Last week F+R was back in Burgundy for our annual visit to Domaine Leroy, making our selection from the new Maison Leroy 2020 Collection, due out in the next few weeks. This year we were also able to taste some of the latest Domaine d’Auvenay releases as well as a rather special bottle of 1926 Auxey Duresses from Maison Leroy.
We caught up with Lalou on all the latest developments at Domaine Leroy and discussed the 2019 vintage, which is set to be one of the lowest yields she has ever produced in the Cote de Beaune.
There are some fantastic wines this year from both Domaine d’Auvenay and the Maison Leroy Collection, including a mixed vintage red, coming exclusively from vintages in the nineties, predominantly 1999, originally released to celebrate the millennium.
On arriving in Burgundy we headed straight to Maison Leroy situated
in the village of Auxey Duresses. There we met with Frédéric Roemer and
Gilles Desprez (Lalou’s right hand men) to taste the wines destined to be
released as part of the Maison Leroy Collection later this month. The range
this year is smaller than usual but what its lacks in volume it makes up for in
quality as well as variety.
The Maison Leroy Collection 2020
The wines as always were selected by Lalou, based on them all
entering into their ideal drinking window with the youngest vintage of white
being the 2012 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru and a selection of reds from 2003 –
Maranges, Aloxe Corton and Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru. Two exceptional non-vintage releases are also included in the collection this year, a mixed
vintage white wine called “Fleurs de Vignes” and a mixed vintage red called “Hommage
à l’An 2000”. This marks just the second ever release of “Fleurs de Vignes” (the
first bottling of this blend was released in 2015) and is composed of three different
vintages of Bourgogne Blanc blended with Puligny 1er Cru Champ Gain. The
“Hommage a L’An 2000”, is a unique Pinot Noir blended by Lalou, originally released
in 2004 to celebrate the millennium, comprised of a mixture of Bourgogne Rouge
cuvees and a number of unspecified village crus, all exclusively from vintages
in the 90s with the majority of the wine coming from the 1999 vintage. This
special bottling will come with a gold capsule and each bottle is individually
NV Bourgogne Rouge “Hommage a l’An 2000”, Maison Leroy (2020
Complex nose with both fresh red berry fruit aromas
complimented by more earthy, savoury, forest floor and dried cigar leaf notes.
Lovely density on the palate with a broad fruit spectrum from candied red berry
to savoury dried leather and animal notes. Very elegant on the finish and lots
of vibrancy too.
NV Bourgogne Blanc "Fleurs de Vignes”, Maison Leroy (2020
Superb nose, very expressive with aromas jumping from the
glass; rich, yet retaining nice stony minerality. In the mouth there is an explosion
of flavours and a lovely creaminess in texture, progressively building on the
palate. This is beautifully dense, lactic and mouthcoating, clearly punching
above its classification. Sumptuous, precise and a long length. This has to be
one of the most impressive Bourgogne Blanc out there.
Another highlight this year included the Volnay 1er Cru 1984,
which although was one of the most difficult vintages in living memory, this wine was really stunning and a benchmark for the Volnay terroir.
1984 Volnay 1er Cru, Maison Leroy (2020 Release)
There is a charming, elegant perfume to the nose, exuberant,
opulent with rich wild strawberries, raspberry, kirsch notes, dried herbs and
wild mushroom with a touch of rusticity too. The nose is hypnotic in its
perfume and the palate is equally so. It has a very elegant mouthfeel as the
fruit aromas continue to the palate and finish with a lovely salinity. This is
a wonderful wine, quite extraordinary!
Prior to our visit to Domaine d’Auvenay, we had a quick
opportunity to visit the Leroy cellars, an extraordinary collection of ageing
bottles, awaiting release, including Batch 001 – the last remaining bottles of
1919 Auxey Duresses. These are the oldest Leroy bottles in existence in their
Domaine d’Auvenay, is a 20-minute drive from Maison Leroy
based in the village of Saint Romain. Here we were greeted by Lalou and her two
dogs Nine and Nais as well as a lunch with a few bottles from the latest selection of Domaine d’Auvenay
wines also due to be released this month.
We were soon talking about the latest 2019 vintage and Lalou
starts laughing about how stupidly low the yields were. The heat and drought of
the vintage meant production was significantly down. In fact, the yields were some
of the lowest she has ever seen! Most cuvees in 2019 at Domaine d’Auvenay
amount to just 1 barrel of each! For the Criots Batard Montrachet she produced
less than 100 litres! Despite the pitiful amounts produced, she is extremely happy
with the quality and unbelievable concentration.
Leroy and d’Auvenay’s vineyards remain incredibly easy to
spot in the Cote d’Or due to her unique pruning methods. She wants to create
the highest vines possible rather than hedging the vines which she believes
stresses the vine too much and affects the pollination the following year.
Lalou admits the process is incredibly high maintenance and requires an
extensive full time viticultural staff to manage. She has up to 60 staff working for
her during the season across Leroy and d’Auvenay. Whilst her neighbours have warmed to
her philosophy (initially many thought she was crazy), few have followed suit,
not being able to justify the running costs of such methods.
Since the 90s Lalou has been carrying out analysis on her
soils, conscious of the effects of her neighbours using chemicals as another
viticultural shortcut. Fortunately, the results she has received shows that the
impact from neighbouring plots on her own is marginal and her soils were in
good shape and using biodynamic organic farming since establishing the domaine
in 1988 has seen the soils improve year after year.
The whites we tried from Domaine d’Auvenay were the Meursault
Narvaux 2009 which had an utterly captivating nose, so expressively full of
toasted nuts, baked bread, white flowers and matched by a great texture both
rich and creamy yet so mineral, so elegant, so precise. This was followed by the
exceptional Meursault Gouttes d’Or 2007. The Gouttes d’Or is one of Lalou’s
favourite terroirs and one of the most recognisable, stating it has this beautiful
alliance of freshness and richness, always retaining a vibrant backbone of
acidity but enveloped by a rich, butter-like texture.
These whites were followed by d’Auvenay’s epic Mazis
Chambertin 2002: deceptively elegant and subtle on the nose and enormous on the
palate. The breadth of the wine is stunning, mouthfilling supported by powerful
yet utterly refined tannins. As you coax the glass, aromas of rich dark berries
allied with an ethereal floral bouquet joint with freshly grounded coffee,
mocha, dark spices and a hint of wildness too. It's an emotional palate where flavours
come from all direction but there is a real sense of harmony with the
complex flavours coming together in the glass. It has epic length and is just approachable
now but possesses enough texture and weight to evolve for at least 20 years.
Whilst tasting bottles of Domaine d’Auvenay is an
unforgettable experience, the tasting was topped by a very rare bottle of
Maison Leroy Auxey Duresses 1926. It turns out that this bottle was one of a
case presented to the legendary Chef Paul Bocuse for his 50th birthday by Lalou
in 1976. It was in fact the last bottles of the vintage from the estate. F+R
came into possession of the bottle from an auction in Lyon following his death
last year. We thought who better to share the bottle with than Lalou herself.
Lalou started to recall 1926 was in fact a pretty difficult
vintage and that very little wine was made that year. Yet on tasting the wine,
it was extraordinary, really something quite exceptional. As we tasted the wine
throughout the lunch it continued to evolve and improve rather than
deteriorate. It was incredibly stable in that sense and multi-faceted, every time
you put your nose in the glass there were different aromas. It retained its
structure right through the lunch and held up brilliantly against the d’Auvenay
Mazis Chambertin 2002.
It is also even more special since these Pinot Noir vines have
since been replanted with Chardonnay vines and thus the wine has not been in
existence since then. Today this vineyard produces Domaine d’Auvenay’s Auxey
Duresses Les Clous Blanc. It was one of the original vineyards that belonged to
her father and therefore one of the most treasured by Lalou.
Asked about her favourite wine (surely a question on
everyone’s lips!) she replied without hesitation “1955 Chambertin”. Asked why,
she replied simply “because it is my favourite”. A fair enough response and
typical of Lalou’s unpretentious approach when tasting these remarkable wines.
She admits she really loves drinking aged white Burgundy and was keen to prove
why during the now legendary tasting in 2018 where she opened white wines
dating back to the 1940s and inviting the world’s leading wine critics to the
She wanted to show them how aged white Burgundy should
actually taste. She states that the whites from the 1940s were tasting 20 – 30
years younger than they were thanks to the quality of the wines and the perfect cellaring in the very humid cellars at
Leroy. The incredibly stable temperature in the cellar further helps create
wines of remarkable stability and ageing potential. Following the tasting,
Antonio Galloni commented “To say these are among the greatest wines I have
ever tasted seems superficial.”
Before leaving we discussed with Lalou the latest Maison
Leroy Collection 2020 release, which she is very proud of. She still, to this
day, hand selects the wines herself. Courtiers bring her wines to try from
every appellation and under no contracted obligation she simply picks the wines
she feels are the best and represent each appellation most truthfully. Given
how well the wines then go on to age at the Leroy cellars is proof of her
abilities and the strength of her palate. With 65 years experience of selecting
wines for the Collection, her encyclopaedic knowledge of Burgundy makes her a
true savant of the region.