Wine writing

Domaine Hubert Lamy

COVID-19 madness disrupted all the travels making it impossible to do usual visits. Luckily many wine enthusiasts and open minded winemakers successfully adopted the new formats of meeting virtually.

I very much enjoyed attending the one with Domaine Hubert Lamy where we e-met Olivier Lamy, the winemaker himself.

The winemaking history of the Lamy family dates back to 1640. But the Domaine was founded in Olivier’s birth year (1973) by his father, Hubert Lamy. When Hubert started, he had only 1ha and increased to 8 ha mainly in regional appellations, such as Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains and Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. These were not easy times and selling white wines was very difficult. Most of the wines were sold to negoce in barrels. Hubert was making 80% of red wines.

Olivier studied winemaking and commerce and even spent some time in Canada being curious about the winemaking there. He admits that he learned the most not from schooling, but rather from many star winemakers in his home Burgundy. In 1995 Olivier worked for 6 months at Méo-Camuzet. He met Henri Jayer who was a vinification consultant for domaine at that time. He remembers how he listened to him carefully and even wrote down every word Henri was saying about the winemaking and vineyard management. Olivier later tried to follow the recommendations and implement that in Saint Aubin, but that never worked as the terroir is different.

1996 was the first vintage of Olivier at family domaine. That year they acquired a pneumatic press and bought the first large barrel. Domaine Hubert Lamy developed significantly after Olivier had joined the business.

Oliver is married to Karine who comes from clan Tollot-Beaut
Oliver is married to Karine who comes from clan Tollot-Beaut

Today Domaine Hubert Lamy covers 18,5 ha of vineyards across 20 appellations and produce over 110,000 bottles per year. 80% is Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir.

What Hubert Lamy is famous for and what became their speciality, all started with almost a mistake. They used to plant vines the usual way 1 meter apart which makes in total 10,000 vines per hectare. There was a small terrace that needed to be planted. Its area was only 700m2 and Olivier’s father insisted on planting 10,000 vines anyways. They later noticed that the berries were better and smaller. Dense planting creates the competition between the vines resulting in lower yields and smaller berries.

haute densité
haute densité

They liked the results and intentionally densely planted the top part of the Saint-Aubin 1er Cru “Derrière Chez Edouard”. Olivier practice (haute densité) up to 30,000 vines per hectare. Normal brunch in Burgundy is 150 grams and his are about 30 g, five times smaller. Small berries, less vigour. More skin, less juice, denser wine.

small berries
small berries

Olivier reminds us that this approach was actually common in Burgundy for many centuries and what today is considered as a normal only started after phylloxera destroyed the vineyards of Burgundy. It is more convenient to plant vines 1 meter apart as one can much easier use the machinery.

His approach is highly labour intensive, more investments in the rootstock and the yields are much smaller. So don’t be surprised with the price when you see the Haute Densité on some of his labels. These wines are coming exactly from the parcels farmed this way.

Each year some of the vines die and they are replanted with new ones using selection massale. He likes to plant a new one between the old for competition. His vines really do suffer a lot.
He changed to Cordon de royat and also prunes his vines short and leaves just a few bunches. Also higher canopies for optimizing maturation. Olivier gets very scientific to maturation. In some vintages he might be the early picker and other vintage could be the opposite, picking among the last. Optimal maturity is what only matters.

Hubert Lamy farms raisonnée avoiding chemical fertilizers and using organic compost-based supplements.

The cellar expanded over the years and is very well equipped. They have 2 pneumatic presses, vibrating sorting table, destemmer, conveyer. There are 3 floors to the cellar and it is designed according to the gravity principle.

Key feature of Hubert Lamy is the large barrels — fûts (300 litres) and demi-muids (600 litres). At some point, used small oak barrels (pièce) Olivier sold to Pascal Agrapart in Champagne.
Olivier likes to say that his taste and preference develop with time. He had no clue 10 years ago what he would do in 10 years. When I kindly asked him to define his style, he took a moment and replied:

I am trying to balance 3 elements:
- Freshness
- Ripeness
- Minerality

He doesn’t want to make creamy Chardonnays, but rather make Saint Aubin. To him it’s about chalkiness. The vin de Montagne meaning the wines are coming from the hills. There is lots of white marl and the topsoil gets very thin (20–40 cm). Olivier speaks about the terroir. His aim is not to mask it with SO2 or using a new oak.

Over the years, the use of new oak for whites decreased to a minimum of 5–10% and mostly depends when he buys a new barrel. On average, his barrels are 1 to 5 years old. The thickness of the barrel wood is important. Standard pièce is 25mm and large foudre is 47mm and it gives more freshness.

large barrels — fûts (300 litres) and demi-muids (600 litres)
large barrels — fûts (300 litres) and demi-muids (600 litres)

The underground cellar is cold which favours a slow fermentation for up to 90 days. Wines also age long, up to 24 months. They do rare batonnage. Once or twice a year. End of winter, end of summer. They follow nature as the wine changes with season. From oxidation to reduction. And this is when they do batonnage.

Olivier used to work with 5 different cork suppliers which resulted in bottle variation as different corks let the air in the bottle differently. Now he is finally convinced to switch to DIAM. It gives more consistency, but it lets less oxygen, so need to adjust the winemaking to make it less reductive. As a result less SO2.

Starting from 2013 they stopped using SO2 in vinification and only small doses are added after racking when bottling and according to analyses.

For reds Olivier is gradually increasing the proportion of whole bunches and more new oak.
Today there is focus on whites, but that doesn’t mean reds are neglected. Olivier is working hard on his reds as well. I am pretty sure that going forward they will receive much more attention.
Over the tasting we talked a lot about the terroir, individual vineyards and their characteristics.

I brought 2 wines for tasting:

2017 Domaine Hubert Lamy St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
2017 Domaine Hubert Lamy St. Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien

St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly

En Remilly they own 2 ha over 2 parcels. The one overlooking Chassagne-Montrachet and the 2nd one has its own micro climate. Called le Corton. They harvest and vinify them separately and blend after racking.

St. Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien
St. Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien

Les Murgers des Dents de Chien (“wall of dog’s teeth,” referring to old jagged tone walls). Another 1er cru they own only 0.25 ha. They have old vines (planted in 1985) with very small berries and yellow leaves. Which gives yellow fruit character to wines. More dense.

St. Aubin 1er Cru Clos de la Chateniere
St. Aubin 1er Cru Clos de la Chateniere

In comparing the Saint Aubin 1ers En Remilly to Clos de la Chateniere, Olivier sees En Remilly doing better with food and as more intellectual where Chateniere has slightly rounder edges, drinking better on its own.

Bourgogne Blanc comes from 4 vineyards. For Olivier it is pretty much Saint Aubin. Top of the hill. Same attention as to others. Each year he would add village or 1er Cru that doesn’t qualify for its level. Good for Bourgogne, not for 1er Cru.

Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru

Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru is the pinnacle 0.05ha in 50 years lease, just next to the plot of Madame’s Auvenay. Now available in Haute Densité.


Personally, Olivier seems to be a very inquisitive man. He is observant and experimenting a lot. Comparing different corks. Dense planting vs normal. Even comparing clean barrels vs barrels with remaining lees. How all that affects the wine.

I also sensed that Olivier is very passionate about his home region, knows its history and appreciates the traditions. He sometimes referred to himself as being Old Fashioned, meaning that he cherishes the way the wines were made a long time ago. Think of haute densité, big barrels, etc.

Map of Domaine Hubert Lamy vineyards
Map of Domaine Hubert Lamy vineyards

Domaine Hubert Lamy vineyard holdings
Domaine Hubert Lamy vineyard holdings
Burgundy Winemaker Terroir Tasting
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