Visiting Domaine Leroy is a highlight on any fine wine calendar and this year seemed ever more fortunate, finding the 2017s as composed as they will ever be, finishing up their last week of élevage in barrel before bottling planned for next week. On top of that Gilles points out that the 2017s have been the most consistently expressive vintage that he can remember. From the picking of the grapes, throughout the extraction and fermentation of the vintage even in the racked lees left over after fermentation there was a beautiful aromatic perfume to the wines. Gilles believes the 2017s show the character of the vineyards as clearly as one could hope for. It also means the Domaine wines from this vintage are likely to be released earlier than some more austere vintages. The releasing of the domaine wines, when and what will appear on the market remains largely a mystery until the enigmatic Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy makes the final decision on what she believes is ready to be released. We are still waiting for ‘05s, 10s but there is a high chance the ‘17s will come out before both.
The other highlight and main purpose of our visit however was to sample the latest releases from the Maison range of Leroy wines. Maison Leroy is a central part of the Leroy portfolio providing a wealth of wines hand-selected by Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy herself. Her lifetime of experience as a winemaker producing wines from almost every appellation in the Cote d’Or makes her one of the most experienced vignerons and tasters in the region. Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy selects the Maison wines by blind tasting hundreds of wines each year and selecting her top wines presented. She does this with no ties or obligations to buy from growers allowing her to select wines purely on quality. Following the initial selection process the wines are then aged at the Domaine and selected for release when she believes the wines are ready. Each February fans of the estate await anxiously to hear what wines are destined to be released that year.
There are some wonderful wines from the 2019 release of Maison wines. The highlights being a beautiful 2009 Fixin pinot noir, a village too often overlooked in the Cote de Nuits with beautifully elegant and concentrated red berried fruit, a Cotes De Nuits 2014 with all the hallmarks of 2014; bursting with freshness and vibrancy, very pretty and delicate but with a lovely purity in the fruit profile, a twenty year Savigny Les Beaunes (1999) exhibiting the profile of a fully matured red burgundy and a beguiling Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot from the much celebrated 2014 vintage for white wine.
Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot 2014, Maison Leroy
This hit all the right buttons and is an exceptional Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru. Deceptively elegant on entry the wine unfurls on the palate with a multi layered depth and vibrant backbone of acidity energising the fragrant perfumed yellow apple fruit and hazelnut praline flavours. It is a beautifully textured wine with a long length and overall finesse that gives an almost ethereal delicacy. It really fans out on the back palate with persistent florality and sweet spice. This really shows off the exceptional quality of the 2014 vintage.
Fixin 2009, Maison Leroy
Fixin is a Burgundy village often overlooked but this 2009 offers fantastic Cote de Nuits character, full of ripe concentrated smoky red and black cherry and blackberry fruit akin to its neighbouring Gevrey Chambertin appellation. The wine is full of life and seemingly entering into a wonderful period of drinkability at 10 years old. The wine has a lovely depth with a lovely purity to the fruit with some structural tannins that are very well integrated and a long length. Another top vintage release from the 2019 selection.
Savigny Les Beaune 1999, Maison Leroy
This Savigny is a fully mature Burgundy dominated by tertiary flavours of herbs, spice with a bounty of savoury, earthy undertones, mushroom and leather. There is some structural tannins too and certainly a more austere classic style of Burgundy, a wine for the traditionalists.
Don’t miss this fantastic eclectic mix of Maison wines, due out for release next week. Purchases on the Maison wines opens the door for allocations on the Domaine wines so don’t miss this opportunity.
There are two things that are critical at Domaine Leroy; the pruning and the sorting. They are obsessed with low yields, small berries and retaining the health of their old vines. Their vineyards are managed by some of the best pruners in the business with the year round help of Marco Simonit and his team. Out in the vineyard we saw for ourselves the yield size in a Leroy managed -vineyard compared to a next door neighbour. Cropping means up to 4 – 5 times less fruit is produced than neighbouring vines. Not only is the overall yield minuscule but even the berry size is encouraged to be small.
No grape is more susceptible to over cropping and the minuscule yields produced in a Leroy vineyard show the extremes that can be set on Pinot Noir. High concentration of small berries on a naturally low tannin varietal enables highly concentrated fruit without any loss of finesse, perfume and silkiness. This becomes evident on tasting the domaine wines you can sense the small berry high concentrated flavours in the wine. It was a profile evident throughout the entire range, each wine bursting with concentration and a persistence of flavour yet never lacking in finesse. The difference between the cuvees are defined not by quality of fruit but by the distinct fruit profile of each village, the structural development on the palate and tannin profile from one vineyard to the next.
The second vital element to winemaking at Leroy is the sorting. The domaine manages two sorting tables with a staggering 40 people hand sorting every batch! At Leroy the entire production is made from 100% whole bunch grapes but the thick top of every cluster is hand cut and removed and any bunch size made uniform, with large bunches cut in half to create an even settling in the tank. The sorting is held in such high importance that the process is never rushed. If needs be, they hold back grapes in cool storage overnight during the busiest period of harvesting to allow adequate sorting of every batch that comes into the winery. With such attention to detail it’s not surprising to find such purity in the wines. Famously Madam Lalou Bize-Leroy doesn’t identify herself as a winemaker, the wine makes itself. The challenge is providing the highest quality grapes to the winery and this is where all the effort goes at the Domaine.
The Domaine Wines
Vosne Romanee 1er Cru – Aux Genaivres 2017
The wines from the Vosne appellations have a wonderful redcurrant, vinous fruit profile with a bewitching perfume. There is a elegant structural build on the palate that you barely notice. A lovely smokiness and spice are a lovely counterpoint to the beautifully scented redcurrant bush flavours. There is a lovely glycerol juciness to the palate whilst remaining very fresh.
Pommard 1er cru “Les Vignots” 2017
Caramel, sweet vanilla and lovely herb scented blackberry fruit. More structural cross hatch tannin profile than the Vosne that builds on the palate. Underlying this is a great sense of energy. Distinct sappy perfumed herbal spice dictates the flavour profile but the tannins are beautifully fine for Pommard and typical of the 2017s.
Nuits Saints George 1er Cru Aux Vignerondes 2017
This Nuits Saints George has a lovely energy. Bursting with blueberry fruit and a fragrant lifted perfumed scent with herbal, firey spicy undertones. The aromas persist on the finish giving the wine great length and intensity.
Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Aux Boudots 2017
This site has a fabulous location (situated next door to Vosnes’ top premier cru site of Malconsorts). There is more fruit concentration and flavour intensity with some sweet red berry, redcurrant and blueberry fruit flavours allied with some nice smokiness and hint of caramel. There is a great backbone of energy that surges on the palate with a nice mineral limestone crunch on the finish. The structural complexity remains firmly embedded with fine tannins and fleshy black and blueberry fruit. Long length.
Savigny Les Beaunes 1er Cru Narbantons 2017
The Savigny is the juiciest fruitiest wines in the collection with vibrant red cherry and strawberry fruit profile. Silky soft tannins, some creamy roundness to the palate but lovely acid backbone providing structure and intensity. The persistence of the fruit flavour really is impressive it forces you to visualize the effect of tiny yielding small berry fruit on these sites.
Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Aux Brulees
This was a real wow wine, with much darker redcurrant fruit with a beguiling musk scented perfume. Incredibly broad multi-layered texture, incredible structure. The clarity of fruit is wonderful – noble raspberry, redcurrant, incredibly pure in character. An effortless build on the palate, impossible not to drink!
Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Beaux Monts
In contrast to “Brulees” there is an abundance of freshness in the Beaux Monts – super vibrant it almost feels like there is less concentration but that could be a more pronounced sense of acidity, which is very vibrant. Again the palate is dominated by a beautiful clarity of raspberry and redcurrant fruit with a soaring floral perfumed scent that sits above the palate. Incredibly elegant throughout, a long finish with a lovely lift on the finish which kind of comes out of nowhere. Wow!
Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
Deeper, darker fruit profile in the Clos Vougeot and the more chunkier tannins on the front palate frame the wine. Lots of spiciness to the fruit but still very scented, some power and a long length. This feels perhaps the most closed wine in the line up today but it has loads of potential.
Corton Renardes Grand Cru
Incredibly fragrant with a beguiling perfume full of red berry fruits with a lovely brightness and lift. A very multi-layered texture that is very elegant but becomes more chunky in the back palate as you would expect from Corton. But overall this is incredibly elegant for the appellation.
Romanee Saint Vivant Grand Cru
Stunning wine, incredibly open, with a faultless, almost endless build on the palate soaring to the back of the head. The wine has a wonderful noble scent, vinous redcurrant, raspberry, very small berry-type concentration. Amazing purity of fruit, an exquisite structural build on the palate. Incredible length.
Richebourg Grand Cru 2017
Wow! More succulent than the RSV but tannins are finer and shares the similar faultless structural build. Beautiful redcurrant, raspberry, small concentrated berry fruit. The tannins are so fine despite the structural build…the depth and structural layering on the palate is brilliant. There is an additional earthy savoury edge to the scented berry perfume adding further complexity. Its awesome!
Musigny Grand Cru 2017
A completely different flavour and structural profile to the previous Grand Crus. The fruit is incredibly concentrated, more viscous in texture and with a blackberry jam and blueberry fruit profile. The tannins are incredibly silky, soft, barely noticeable. It is quite amazing that the wine has multi-layered texture yet the tannins seems completely melted into the fruit and there is so much concentration – black cherry, blackberry redcurrant. Another extraordinary wine.
Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru 2017
The Latricieres is again very different in structure and fruit profile and the tannins becomes much more structural with the final Chambertin Grand Crus. The Latricieres has a lovely spicy aroma, some vinous sappiness and a wealth of plush red cherry fruit. Its incredibly beguiling with a great balance of fleshy fruit and an endless structural build. The acidity adds energy and breadth to the palate with a real peacock tail to the finish. Incredibly long length. Exceptional.
Chambertin Grand Cru 2017
Great concentration – you cant not picture that small berry fruit providing layers and layers of concentrated fruit and an incredible density on the palate whilst retaining all the elegance synonymous with pinot noir at its best. This is the most austere wine in the line up as you would expect, more intensity, density and concentration and tannins chunkier and structured and more macerated. This is very very powerful wine with an incredible long life ahead.
Whilst you will have to wait a long time for the release of these 2017 domaine wines, don’t miss the opportunity to secure the latest release of Maison wines coming out next week. The release of domains wines (vintages still to be announced) will follow in the next few weeks.