Last week FINE+RARE embarked on its annual visit to Auxey-Duresses to try this year’s releases from Domaine Leroy and the Maison Leroy Collection…
Leroy's wines are always astounding and these new releases are no exception. They will be fiercely fought over in the marketplace during the coming weeks…
Leroy: 2017 Release
The extraordinary demand for the latest releases from Maison Leroy Collection and Domaine Leroy is driven by their rarity, their almost unparalleled quality and the universal critical acclaim:
“Leroy wines are among the most profound, rare and highly-coveted bottles in the world.” – Antonio Galloni
“Domaine Leroy is one of the legendary producers in Burgundy – a Domaine formed and managed by the equally legendary Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy.” – Steen Öhman, Winehog
“Today, this is the greatest estate in Burgundy, producing uncompromising wines of irrefutable longevity and intensity… with a portfolio of red and white Burgundies that qualitatively have no peers.” – Robert Parker
"This is the greatest estate in Burgundy... The sheer concentration, depth and intensity Lalou Bize-Leroy manages to squeeze into her bottles is breathtaking." - Clive Coates MW
“Burgundy’s most celebrated vigneronne.” – Jancis Robinson
“Mesmerizing wines.” – Neal Martin
Critic reviews like these heighten demand. But rather than trying to sell everything at once, Leroy hold the wines back, releasing them only when they deem them to be ready. Which brings us to the this year's release, starting with the 150 year old negociant side of the business, called Maison Leroy Collection...
Leroy has no contract with grape growers. Instead three courtiers present a selection of unlabelled wines to Lalou Bize-Leroy. Using her expert palate and unrivalled understanding of terroir, she selects the year’s output for the Maison Leroy Collection from what she has tasted...
This year’s releases include the Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge – both showing exceptionally once again – from the incredible 2015 vintage, a clutch of 2013s and many more including a 20 year old rarity from 1997 and a wonderfully vibrant 30 year old from 1987. But in truth, we do not recommend getting too hung up on vintages with Leroy; as Allen Meadows puts it Leroy produces “remarkably good wines that without question transcend the general quality of the vintage.”
Having said that, the two releases from Domaine Leroy – the very pinnacle of Burgundian wine produced from their own vines – both come from 2014, a vintage that is “highly recommended” by Winehog and is rated as “outstanding” to “extraordinary” by Wine Advocate. Although still very young, both wines are also highly scored by Allen Meadows and are sure to be snapped up by collectors…
We were taken through this year's outturn by Gilles Desprez, who returned to Leroy from managing their operations in the US around a year ago. Read our tasting notes below and click on the wine names to buy online...
Maison Leroy Collection Reds
2015 Bourgogne Rouge
Fresh, bright red fruits with a creamy ripeness. Lovely fresh rounded palate with ripe lines of apple crisp acidity, sour cherry, raspberry, rounded tannins and pretty floral notes. Gilles Desprez told us that: “This is where Lalou Bize-Leroy spends her most energy; the Bourgognes are the real flagship wines of the house.”
2013 Santenay Premier Cru La Comme
From vines at the very top of the hill, this offers bright ripe red and dark fruit: cherry, plum, wild strawberry and redcurrant. Excellent length and concentration with a sweet core and notes of violets.
Dark red fruit: red plum, cherry, strawberry, red apple. Almost Volnay-esque in its minerality. Showing signs of development, starting to flex the linear profile. Earthy Nuits-Saint-Georges notes on the finish with ripe, fine-grained, gentle tannins. A long finish and excellent weight on the back palate.
2013 Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Lavrottes
According to Gilles Desprez, this plot is “touching Bonnes Mares” and he went on to say that out of the selection we tasted “this is the wine for me”. Dark crimson with a pretty bouquet. Violets, herbal notes, faint graphite, plush plum and cherry. Rounded with good concentration and markedly creamy on the back palate, accented by dark chocolate flakes and floral notes. A long and layered finish supported by wonderful acidity and tannins.
As Gilles Desprez put it, this offers: “something a little more bulky”. Big, powerful nose; verging on savoury with a slight farmyard note. Dark fruit profile, with a plush, rounded palate that is seasoned with salt and pepper. Muscularly structured, but kept in check by the classic Leroy acidity and a finish that lingers, and lingers, and lingers.
2011 Beaune Premier Cru Les Teurons
Gilles Desprez notes that this wine is opening up nicely and has a bright future ahead of it. Hailing from the heart of Beaune, there is sweet, red fruit on the nose. Wild strawberry, raspberry and gently oxidised – almost distant farmyard – notes on the nose, lead to a core of sweet red fruit. Good structure and freshness. Ready to drink.
2003 Côtes de Beaune Village
2003 was one of the warmest growing seasons Leroy have experienced, causing them to harvest early around 20 August. This is deep and rich in colour with a forward and fruity aromas. Ripe plum and dark cherry entwined with potpourri, floral and herbal (basil/thyme/mint) notes on the nose. Excellent concentration, fine-grained tannins and elegant, fresh acidity. The heat of the vintage has been kept perfectly under control and the complexity is a delight.
A rarely seen AOC from the very south of the Côte de Beaune beyond Santenay; so truly exciting for the collector. Its nose hints at is age, with an almost mature Châteauneuf-du-Pape quality. But it is still packed with fresh, vibrant red fruit, flecked with dried meat, dried fruit and umami notes. Remarkable freshness – a defining note of Leroy – on the finish for a 20-year-old wine.
1987 Beaune Premier Cru Grèves
Incredibly fresh on the nose. Liquorice, with a slightly balsamic or Quink ink quality, ripe black plum and cherry, lined with spice and sandalwood. Returns to that core of sweet, ripe fruit and vibrant acidity. Incredible energy for a 30-year-old wine and the tannins hint at huge potential longevity of this wine.
Maison Leroy Collection Whites
2015 Bourgogne Blanc
Showing wonderfully, although quite a different beast from the 2014 Bourgogne Blanc. The nose of the 2015 takes you along a path of citrus fruit, pear drops, stone fruit and tropical notes that is almost reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc. Rich, rounded, creamy and incredibly approachable. For all its richness, the citrus, lemon peel, white peach and melon provide a crisp, freshness on the palate. An excellent summer wine; for those who bought the 2014, we would almost suggest holding it and drinking this in the meantime.
2013 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot
Lovely lime, lemon, green apple, pineapple and white peach on the nose, spliced with elegant almond, hazelnut and buttery notes. The powerful and weighty palate has lines of acidity and minerality cutting through it and just a hint of tarragon. A long finish; this is still quite tight but is starting to emerge from its chrysalis, and will be wonderful when it takes flight.
Rich golden colour. Intense nose of baked apple, marzipan, lemon rind, lemon curd, vanilla, ripe tropical fruit, mango and apricot, all of which are also present on the palate. Creamy, pastry, hazelnut and almond notes also coming across. Powerful, intense and rich, but with a salinity and acidity that cleanly cut through the back palate. Gorgeous.
2009 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Folatières
Gilles Desprez – a man who has considerable experience in the US – suggested that this is classic Leroy, but with a “Californian touch”. Intense bouquet of gun smoke, flint, ripe lemon, toasted almonds and pinenut. A wine that seems to flair out with a beautifully rounded and rich core, packed with fleshy white peach, lemon, mango, pineapple and butterscotch. This full-bodied wine gives way to a long finish that lingers with marzipan, blossom and minerality. Near perfect balance and great tension. Superb.
Domaine Leroy Reds
The following Domaine Leroy wines were also tasted, and we expect these to be released next month. With high scores from Allen Meadows and extremely limited availability, these will be rapidly snapped up. If you would like to secure one of these, please contact your Account Manager as soon as possible.
2014 Pommard Les Vignots
Slightly reductive nose. Intense, but tightly wound with black fruit, hedgerow, farmyard and floral notes. Mocha spice, rich fruitcake and blackberry on the palate. Still very young, but veritably bursting with potential.
90 points - Allen Meadows: “A bright, fresh and cool nose is composed by notes of liqueur-like dark berries, violet, lavender and plenty of earth character. There is both good volume and punch to the appealingly textured medium-bodied flavors that exude a fine bead of minerality on the saline, powerful, balanced and beautifully long finale. This is a terrific Pommard villages and should thoroughly repay mid-term cellaring.”
2014 Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Beaux Monts
According to Gilles Desprez “this is one of the Premier Crus we love the most”, and that respect certainly comes through in this bottle. Cranberry and dark plum fruit aromas lead on to a ripe core of cranberry, raspberry and cherry fading slowly into coffee and dark chocolate notes on the finish. Wonderfully balanced with lots of tightly wound energy, crisp lines of acidity and ripe tannins. Pretty but with intense power lurking on the palate.
95 points – Allen Meadows: “This too is gorgeously spicy and a bit more aromatically elegant as well if not necessarily more complex , indeed about the only apparent difference at present is that there is slightly more floral influence to the airy and cool aromas. On the palate there is lovely verve to the noticeably more mineral-driven flavors that possess a highly sophisticated mouth feel thanks to the dense but super fine-grained tannins that support the mildly austere and utterly seamless finish; indeed this could aptly be described as Zen-like. In a word, gorgeous.”
Leroy’s Latent Energy
What strikes you when visiting Leroy is this producer’s powerful latent energy. Sleeping giant? Smouldering volcano? Innocuous tip of a vast iceberg? Tightly coiled spring? It isn’t quite any of those things, as they all suggest violence and a lack of control. Leroy has much more delicacy and precision. It is more like an atom; almost unnoticeable – except to those very much in the know – but beneath the surface it is elegantly designed and positively brimming with activity, importance, complexity and an almost unlimited potential…
Leroy perches on the very peak of fine wine exclusivity. But that is not apparent as you approach it through the winding, narrow streets of Auxey-Duresses. There is none of the ostentatious frippery and grandeur of Bordeaux, with its ornate châteaux, obvious wealth and gargantuan estates. Leroy appears humble, unassuming and is barely even signposted until you are almost upon it. Visiting in late-winter beneath a bruised sky, as we did, Leroy has an eerie, deserted quality to it, disturbed only by the babbling Ruisseau des Cloux that runs alongside it and the duelling leafless branches that surround its imposing iron fences and scale its sandy-coloured walls. But as you make your way up the steep staircase to the front door you realise that appearances are deceptive, for there is ferocious activity within, almost like approaching a beehive.
Leroy shares this deceptive quality with its owner Lalou Bize-Leroy. Described by Jancis Robinson as “the queen of Burgundy”, Madame Bize-Leroy will turn 85 during the coming weeks. But don’t let that deceive you; she has to be one of a very elite group of octogenarians who still regularly go rock climbing. And when she isn’t halfway up a mountain, she is running one of her three Leroy operations (Domaine Leroy, Maison Leroy Collection and Domaine d'Auvenay), co-owning Domaine de la Romanée Conti and staking her considerable reputation solely on her own excellent palate.
The wines also follow this illusory model. Simply labelled and remarkably restrained, these are not the blockbusters you might expect. As Allen Meadows puts it: “It’s not so much that the wines are powerhouses of exceptional concentration, so much as they are just so harmonious and seamless that you can’t help but admire their grace and inner beauty.” These wines are perfectly balanced and practically hum with energy like power cables. The oldest wine we tried on this visit was 30 years old and tasted like it was still in its infancy, such is the potential longevity of Leroy’s wines.
Even the vines seem to have pent up energy. In recent years Leroy has employed the expertise of Simonit & Sirch: the Italian "pruning guys" whose roster reads like a who's who of fine wine (d’Yquem, Ausone, Roederer, Moët & Chandon, Ornellaia, Allegrini and Poggio di Sotto to name just a few). Together with Leroy and their team, they prune very careful just once a year - on either a fruit or flower day as everything is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar - this maintains the path for sap to flow to the new growth and allows the vine to heal. As a result Leroy's vines are easily distinguishable from their neighbours with the exaggerated T-shape and relatively rampant growth.
But do not be fooled into thinking that this is a producer resting on its laurels. Charles Taylor MW says Lalou Bize-Leroy "has pushed the boundaries of viticulture more than any person over the last 20 years." Gilles Desprez concurs, confirming that Bize-Leroy "is writing a book on all the experiments that she is doing", which is sure to become a bestseller as others in the wine industry try to emulate what this remarkable winemaker has achieved.
As if to whet our appetite for things to come, just as we were about to leave Desprez brought up last year's vintage. Although candid about the devastation in some areas, he stated that the damage was not uniform. He highlighted big losses (up to 95%) in Bâtard-Montrachet, but reported that vines were relatively unscathed in neighbouring areas of Chassagne-Montrachet. And for those grapes that remained unharmed, he said "2016 is going to be a great vintage." So watch this space...
View all of the Leroy 2017 Releases here.
To browse all availability of Domaine Leroy and Maison Leroy Collection wines click here.
To browse all availability of Domaine d'Auvenay wines click here.