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Maison Leroy: a humble home

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Ahead of the 2022 releases from Maison Leroy, our Fine Wine Buying + Partner Director Corentin Margier visited the producer’s headquarters – an unassuming address that belies the greatness of the wines that emerge from its cellars 

Auxey-Duresses is, at best, sleepy. As I rolled into the village on Monday morning, the streets were empty in the grey of a rainy winter’s day – just one retiree trundling slowly toward the boulangerie. But here, in this quiet corner of Burgundy, lies the home of Maison Leroy

A visit to the négociant arm of the Leroy empire is a chance to look behind the curtain at one of Burgundy’s greatest properties, and the allure of such an audience doesn’t fade – even now, on my 12th visit. The wines are remarkable – and rapidly vanish into the cellars of eager collectors as soon as they’re released. 

Despite the prestige of this address and its wines, however, it’s a humble, rural Burgundy charm that reigns supreme. Soon after I arrive, the phone rings – it’s Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy herself calling from the south of France to say hello, apologising that she can’t be there herself and hoping that the wines are showing well. There’s no pretence or politics, just modest and unassuming politesse. 

And that style is characterised by the building itself. The Maison feels like a home – one that hasn’t changed for 30 years, with stacks of books squirrelled into every corner and the walls lined with articles, photos, reviews and other mementos. One could spend hours exploring this living archive. In amongst every issue of Bettane & Desseauve’s guide and issues of the Wine Spectator stretching back to the 1990s, there’s a picture of Bize-Leroy with Nixon, while nearby there’s a hand-written note from one Bob Parker. 

Each year the Maison releases its annual collection – not just the latest vintage but a curated selection from the house’s extensive reserves, all hand-selected by Lalou Bize-Leroy herself. In September, she and her team start preparing the list, tasting endlessly to decide which wines should be set free into the world the following year. And there is an extensive back-catalogue to choose from – Bize-Leroy has been buying the very best parcels she can find for half a century. Over four months, the team decides what to release – wines that are drinking well or showing something that catches Bize-Leroy’s eye (or, more accurately, her palate). 

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Tasting through the 2022 releases chez Leroy

While each collection used to be extensive, the releases have become increasingly focused. This year sees 10-15 reds and whites – and is particularly appealing to the wine geek. The collection is dominated mainly by 2017 reds and 2018 whites, however each one is paired with a more mature vintage of the same wine (or as close to as possible), stretching back to 1970. Inevitably, the older vintages are available in tiny volumes – but they’re testament to how age-worthy these “mere” négociant bottlings are. 

Tasting through the range, the 2017 reds were a particular highlight. Even at 10am it was a challenge to resist swallowing – they are irresistible with their pure, crunchy fruit, so fresh and delicate with great persistence and complexity. The 2018 whites, meanwhile, from a warmer year are only just entering their drinking window and will gain with more time in the cellar. 

Last year we couldn’t make it out with Covid restrictions, so it was all the more special to be back at Leroy this week. Emerging once more on Auxey-Duresses’s unassuming streets, I left even more in awe of this amazingly humble address. 

Tasting notes: the Maison Leroy 2022 collection

White

2018 Bourgogne Blanc: A pale lime-tinged colour, Maison Leroy’s 2018 Bourgogne Blanc is a bit shy at first, but with air opens up to reveal a fresh, floral nose. On the palate, the wine broadens, with layers building in the mouth to bring richness and stone-fruit notes. There’s a slight puppy fat to the texture at present, but this is lifted by vibrant acidity, making for a moreish wine overall. This is very different to last year’s sharper-angled 2017; the 2018 is a much more gourmand wine that will go beautifully with food. Drinking well now, it will age eight to 10 years without breaking a sweat.

2018 Saint-Aubin: Golden and concentrated in colour versus the Bourgogne Blanc, the 2018 Saint-Aubin has a profound, expressive nose – with limey tension. The palate is driven by a mouth-watering salinity, complemented by layers of vibrant citrus – blood orange, lemon and grapefruit – on show. Harmonious and balanced, the finish is long. Might need more time to reveal its full potential, but there’s no doubt that the potential is there.

2018 Meursault : Maison Leroy’s 2018 Meursault is attractive and concentrated with ripe, juicy white peach pulled fresh from a tree in the summer. But it’s far from simple fruit here – with honeycomb and grapefruit adding to the overall profundity. On the palate, there’s incredible tension between the ripeness of the 2018 vintage and a mineral acid backbone. Very vibrant and approachable, this offers depths that defy its status as a village wine. As with the Saint-Aubin, it will offer more with time in bottle.

2018 Meursault, Premier Cru, Les Genevrières: A step up from the village Meursault, the Premier Cru Genevrières offers even more concentration. The deep, complex nose is full of yellow stone-fruit, white blossom and hints of hazelnut. On the palate, it’s mouthcoating, but the concentration is not overblown – there’s precision and focus, with a saline mid-palate and mouth-watering acidity to complement the wine’s generosity. The finish is impressive, combining sharp-angled freshness and the wine’s sumptuous volume. This is built to age but is approachable now.

2014 Chassagne-Montrachet, Premier Cru, Les Chenevottes: The 2014 Chenevottes is expressive on the nose – it’s a wine with a lot to say. There’s a hint of reduction, but beyond that layer upon layer of aromas is revealed, showing different facets. Floral, lime and orange notes evolve on the palate, developing into deeper stone-fruit, ginger and honeysuckle. There’s a wash of salinity on the long finish that lifts the wine. Totally approachable now, this will age effortlessly for 10-15 years.

Red

2018 Bourgogne Rouge : The 2018 Bourgogne Rouge from Maison Leroy is beautiful – punching well above the weight of its modest appellation. The nose is poised, perfumed and delicate – with expressive dried rose petals dancing against a backdrop of pure raspberry, wild strawberry and cherry fruit. There’s great density on the mid-palate, the alcohol and tannins seamlessly integrated with vibrant acidity from this warm vintage. It’s our favourite release of the cuvée for several years.

2017 Côte de Beaune Villages: Maison Leroy’s Côte de Beaune Villages is a blend of village fruit; while the exact blend is never disclosed, it can span the whole Côte, from Maranges to Beaune. The nose of the 2017 is exuberant, with sweeter and darker fruit than the Bourgogne Rouge, while a hint of smokiness gives a savoury edge. It’s both fresh and dense on the palate – there’s underlying power, yet the fine tannins make it feel light on its feet. The finish is long, laden with crunchy fruit. Very approachable now.

1997 Côte de Beaune Villages: The 1997 is remarkably dense in colour, with mature aromas of cured meat and very concentrated dark fruit. From a riper vintage versus the 2017, the richness of the fruit is evident here, however there’s still good balance on the palate with plenty of acidity and resolved tannins. It’s at a beautiful point of maturity, unlikely to gain from further ageing, but there’s no rush – with sufficient density to hold for five to 10 years.

2018 Savigny-lès-Beaune: This Savigny-lès-Beaune is deliciously enticing – a nose of archetypal, crunchy sour cherry. While it’s red fruit that draws you in on the nose, the palate shows a more serious side, with complexity building in layers. Freshness and finesse runs through the palate, with a vibrant acid backbone and lifted finish. Verry attractive and approachable, this is a superb, moreish wine that will keep you reaching for more.

2018 Beaune, Premier Cru, Les Montrevenots: This vineyard borders Pommard, sitting just above Beaune Clos des Mouches on a gentle southwest-facing slope. This Premier Cru site instantly shows more depth than the village wines, with an expressive, multi-layered nose with shifting cherry, blackberry, plum and wild strawberry aromas and an alluring hint of smoke. On the palate, the vibrant red fruit and freshness of this site and youthful Pinot Noir mingles with the ripe and serious dark-fruited side of the 2018 vintage. Beautifully balanced, this can be drunk now but will evolve nicely for 10 years or more.

2017 Nuits-Saint-Georges: The shift to the Côte de Nuits is instantly noticeable here. The wine has a deep colour and more austere, serious nose – with dark-fruited power accented by lighter white pepper spice and florals. On the palate, layers of bramble fruit build to create a concentrated and structured wine. There’s a firmer tannic backbone as is typical of Nuits-Saint-Georges, without being overly grippy. With underlying power, this is an aristocrat. The depth and balance here offers great potential, hold onto this for 15 to 20 years at least.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny: This is still beautifully aromatic on the nose, with a delicate, lace-like array of fruit and florals. This is pretty and refined, yet with underlying powerful. There’s a lot happening on the palate, with a certain juiciness balanced by tannins that are already beautifully silken. Despite the supple tannic structure, this feels like a baby – and will only deliver more with time in bottle. The length is stunning, lasting for minutes. Punching well above village level, this was a new favourite in the line-up – and one of the most promising in the range.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin: This was the most concentrated wine in the line-up – both in terms of colour and aroma. Combining depth, complexity and power, this is impressive, with a multidimensional nose that keeps evolving in the glass, showing different facets from sweet cherry to gentle sweet spice and floral notes. The palate is turbo-charged – mouth-filling and generous, yet all the while retains superb balance. The tannins are chewy and plentiful, yet all wrapped in silk, bringing an overall impression of finesse. There’s incredible length, with a fresh, juicy finish. As with the Chambolle, this will only improve in bottle. It’s interesting to taste it side by side with the Chambolle-Musigny, each anchored in their terroir, but sharing finesse, poise and elegance.

The 2022 collection will be available soon; register interest to be the first to hear when the wines are available

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