Antoine Leinhardt Côtes de Nuits (organic and biodynamic)
les Plantes aux bois
Antoine Lienhardt is a rising star and humble overachiever in the appellation of Côte de Nuits Villages. In 2011, he took over 11 acres of vines that were planted by his grandfather in the 1960s. The 2012 vintage produced the first estate-bottled wines in the family.
Antoine believes that the vineyards of Comblanchien are hugely undervalued and that if he farms his vines and makes his wines as if they were Grand Crus, he will produce wines that surpass the reputation of the appellation.
The biodynamically farmed regional and Côte de Nuits Villages vines produce a line of wines with a drive and energy that command your attention immediately and will evolve for 15-20 years.
Finding Burgundies that overdeliver for their price has now become a feat that is next to impossible. But if you avoid the pitfalls of many Burgundy drinkers who seek fancy labels and ignore the wine from within – there are still many treasures to be found, especially if you venture a bit off the beaten path. As any astute Burgundy lover knows, the single most important factor is, of course, the vigneron. More than vintage or vineyard, a great grower will deliver a wine of quality and pedigree year in and year out, and from the lowest level to the highest in the hierarchy.
Such is the case with Antoine Lienhardt, a rising star and humble overachiever in the appellation of Côte de Nuits Villages. As a child, Antoine begged his grandmother to give him a section of her garden so he could tend to his own plants and vegetables. He was a dedicated green thumb and loved every stage of the process from seed to harvest. He eagerly awaited the day when he would inherit the Comblanchien vines planted by his grandfather in the 1960s.
In the 2011 vintage, Antoine took over the 11 acres of family vineyards that had been in long-term lease since his grandfather's retirement in 1992. Antoine had previously cut his teeth working for four years at Domaine Amiot-Servelle in Chambolle-Musigny, with shorter stints in Chablis and in South Africa. Gifted with family vines, but not haunted by the pressures of history and heritage, Antoine set out to be the first in his family to make wine. Today, he works alongside his dynamic sister Héloise who handles all administrative aspects of the Domaine.
“I make my wines as if I were making a Grand Cru.” Like any accomplished Burgundian, he understands that the key to great wines begins in the vineyards. He believes that Comblanchien terroirs are hugely undervalued and that if they were to ever re-classify the hierarchy of Burgundy, there would most certainly be Premier Cru (if not Grand Cru) vineyards in the village’s choicest sectors. Like other top Cru vineyards in the Côte de Nuits, his original two lieu-dits in Comblanchien – "Les Essards" and "Les Plantes Aux Bois" – have 10-15 inches of topsoil before passing directly into the mother rock of pure limestone.
The vines in these sites are now well established at 50-60 years of age. In the vineyards, pruning is severe, with a goal of a minuscule two tons per acre, though in his first two vintages yields were closer to half of that. Antoine began organic conversion in the 2016 vintage and is now farming biodynamically with close attention paid to the health and growth of the soils. He endeavors to minimally disturb the soils, and when plowing takes place, it is with a horse to minimize compaction.
At harvest, the Grand Cru-level care is evident. The grapes are, of course, harvested by hand and sorted in the vineyard. Great attention is paid to harvest fruit that is physiologically ripe but also maintains an energy and vibrancy that carries into the final wine. Once the grapes arrive at the cellar, Antoine feels that most of the potential has been established. So, during the fermentation, macerations are gentle and without exaggerated extraction, lasting for about 15 days. All wines see 100% whole cluster and are vinified without sulfur. Over the past five vintages, Antoine has come to believe that with clean fruit and attention to detail, he can forgo the use of sulfur in vinification, which he believes achieves the purest expression of his terroirs. Barrel aging lasts for 8-12 months at which point the wines are bottled to capture the purity and exuberance of the fruit. The use of new oak has decreased dramatically since Antoine's first vintage, and today no wine sees more than 10% new oak.
The Côte de Nuits Villages drink well beyond their humble appellations. "Les Plantes aux Bois" tends to be a bit more red-fruited and floral, while "Les Essards" is a bit darker with mineral undertones.
Lienhardt wines have a drive and energy that command your attention immediately. Antoine recommends decanting if you drink them young. Though he also feels they will have a positive evolution for 20 years, and perhaps more. Either way, there is deliciousness in spades!