that for many of their wines, there is only one barrel per vintage, and about 300 bottles. Logistics- and marketing-wise, this sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but this is probably the way things often are in Burgundy for anyone “new” who wish to get access to grapes from top vineyards and fill up the cellar with only that quality level. In recent times that have also started to supplement their range with some wine from southern Rhône.
White wines are purchased in directly after pressing and are fermented and raised in their own cellar, while the red wines are bought in after maceration and fermentation, but are raised in oak in their cellar. All wines are stored on their lees during the entire time they spend in oak, and the lees are stirred upp rather frequently (but at intervals adapted to the vintage character), so-called battonage. There are no rackings to remove the lees. They aim to delay the malolactic fermentation as long as possible, to the summer they year after harvest. This provides some protection to the wines through the carbon dioxide that is developed during the malolactic fermentation, which means that they can manage with a very low addition of sulfur. The wines are neither fined nor filtered before bottling, which takes place by gravity. This handling means that some carbon dioxide remains in the wines, and the producer therefore recommends that all their wines are decanted before serving.
The handling of oak at Lucien Le Moine deserves a comment. They only source oak from Jupilles in northwestern France, where the oak fibers are unusually tight. This makes the oak barrels a bit more neutral and means that they give off less aromas. So although they use new oak, this is not as apparent as is sometimes the case with other producers.
The Swedish importer of Lucien Le Moine is Wineworld, and is part of Vingruppen. In February this year, they invited to a very rewarding tasting of some 2011s from Lucien Le Moines together with Mounir Saouma.
White from Burgundy
The white 2011s were all “foody” with good body, and also showed good acidity, which means that they had balance and freshness. They also showed rather developed notes, and came across as rather ready to drink. Rather noticeable buttery notes could be found in most of them. I got the impression that this wasn’t only due to the use of oak, but that the use of battonage and ripe Chardonnay grapes contributes.
Mounir said that their white wines are darker in colour than most other white Burgundies, but that they stay the same colour when cellared further.
2011 Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
Nose with butter, yellow apples, some hazelnuts, zest, and mineral; classical and somewhat developed. The impression is that we’re not just talking about “oak barrel buttery notes” but a note that is derived from both ripe grapes and such development that come normally with time. Palate with ripe yellow apples, some winter apples, citrus, mineral, high acidity, good concentration, and a long aftertaste with citrus and acidity. 91 p
This wine has slightly “heavy” profile and is open for business with rather classical Meursault style in general, rather than how (young) Meursault Perrières often is, which too me means more tight and mineral-packed.
2011 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières
Nose with butter, ripe yellow apples, some winter apples, peach, discrete nutty note, some zest, mineral, slightly flowery. Gives an impression of development and maturity, and show most oxidation notes of the four white. Palate with yellow apples, winter apples, some cider and Sherry character (in a positive sense), noticeable minerality and a long aftertaste. Classical, comes across as developed already. 92 p
2011 Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Nose with apple, freshly cut pear, white peach and rather discrete oak notes with a buttery note that was rather discrete in the beginning but grew with time in the glass, as well as some mineral and flowery notes. Palate with yellow apples, butter, powerful concentration, good acidity, citrus, good minerality, and a long aftertaste with mineral. A good and powerful wine, but doesn’t quite reach the same level of elegance as the Corton-Charlemagne, mainly due to the finish. 91 p
2011 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Powerful nose with butter, ripe yellow apple, peach, spice, some mineral, and some development. Palate with citrus, apple, noticeable minerality, powerful concentration, high acidity, fine finish and aftertaste. More minerality on the palate than in the nose, more butter and spice notes than the Corton Blanc. Classical style with fine elegance, 93 p.
Red from Burgundy
In general the red 2011s had a nose that is somewhat typical for the vintage and that to me indicate a “tough minerally style”. The didn’t show any obvious green notes, as some 2011s do, although some hints may have been hiding the background. The wines grew in the glass and showed better with food than on their own, which is always a good sign of quality and sign that they should respond well to cellaring.
The 2011s from Lucien Le Moine in my opinion clearly demonstrate how the 2011 vintage behaves differently on the white and the red side, where the white are more ripe and accessible in a more “drink now or soon” type of style, while the reds are much more firm and meant for cellaring. To me, high-end red 2011s aren’t generally in a style meant for drinking now (in difference from 2009 and 2010 that showed more charm and accessibility directly on release, although we all like to have a lot of 2010 for the cellar as well), but I have understood that there are those who prefer very firm Burgundies who are of a different opinion than I am.
2011 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Charmes
Rather discrete nose with cherries, some spice, noticeable minerality with a certain “tough stoniness” that I consider typical for 2011. Palate with cherries, noticeable minerality, high acidity, and a slightly tough style. A very mineral-dominated wine, comes across as quite young, 90 p?
2011 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Nose with ripe cherries, dark fruit, some impression of sweetness of fruit, some spice and mineral. Palate with good concentration and fine sweetness of fruit, ripe sweet strawberries with cherries, and some tannin that shows a bit of a tough profile. A well polished and rather young wine, 93 p.
Charmes-Chambertin was that of the red wines that I found to be in least need of cellaring to show, well, charm, although time in cellar definitely won’t harm it. It also had the darkest notes and most powerful nose of the four reds.
2011 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
Nose with ripe cherries, strawberries, mineral, spice notes and some tough “2011-typical” notes. Palate with good concentration, strawberries and cherries, quite pronounced minerality, and a distinct toughness in the palate with a high acidity. Young and at present rather tough, 92 p.
2011 Échezeaux Grand Cru
Nose with ripe strawberries, cherries, flowery notes, some spice, and well integrated oak notes. Palate with good concentration, quite mineral-dominated, red berries and some dark berries in the background, slightly tough style and with a high acidity. Young and at present slightly tough, 92 p.
The Lucien Le Moine range nowadays also includes some wines from southern Rhône. We tasted one white and two reds, of which one red was a 2010. The label doesn’t actually say Lucien Le Moine, but rather Rotem & Mounir Saouma, so the Rhône wines are handled in a separate firm.
2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Magis (white)
80% Grenache Blanc, 24 months in oak.
Nose with white peach, butter, some oak, mineral, and discrete flowery aromas. Slightly oily palate with good concentration, yellow apple, white peach, mineral, freshness, and a medium acidity. 91 p
This wine definitely showed some similarities to the white Burgundies from Lucien Le Moine, including some notes of maturity, so the philosophy of this wine house comes through also when they produce wine at another address.
2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Omnia (red)
A blend of all allowed grape varieties from several different vineyards.
Nose with ripe red berries, beetroot!, some dark berries, spice notes, slightly flowery, a rather “nice” and berry-dominated Châteauneuf-du-Pape nose. Palate with ripe red berries, good concentration, a light fiery note, good acidity, medium tannins, fresh aftertaste. Young, but with good freshness, 90 p.
2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Arioso (red)
3 year in oak.
Nose with dark berries, blackberries, liquorice, graphite, tar, spice notes, noticeable but well integrated oak. Palate with ripe dark and red berries, powerful concentration, finely integrated sweetness of fruit, good acidity, medium(+) tannins of a velvety character, and a long aftertaste with tart berries. Definitely impressive, 93 p.