The special instincts of Mounir and Rotem Saouma

The special instincts of Mounir and Rotem Saouma

Ah, where to begin…….
I first met with Mounir and Rotem Saouma at their cellars in Beaune, to taste their 2006 vintage from barrel.  I had heard exciting things about these up-and-coming micro-negociants.  They had met in Burgundy, and after several years of working with several producers on the Cote and abroad, they decided to embark on a unique journey in 1999: a micro-negociant house, making uniquely the greatest Premier and Grand crus from several appellations, in tiny quantities of one to three barrels per cru (25-75 cases).  They chose the name “Lucien LeMoine” as a sort of pen-name: “Lucien” means “bringer of light”, as does Mounir in Arabic; “LeMoine” means “the monk”.  So, Mounir the Monk…..
Slowly and surely, they have honed their house style, with an emphasis on the purity and “an accurate and focused expression of its origin, that unique quality the French call “terroir”.  Instrumental to this focus are a few key elements of elevage: the wines are never fined, nor filtered; they experience naturally protracted malolactic fermentation, for up to 18+ months for some wines, allowing the wines to nourish themselves on the fine lees (spent yeast) for as long as possible.  Rather than top off their barrels with more wine (as is needed due to evaporation and ‘sampling’), they top off with more lees.  In fact, they keep extra lees from each cuvee that they make, i.e. they have some sixty separate batches of lees on hand!  Jean-Michel Deiss, terroiriste of Alsace, refers to the lees as the “megaphone of the terroir”, amplifying the flavor signature of the particular cru.  I could go on, but to learn more about how Mounir and Rotem do what they do, read it in their own words here:
From the first time that I visited with Mounir, I was struck by his infectious enthusiasm, passion, knowledge of each cru, and eloquence.  While we tasted through the 2006s, virtually every single cuvee had me in stunned awe of its power and beauty.  In each of my subsequent visits to taste the 2007-2010 wines from barrel, without exception, they have been among the top three collections that I have encountered anywhere on the Cote, and that’s from a lineup of around forty of the most prestigious producers.  They have consistently inspired some of the most majestic heights of wine’s expressive ability, one that evokes powerful emotion and demands meditative contemplation.  En cave with Mounir or Rotem, they often leave me rendered speechless, in humble awe that such beauty is possible……silence becomes louder…..
My unflagging support and enthusiasm for their work did not go unnoticed.  I visited with them at least twice per year, sometimes more.  Mounir recently shared a curious anectode with me: that they have gladly received me as a visitor more than any American critic, period.  He prefaced that with a funny remark, “You’re going to be flattered by this because you’re an American….”  And he was right!!!  The critics have universally recognized how inspiring their work is, placing the Saouma collections in each of the past five vintages at the very top of the heap.  To repeat the critics’ superlatives here would be exhausting….In spite of their stratospheric rise to Burgundy superstardom, my support for what they are able to express has always been received with the same genuine gratitude.
What happened in the fall of 2011 floored me: Mounir and Rotem invited me to represent their new domaine in Chateauneuf du Pape, directly.  I am one of six people nationally, 20 in the world.  I pinched myself.  Star struck and all, I had to see and taste for myself how Mounir’s burgundian sensibilities fleshed out in the southern Rhone.  He now had complete vineyard control, a brand new gravity fed winery with a cool, deep cellar, and the influence and mentoring of the most legendary elder statesman of Chateauneuf, Henri Bonneau.  Pictured above is Henri’s son, Marcel, sharing some of what is destined to be the Bonneau Reserve des Celestins 2009, one of Chateauneuf’s most singular mind-blowing elixirs; something to smile about for sure!!!
Back in the Saouma cellars, Mounir and I tasted through the range of wines from both 2009 and 2010 in barrel; the purity, finesse, and precision of the wines reflected burgundian sensibilities indeed.  When we tasted the 2009 ‘Le Clos’, the ‘Grand Vin’ of the Saouma cellars, a hush fell over us, and the roar of the howling Mistral winds outside was the only sound as we sat in awestruck silence for over a minute.  It is an absolutely soul-stirring wine, endlessly and weightlessly long, an “Amoureuses of the south”, as Mounir put it.  It has to be one of the most compelling Chateauneufs that I have ever tasted, and i’ve had a lot of Chateauneuf….That wine is still in barrel, to be bottled in the Fall……..
For the Chateauneuf project, there are three wines in all:
-A white wine called “Magis”, meaning “more, much more”, comprised of 75% old vine grenache blanc with the balance of bourboulenc, clairette, and roussanne, both fermented and aged on the gross lees for two years! in Jupilles oak barrels with long, naturally protracted malo.  It brings to mind instensely chalky Puligny, white flowers and citrus, with a laser beam of bright driving minerality and leesy length.  I have never tasted a white Chateauneuf of this proportion, a truly singular wine.
-A red wine called “Omnia” meaning “all”, which is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% syrah, 10% mourvedre from four lieux dits in the cooler N/NE sector of Chateauneuf: Pignan (Rayas, Boislauzon, la Roquete, Giraud), le Gres (Fontavin), Pied de Baud (Boursan, Beaurenard, Mont Olivet, Vieux Donjon), and Cabrieres (Charvin, Ferrand, Boislauzon, Brunel).  A l’ancienne (done the ancient way), it is whole cluster basket pressed,  with a 7-day cold maceration, then gravity fed to Jupilles oak barrels where it is aged for two years.
-A red wine that is officially yet to be named, and is here referred to as “Le Clos”, a single parcel of Grenache planted in 1942 in the lieu dit Pignan, adjoining the lieu dit Rayas.  It is vinified similarly, but aged in larger demi muids, a whopping three of them.  Henri Bonneau pronounced the 2009 a “veritable Grand Vin”, a great compliment indeed.  See my impressions above of the 2009….

Having tasted the wines, I can whole heartedly recommend them to lovers of Chateauneuf in the more finessed, balanced, “Pinot of the south” style;  such producers as : Chateau Rayas, Clos du Mont Olivet, Domaine de Ferrand, Domaine Charvin etc.  The white is like no other white Chateauneuf you have ever tasted; the Omnia offers Grenache’s signature richness, depth, and spice, delivered on a fresh, bright frame.  Hedonists as well as purists should be pleased…….and “Le Clos” is an absolute mind-blower……
What follows here is an absolutely amazing offer of BOTH the 2009 Lucien LeMoine burgundies, from a deliciously proportioned ripe solar vintage, as well as the 2009 Clos Saouma Chateauneufs.  To be able to find these wines AT ALL, nonetheless with such breadth, is indeed a treat.  I am proud to be able to offer such a glimpse into the stirring talents of Mounir and Rotem, and the grands terroirs that they represent.
Lucien LeMoine Bourgogne blanc $39 This is a stunning bottle of bourgogne blanc, that would hold its own in any Puligny villages tasting one could conjure.  Utterly poised, with nice weight and intensely mineral, this is a gem.
Lucien LeMoine Morey St Denis 1er Clos des Ormes $89 6 bottles 92-94 Galloni
“Medium red.  Sexy, soil-inflected nose melds raspberry, woodsmoke, spices, cola and rose petal.  Round, creamy and sweet, with a pliant texture and a positive earthiness to the red berry and spice flavors.  This rich, full wine projects good power for the vintage.  Finishes very long, with serious but fine-grained tannins.” 92 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Volnay 1er Cailleret $109 6 bottles 91-93 Burghound
“Bright medium red.  Red fruits, smoky oak and flinty minerality on the nose and palate, with a slightly liqueur-like ripeness and a suggestion of noble rusticity.  Lush, round and mouthfilling but without any heaviness.  The echoing back end features refined tannins and terrific length.  This wine tightened up dramatically with air and showed a very firm spine for aging.” 93 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Pommard 1er Epenots $99 6 bottles
“The 2009 Pommard Les Epenots is a huge, powerful wine imbued with the essence of dark fruit, smoke, tar and licorice. This massively structured tannic wine appears to have a brilliant future ahead of it once it settles down in bottle.” 92-94 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Pommard 1er Grands Epenots $129 6 bottles 92-95 Galloni
“Good red-ruby. High-pitched aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, minerals and smoked meat lifted by a floral topnote. A wine of noteworthy finesse, with lovely inner-mouth aromatic character. Finer than the Epenots, finishing with suaver tannins. Finishes with sexy cherry perfume and outstanding length.” 92-95 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Nuits St Georges 1er Vaucrains $89 6 bottles 91-93 Galloni
“Bright red-ruby. Superripe aromas of dried fruits, earthy Middle Eastern spices and flowers. In a drier style and more imploded than the Cailles but with terrific spicy, floral precision and lift. Very pretty, juicy wine; not a bit chocolatey. Saouma believes that Nuits-Saint-Georges wines should be racked as little as possible during elevage, “or they get boring.” 92-94 pointsStephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Nuits St Georges 1er Cailles $99 6 bottles
“Deep red-ruby. Very primary aromas of creme de cassis, violet, crushed stone and smoke. Very ripe but sharply delineated, with intense flavors of cassis, minerals and spices. Substantial CO2 gives a hardness to the tannins today, but this long, vibrant, mineral-driven wine should be outstanding.” 91-94 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Gevrey Chambertin 1er Lavaut St Jacques $129 6 bottles
“There is excellent verve though to the detached and restrained mineral-inflected medium-bodied flavors that possess strikingly good detail and focus on the mildly animale, linear and austere finish. This too is very Lavaut in character and should age extremely well as the balance and underlying material are impeccable.” 91-93 points Burghound
Lucien LeMoine Gevrey Chambertin 1er Estournelles St Jacques $129 12 bottles 91-93 Burghound 91-93 Galloni
“Good full red. Perfumed, musky aromas of red berries, spices and mocha; more polite on the nose today than the Lavaux. Then juicy and stylish, with lovely perfume to the slightly jammy raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors. Wonderfully ripe, integrated wine with terrific limestone lift. Finishes very long and harmonious, with fine tannins and lingering perfume.” 92-95 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cazetiers $149 12 bottles 92-94 Burghound 92-94 Tanzer
“The 2009 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetieres explodes from the glass with an insanely haunting bouquet layered with fresh, vibrant fruit. Everything is in perfect balance in this achingly beautiful wine. The Cazetieres exemplifies all of the qualities that make Burgundy Burgundy. Weightless and pure on the finish, the Cazetieres is simply spellbinding and one of the highlights among this set of wines from Le Moine.” 94-96 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Chambolle Musigny 1er Charmes  $109 4 bottles 91-93 Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Chambolle Musigny 1er Hauts Doix $149 6 bottles 91-93 Galloni
“Good deep red. Pungent, slightly high-toned, Musigny-like aromas of raspberry, creme de cassis crushed stone, white pepper and fresh blood, complicated by a white fruit note and lifted by a floral quality. Improbably precise for 2009, with classic Chambolle cut and verve to its piercing flavors of fresh red fruits, spices and flowers. Firm mineral grip gives superb vibrancy to the finish. These vines below Les Amoureuses clearly benefited from their more humid soil in 2009. A knockout in the making.” 92-95 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Chambolle Musigny 1er les Amoureuses $279 6 bottles 92-94 Galloni
“Bright dark red. Compellingly perfumed, pure aromas of crushed raspberry, crushed rock, licorice and blood orange. The palate offers great clarity and intensity, with an almost minty quality adding to the impression of verve. A youthfully imploded wine that comes across as more backward than the Haut-Doix. Finishes with palate-staining length and great sappy blood orange perfume. Like the Haut-Doix, this will be a great example of its site.” 93-96 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Corton Renardes Grand cru $109 6 bottles
“The 2009 Corton Renardes is deep, long and intense. There is superb concentration in the jammy, dense fruit. This is a sweet, unctuous style that stands apart from most of the other wines in the cellar, yet everything works within the context of a powerful, virile expression of Renardes.” 92-94 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Clos de la Roche Grand cru $249 12 bottles 93-95 Burghound
“The 2009 Clos de la Roche is drop-dead gorgeous. It shows remarkable depth and polish in its elegant, impeccable bouquet and harmonious, layered fruit. This is all finesse, all the way. My notes read: extraordinary!” 94-97 points Antonio Galloni
“Good bright medium red.  Complex, expressive nose offers blackberry, game, flinty minerality, rose petal and smoky oak.  Pure silk and soil tones in the mouth, with harmonious ripe acidity contributing to the impression of outstanding intensity and early sex appeal.  The saline, ripely tannic finish displays superb persistence.  A classic expression of Clos de la Roche terroir.” 94 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Clos St Denis Grand cru $249 12 bottles 92-94 Burghound 93-96 Galloni
“Good deep red. Captivating aromas of raspberry, strawberry, gibier, dried flowers and spices. Silky-smooth and suave if a bit youthfully closed, with compelling soil-driven perfume and lovely freshness. This coats the palate while leaving a weightless impression. Finishes with noble tannins and kaleidoscopic soil tones. A beauty.” 93-96 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Echezeaux Grand cru $249 6 bottles 92-95 Tanzer
“The 2009 Echezeaux (from En Orveaux) is pure seduction. Layers of silky, perfumed fruit emerge from the glass in this crystalline Burgundy. The aromas and flavors turn brighter with time, giving the wine additional lift and freshness. Sweet red berries, flowers, spices and minerals wrap around the chiseled, finely sculpted finish.” 92-95 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Clos Vougeot Grand cru $229 3 bottles 91-94 Burghound 91-94 Tanzer
“The 2009 Clos de Vougeot is a driven, focused wine laced with red fruits and sweet spices. This is subtle yet persistent, with elegant, beautifully crafted tannins that make it an unusually refined, sexy Clos de Vougeot.” 91-94 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Grands Echezeaux Grand cru $449 3 bottles 93-95 Burghound
“The 2009 Grands-Echezeaux is one of the bigger, more muscular wines here in 2009. Firm tannins frame a core of sweet, expansive fruit as this broad shouldered red shows off its rich, extroverted personality. The Grands-Echezeaux boasts considerable inner sweetness and depth, but it won’t be truly enjoyable until some of the tannins start melting away, and that is likely to take a handful of years at best.” 94-97 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Charmes Chambertin Grand cru $229 3 bottles
“The 2009 Charmes-Chambertin is muscular and intense but also light on its feet. A burst of dark berries, cinnamon and cloves makes a great first impression. The Charmes shows terrific precision and elegance in its deep layers of fruit as it builds towards the long, polished finish. The firm tannins will require patience, but this is a spectacular wine in every way.” 93-96 pointsAntonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Griottes Chambertin Grand cru $299 3 bottles 92-94 Burghound
“The 2009 Griottes-Chambertin offers up sweet red cherries, crushed flowers and spices, all of which come together on an inviting, polished frame. Sensual and inviting, the Griottes impresses for its poise and harmony. The finish is given an extra dimension by clean, saline notes.” 93-96 points Antonio Galloni
Lucien LeMoine Mazis Chambertin Grand cru $349 2 bottles  93-95 Burghound 94-97 Galloni
“Good deep red-ruby.  Highly perfumed aromas of red cherry, clove, minerals, smoke and flowers.  Highly concentrated, precise and tightly coiled, offering a compelling combination of richness and energy.  The dense, fleshy flavors of raspberry, pepper, minerals and flowers show a weightless quality and superb sweetness.  Most impressive today on the explosive, mounting, unflagging finish.  Here’s a classic example of a great wine that’s sexy and balanced from the outset and should enjoy a slow and glorious evolution in the bottle.” 95 points Stephen Tanzer
-Lucien LeMoine Bonnes Mares Grand cru $349 6 bottles 93-96 Galloni 93-96 Tanzer
“However there is marvelous density to the serious and muscular broad-shouldered flavors that brim with tannin buffering dry extract and flat out incredible length, indeed it’s possible that this, along with the Richebourg, possesses the longest finish of any wine in the range. A stunner of a Bonnes Mares built for the long haul.” 93-96 points Burghound
Lucien LeMoine Clos de Beze Grand cru $399 6 bottles 93-95 Burghound 94-97 Galloni
“Good saturated deep red. Crushed raspberry, rose petal and blood orange on the high-pitched, scented nose. Brilliantly delineated on entry, then densely packed, thick and seamless, with great purity of fruit. The rising, extremely long finish is perfumed by piquant notes of white pepper and flowers. High class!” 94-97 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Romanee St Vivant Grand cru $599 3 bottles 93-96 Galloni 92-95 Burghound
“Good deep red. Ineffable scents of raspberry, cocoa powder, ginger, cappuccino, pepper and tobacco, plus a whiff of passion fruit. Less expressive in the mouth today than on the nose but already displays terrific fruit intensity. Quite folded in on itself just after the end of the malo, but a great wine in the making.” 93-96 points Stephen Tanzer
Lucien LeMoine Richebourg Grand cru $899 3 bottles 93-96 Galloni 93-96 Burghound
“Deep red. Mineral-driven crushed black raspberry and crushed rock aromas are complemented by notes of molten dark chocolate and espresso. A huge wine of great sweetness and depth; conveys an almost candied character but also an impression of medicinal reserve and powerful extract. The superb, slowly building finish goes on and on.” 94-97 points Stephen Tanzer


-Clos Saouma Chateauneuf du Pape rouge “Omnia” $89 per or $79 per on 6+ 36 bottles
-Clos Saouma Chateauneuf du Pape blanc “Magis” $89 per 8 bottles
-Clos Saouma Chateauneuf du Pape rouge “Le Clos” $179 per or $159 on 6+ (wine arrives after bottling in the Fall) 36 bottles

In recent weeks, the 2009 Clos de la Roche and Gevrey Cazetiers were the wines of the night at a massive 2009 Burgundy horizontal tasting that I staged in Chicago.  The sheer captivating beauty and complexity of the wines is part of what set them apart from their already superlative company.  They had an extra dimension to them, in both texture and flavor clarity, as well as a certain “je ne sais quoi”, an inexpressible special something.  I have no doubt that these 2009s will be long celebrated for their stunning beauty………the first feedback from the recently arrived 2009 Omnia Chateauneuf has been stellar…..
All wines offered here are both in stock and currently the lowest prices in the American marketplace, period.
As always, if you have any questions or interest, feel free to email me at
Cheers to the Saouma family, and their labor of love, acheiving both the utmost expression of the great terroirs of Burgundy AND wine’s ability to offer profoundly moving experiences!!


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