Count Louis-Michel Liger-Belair could have develop into a dusty portrait of an Previous Globe wine estate proprietor.
In simple fact, he’s something but.
He life with his wife and three small children in Château Vosne-Romanée, which is adorned with oil paintings of his ancestors and overlooks the historic Burgundy village of Vosne-Romanée, alongside with some of the world’s most prized Pinot Noir vineyards and neighbors this kind of as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
His Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair helps make tiny releases of 15 cuvées from distinctive climats, together with two from exclusive Pinot Noir monopoles in Vosne-Romanée—about 300 cases just about every from La Romanée and Clos du Château—as effectively as the Clos des Grandes Vignes monopole in neighboring Nuits-St.-Georges, planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. His wines are so exceptional he turns absent new buyers.
But at 47, Liger-Belair isn’t resting on his double-hyphenated name or his laurels. He represents a variety of restless dynamism in this sleepy, elite viticultural neighborhood.
An exacting biodynamic producer with a penchant for clean and specific wines, he is a large bear of a person with an affable demeanor. When I showed up at the château gates for our appointment, he greeted me with a massive grin and claimed, “Let’s go stop by the zoo”—the “zoo” becoming the underground cellars wherever we tasted by means of his 2020 vintage in barrel.
Past yr, paying out his 20th anniversary at the domaine in COVID lockdown, he reimagined his entire world. “I never ever labored so a lot as for the duration of COVID, imagining what we would do and how we would transform right after,” he states.
In the course of lockdown, Liger-Belair arrived up with a pair of opposite ways to connect with wine enthusiasts: a single intellectual and the other democratic.
The intellectual process debuted in May well in Delaware when Acker auctioned a single bottle of each and every of his cuvées (all bottle No. 2)—each with its very own encrypted non-fungible token (NFT) that contains a 90-next motion picture in which he spoke about the vineyard and the classic.
The bottles offered for 2 times their retail rate, fetching a complete of $55,000. Liger-Belair ideas to repeat the venture on a yearly basis with a distinct movie director.
The strategy, he states, sprung from a conversation with a Brussels artwork vendor about the relationship between wine fans and artwork. “I believed, wine is the top piece of art simply because when you open the bottle, there is no extra worth,” he muses. “When you drink it, you demolish it.”
With the NFT venture, purchasers at minimum have a film of their have after the wine is gone.
Liger-Belair’s other COVID inspiration may well feel obvious to American sensibilities, but in Vosne-Romanée (pop. 360), it represents a huge alter.
He and his wife, Constance, bought an abandoned farmstead at the edge of the Clos du Château vineyard and plan to set up Vosne-Romanée’s first wine bar there by late 2022.
This plan came from a gaping absence: The village has a pair of gastronomic dining establishments, but hrs are restricted. Wine cellars are open up only by appointments, which can be tough to get.
“If anyone comes to Vosne-Romanée, it is unacceptable that we simply cannot give a glass of Vosne-Romanée,” Liger-Belair says.
The couple’s challenge will present an extensive wine checklist open to all Vosne-Romanée producers, all organic and natural producers in Burgundy and all biodynamic producers during France, with a rotating range of wines by the glass.
“We have to get the job done on the brand name of Vosne-Romanée, and that usually means to advertise it in a very good way,” he says, and then can make an exciting difference: “We just cannot make it more obtainable. We cannot deliver adequate wine for the entire earth. But we can give people some obtain.”
The undertaking, in a sequence of structures all over a widespread courtyard, will carry lifestyle to the village with a café that also functions as a post place of work, a smaller playground, a greengrocer for natural and organic generate and 4 visitor rooms for wine-state readers.
By producing a preferred café for area workers and households, Liger-Belair claims with a chortle, “It will exhibit that there are authentic people today in Vosne-Romanée—not just snobby winemakers.”
Liger-Belair has usually been a doer. He designed the domaine in 2000 and has labored at any time since to return the estate to its earlier glory. “I was the initial a person [in the family] to function hands-on in the vineyards,” he claims. “Before me, we were being largely landlords.”
The Château de Vosne-Romanée was acquired by Louis Liger-Belair, a Napoleonic basic, in 1815. Over the many years and by marriage, the estate arrived to include things like some of the most revered vineyards in Burgundy, this sort of as the grand cru monopoles La Romanée, La Tâche and La Grand Rue. (One more branch of the loved ones led to Thibault Liger-Belair’s domaine in Nuits-St.-Georges.)
But in 1933, the loss of life of Louis-Michel’s great-grandmother remaining 10 family heirs—including two minors—and no consensus on how to regulate the houses. So they have been bought at auction.
At the time, Liger-Belair’s grandfather and fantastic-uncle (a youthful priest) managed to get La Romanée and a couple of other vineyards, holding them in the family members.
Nevertheless Liger-Belair dreamed of staying in Vosne-Romanée as a youth, his father pushed him to initially get an engineering degree, which he complemented with two extra levels in small business and enology.
In the past two decades, he expanded the domaine’s subterranean cellars at a wonderful charge by digging under the smaller highway that connects the château with its orangerie. At the exact time, he expanded Liger-Belair’s winery holdings, parcel by parcel, from considerably less than 8 acres to about 25, by diligently staying attuned to the actions and options in and all-around his hometown.
“The strategy is to broaden the estate in the neighborhood,” he suggests. “My intellect is in Vosne-Romanée and the bordering villages.”
But presently, Liger-Belair is also contemplating much more globally and conceptually. As he discusses his new jobs, he concludes, “Wine is not only wine … we have to do one thing additional.”