Jan. 18th

Thibault Liger-Belair: An Ardent Pilgrim of Wine Making

18th Jan. 2019  /  THE MARKET  ·  Thibault Liger-Belair
Source: RVF China 葡萄酒评论
Written by: RVF China 葡萄酒评论

A few days ago, Thibault Liger-Belair and Summergate, the exclusive agent of Thibault Liger-Belair in China, jointly launched the “Thibault Liger-Belair Burgundy Masters Workshop” in Beijing. During the break, we had an exclusive interview with Thibault Liger-Belair.

Source: RVF China

Since Thibault Liger-Belair took over the family business in 2001, he has established a winery and a wine company named after himself and has reclaimed and gradually expanded the family vineyard. He has a very clear idea of vineyard management and wine making. With him at the helm, we are looking forward to his meticulous management putting the estate in a better position to craft top Burgundy wines that obtain true expressions of the terroirs.

1.     Burgundy underwent a severe spring frost in 2016. What is its impact on Thibault Liger-Belair?

Thibault Liger-Belair: Yes, when the spring frost occurred in 2016, the sprouts in our vineyard were only about 1 cm in height. As a result, the production dropped by about 60% that year. Fortunately, the weather was very good afterwards, and we did not suffer any disasters during the harvest. On the whole, 2016 was a fruitful year for us, but the production reduction still had a severe impact on the estate.

2. What is your wine making concept? What do you think of the biodynamic approach?

Thibault Liger-Belair: Since I took over the estate in 2001, I have practiced organic farming. First of all, I think I’m more a Burgundy cultivator than a Pinot Noir cultivator. Therefore, the wine I produce must not only reflect the features of the variety, but also the features of the terroirs.   

Besides, I think it is impossible to harvest quality grapes and make premium wines without good soil. That’s why I spent 3 years improving our soils. We were somewhat misled by a belief that we should take into account what grape vines need and provide nutrients accordingly. But we should actually direct our attention to the soil and meet the needs of the soil, so that it can play the role of a “factory” to interact with the grape vines and nurture better grapes. 

In the process of organic farming, I have come to realize that we should not simply echo what the book says. I began to try the biodynamic approach, which to some people, is kind of metaphysical and religious. They believe that by following a doctrine, you will get the result it promises. But I think biodynamics is more a guideline, which helps us communicate with the soil, vineyard, and even the entire ecosystem, and wants us to observe and respond to changing conditions. It is a long process of learning, for which we need to accumulate more knowledge. 

3. Which is your favorite Burgundian village, and why?

Thibault Liger-Belair: There is no favorite child to a parent. I love them all.

They have different characteristics. Some wants more help, and the others do very well on their own. I think maybe I’m on more intimate terms with villages that demand more attention, as I put more time and effort into them.

I’d like to talk about two villages. One is Thibault Liger-Belair Moulina A Vent, which I bought in 2008. Many people were not optimistic about its aging potentials back then. But I think a winemaker must have a strong faith and should not be motivated by commercial interest or the market factors only. I think I must take each step firmly on my pilgrimage. 

The other one is Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges. The first wine I made after I took over the family business was produced here, into which I had put a lot of efforts. I think this village was undervalued because of some historical reasons. Since 2007, I have been working with 30 owners of this village to upgrade it to a Premier Cru.

4. Do you think it is a new opportunity for Burgundian winemakers now that the global consumers seem to prefer a fresh and soft tasting style?

Thibault Liger-Belair: I think in Burgundy, this style refers to more elegant, fresher and more refreshing wines. As the global climate turns warm, the toughest challenge faced by Burgundian planters and winemakers in the next 20 years is not how to achieve better maturity, tannin and body, but how to maintain the fresh and crisp taste of the wine.

5. Would you please share with us what efforts you have made to achieve better freshness and crispness?

Thibault Liger-Belair: Burgundy is endowed with quality soil, including clay and limestone. The latter contributes appropriate acidity and minerality.

I think in response to the global warming, winemakers need to understand the meaning of freshness better. In my opinion, it does not only indicate the framework built by the acidity, but also incorporates the various materials in wines such as the fragrance and phenols.

Now we come to the point of the removal of grape stems. Since 2006, we have maintained a part of the grape stem at Premier Cru and Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges. We have manually selected and maintained the part of the stem close to the grape and ferment it with the grape. We think the phenols in these stems will enhance the crispness and freshness of the wines. Also, the equilibrium among the phenols, fragrance and wine structure will constitute the freshness. (The end)

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