The Queen of Burgundy

Today’s Story: Maison Leroy

Maison Leroy was founded in 1868 by François Leroy who was a winemaker and vineyard owner at Auxey-Duresses as well as Meursault, Pommard, Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vougeot, and Richebourg. Though François sold his wines through Comptoir des Proprietaires de la Cote-d’Or in Beaune, his desire of enlarging his business led to the foundation of Maison Leroy. When François’ son Joseph joined the business alongside his wife Louise Curteley, the two grew Auxey-Duresses by producing liquors and distilled alcohols alongside the wine and garnered significant critical acclaim during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Henri Leroy, son of Joseph and Louise, joined the Maison in 1919 and further extended the family business by creating a subsidiary to produce eaux-de-vie alcohol near Cognac. One of Henri’s great achievements in Burgundy, however, came through his friendship with Edmond Gaudin de Villaine whose wife and brother-in-law (Jacques Chambon) inherited Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in 1912. Though the domaine went up for sale during the financial crises of the 1920s, Henri convinced Edmond not to sell his ownership and later purchased Jacques’ half in 1942 to cement the de Villaine and Leroy families as equal owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). Henri worked tirelessly at DRC for the following four decades until his death in 1980, having turned the domaine into one of the most famous in the world and a producer of today’s most expensive wines.

Lalou Bize-Leroy, Henri’s daughter, joined Maison Leroy in 1955 and became President-General Director in 1971. Lalou, or Madame Leroy, worked tirelessly to understand the diverse terroir of Burgundy’s vineyards and selects her purchased wine with intense scrutiny and demand for quality. Madame Leroy also accompanied her father Henri at DRC until his death and became Co-Gerante with Aubert de Villaine from 1974 to 1992. While Maison Leroy’s village wines truly drink on par with some of the great 1er Cru equivalents throughout Burgundy and the 1er Crus drink like Grand Crus, Madame Leroy founded Domaine Leroy in 1988 after Takashimaya, an owner of luxury department stores in Japan, purchased 1/3 of the company and funded the purchase of vineyards. Madame Leroy purchased the estates of Charles Noellat at Vosne-Romanée and Philippe-Rémy at Gevrey-Chambertin to get the domaine running and she immediately transitioned to biodynamic farming for all of her vines. While Maison Leroy wines typically start around $70 per bottle and go into the several hundreds of dollars, Domaine Leroy produces wines in the thousands of dollars per bottle up into the tens of thousands of dollars due to their immeasurable quality and rarity.

Though the following is a description of the winemaking practices at Domaine Leroy and not necessarily Maison Leroy, I think it is important to include because of the demonstration it shares of Madame Leroy’s strict winemaking and quality standards. Starting in her vineyards, Madame Leroy follows a strict set of guidelines which includes spreading “Maria Thun”-type compost and manure throughout the vineyards as needed while hand-tilling the soil. At Domaine Leroy, they do not replant vineyards but rather replant individual vines as needed using buds of sister vines in the same vineyards. Leroy practices the Guyot pruning method from mid-January to early April only when the moon is passing the constellations Sagittarius, Aries, Leo, and, if necessary, also Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra keeping with strict biodynamic practices. They also remove a selection of buds to keep yields lower, remove buds from the trunk of the rootstock, and remove excess buds growing between nodes but do not clip the end of vines to keep the last bud in tact. At harvest, Domaine Leroy selects all fruit carefully by hand and carries them to the winery in small baskets before they are double hand-sorted on a stationary table to guarantee selection of the healthiest grapes. Fermentation is accomplished in large wooden barrels without destemming or crushing the fruit to avoid oxidation and preserve natural yeasts on the grape skins. Fermentation is not rushed and the fruit goes through extended periods of maceration before the wine is pressed and sent into the first level of the cellar until malolactic fermentation is complete. Using only gravity, the wine is then poured off the lees into the lower second level of the cellar where wine is stored until it is bottled.

For the source of the information above and more, check out Leroy’s website here.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Côte de Beaune-Villages

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2010 Côte de Beaune-Villages is moderately transparent pale ruby in color with rose variation. I used my Ah-So opener on this bottle, as with almost every Leroy bottle the long corks are soaked and can often display mold on the top due to over-filling. On the nose, this wine showcases aromas of dried cranberry, dried cherry, and dusty wild strawberry but is dominated by worn leather, sous bois, tobacco, mushroom, wet rock, and underbrush. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of crushed raspberry, dried strawberry, rose, gamey meat, forest floor, truffle, dried green herbs, smoke, white pepper, and stone minerality. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish filled with tilled soil and red cherry.

Price: $110 (though some stores sell this for $250). Every wine I’ve enjoyed from Maison Leroy is of incredible value and this bottling is no different. The strict selection process of Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy is palpable and every Burgundy lover should try something from Maison Leroy and, if one is supremely fortunate, from Domaine Leroy. Pair this with feathered game, salmon with roasted mushrooms, or mild goat cheeses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s