ellen Lignier arrived in Burgundy in the late 1990's. Since then she has found herself a new occupation, she has seen land prices go through the roof and she has discovered that a domaine of 8.3 hectares can be both too big and too small.
– I find wine to be very sensual, she says. And I find working with grapevines to be a beautiful way to participate in nature. I love wine now, so it is a pleasure for me to make wines that I love and that I can drink every day. It is a pleasure to have beautiful vineyards and to have lovely grapes coming in. I think it is a beautiful thing to do. I don't know what else I would do because I really enjoy this.
Domaine Lucie et Auguste Lignier is located in Morey-Saint-Denis, about halfway between the church and the Beaune-Dijon road. This was once the cooperative in Morey-Saint-Denis. Today the domaine shares it with a restaurant.
– My father-in-law was the president of the cooperative, explains Kellen Lignier. Then in the 1970's everyone started taking back their wine to sell in bottles because it was more interesting. The cooperative was liquidated in 1998; that's when we bought the winery.
At this time it was still Domaine Hubert Lignier. Romain Lignier, one of Hubert's two sons and Kellen's husband, was going to take on responsibility for the domaine.
– My husband and I had already planned on working together, says Kellen Lignier. We had set up a négociant business with my father-in-law. So we were already working towards working together.
Unfortunately things didn't turn out as planned. Romain Lignier fell ill and passed away in 2004.
– He fell ill in 2003, right after his parents gave him their part of the enterprise, says Kellen Lignier. 2003-2004 I had two very small children, an extremely sick husband and a house to restore, so I wasn't very active in the winery at that point in time. But when my husband passed away I went to the wine school in Beaune and took on the winery. Basically I couldn't imagine not working. I'm a pretty active woman and not having my husband was really hard to deal with. It was better for me occupy my mind and my time with something.
And to make matters worse Romain's side of the family did not approve of the idea that Kellen would take on the winery. It's not a happy story and it has been well-documented in the media. But Kellen Lignier carried on. The domaine became Domaine Lucie et Auguste Lignier, named after Kellen's and Romain's two children, and in 2006 she made her first vintage.
Domaine Lucie et Auguste Lignier covers a total of 8.3 hectares. The portfolio holds the whole spectrum of wines, from regional appellations such as Bourgogne, Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Passetoutgrain all the way up to the two grands crus of the domaine, the Clos de la Roche and the Charmes-Chambertin. There are wines from the village appellations in Morey-Saint-Denis (Les Sionnières), Gevrey-Chambertin (Les Seuvrées), Chambolle-Musigny (Les Bussières) and Fixin (Champs de Vosger). The premiers crus are distributed in a similar manner - Les Baudes in Chambolle-Musigny, Aux Combottes in Gevrey-Chambertin and Les Chaffots in Morey-Saint-Denis. Then there is the Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru "Cuvée Romain Lignier". Originally this was a blend of two parcels, "Les Faconnieres" and "Les Cheneveries", but in 2007 Kellen decided to stop bottling the premier cru "La Riotte" on its own and include it in the Romain Lignier blend instead.
– I am happy with how it turned out, says Kellen Lignier. I think "La Riotte" added some beautiful fruitiness that was missing, because the vines are getting really old. Two parcels are nearly 90 years old and another is 60. The wine gets a really beautiful structure and length. By adding "La Riotte" which is a little younger, about 45 years old, it has helped to add a little bit of freshness and beauty.
Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the south-western part of the US Kellen Lignier describes her relationship with wine as non-existent.
– In New Mexico there is not very much, she says. I was really poor and wine is expensive. To buy a bottle of wine wasn't really something I went out to do. I would buy food for dinner or put gas in the car.
– The first wine I drank was a Beaujolais nouveau. It was awful it gave me a terrible headache. I decided that I was never going to drink wine again, because beer and tequila never did that to me. It took me another five or six years to enjoy a glass of wine again.
Much has obviously changed since then. Kellen Lignier now speaks passionately about the wines and the Burgundian soil.
– For me it was really a collection of circumstances. I fell in love with a man who happened to be a winemaker. I needed a job so I worked with him. He had good wine, so I'd drink it and then I started to love it.
During the ten years Kellen Lignier has been living in Burgundy she has seen the region go through big changes. One of the major changes is the price of land. For your average winegrower buying land is in many cases no longer an option.
– When I moved to Burgundy it was a place where there were a lot of hard-working, really nice people and Burgundy wasn't enjoying an enormous amount of success. I have seen land prices explode over these ten years. My husband would have liked to extend the winery; probably have less regional wines and more of village, premier cru and grand cru.
– Because the value of land has grown exponentially the price of the wine has also grown, but not as much. The salaries and the social charges have also gone up. I now see things happen that are sad, I see people that aren't able to make it normally anymore. I see either extremely large wineries or extremely small wineries. I think that wineries of our size are both too big and too small. It's too big to run yourself and it's too small to have a decent team of employees to run it smoothly.
© 2009 Ola Bergman