Lucien Le Moine
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.
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Corton Renardes Grand Cru
Corton Renardes displays the sweet side of Corton, as opposed to Corton Bressandes. It has more viscosity, more tannin, color and sweetness than Bressandes. It is both an easier wine to understand that Corton Bresandes, and more immediately attractive.
Chablis 1er Cru “Montmains”
Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru “Les Terres Blanches”
Les Terres Blanches is a 2.4 acre vineyard in the steepest area of Nuits-St.-Georges, and not far from the top Nuits-St.-Georges vineyards of Les Vaucrains and Les Saint-Georges. There are few producers in this small vineyard, and this very rare Nuits-St.-George white proves intriguing for its Nuits-St.-Georges character in spite of its variety and color.
Meursault 1er Cru “Porusot”
Mounir likes to call Meursault Porusot the ambassador of Meursault – it takes from everything around it, Gouttes d’Or, Genevrieres, Charmes, and other vineyards, and shows a little bit of all their characters. It is a wine that doesn’t rest, it keeps changing all the time. Sweet yet flinty, as well as phenolic, it is an intellectual’s wine. Mounir was delighted to bottle Porusot for the first time in 2009.
Meursault 1er Cru Les “Gouttes d’Or”
The first Premier Cru heading south into Meursault, Gouttes d’Or is characterized by displaying a full body offset along with a firm structure.
Meursault 1er Cru “Genevrières”
Genevrières is defined by viscosity. The vineyard is mid-slope, and in the Lucien Le Moine Genevrières there is always notable acidity (even in low-acid years) and alcohol. “Mr Too Much of Everything” is how Mounir likes to describe this wine. It ferments slowly, and for some reason it always has a touch of cloudiness – something never precipitates out. It’s a wild child.
Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes”
Charmes is larger than both Perrieres and Genevrières put together, extending all the way down to the Meursault-Puligny road. The upper part of the vineyard produces extremely compelling Meursaults, with a soft flowery character that is less racy than Perrieres and less spicy than Genevrières, but just as intense.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er “Champ Canet”
Mounir describes Champ Canet as a frustrated Puligny. It has a lot of vivacity, it is racy and salty, influenced strongly by Meursault. You can think of it almost as a Meursault Perrieres in Puligny.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Champ Gain”
Champ Gains is high on the hill, and produces a wine in which a sense of dryness overshadows the sweet fruit – the sweetness that comes out is not an easy sweetness, and while you get apricot and other fruits on the palate, there is always a sense of dryness pulling them back.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatières”
The Folatières climat lies near the summit of this slope, above Clos de la Garenne roughly midway between Meursault and Montrachet. It is the largest of Puligny’s premiers crus and is always sweet, has a lot of ripeness, showing apricot and other similar flavors. After 18-20 months the minerality comes out in the wine.
- “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.”
More on Lucien Le Moine
December 10, 2018 - Decanter's Andrew Jefford interviews Mounir Sauoma, of Burgundy's Lucien Le Moine and Châteauneuf's Rotem & Mounir Saouma. Jefford cover's Mounir's long career, starting in the late 1990s buying newly fermented…
March 4, 2020 - Wine Spectator senior editor and lead taster for Burgundy, Bruce Sanderson, writes of his recent trip to France where he visited boutique negociant Lucien Le Moine to check out the…