Led by our engaging and gregarious host, Roberto Gallotto (below), Ginsberg+Chan present a selection of wines from the famous Maison Leroy of Burgundy. Since 1868, when Francois Leroy founded the house in the village of Auxey-Duresses near Mersault, the name has been synonymous with authority, innovation and quality. The family still own a major stake in Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
In its present day guise, Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy is at the heart of an empire which has control over three domaines: Maison Leroy, Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay. The former sits at the centre of the business and acts as a negociant house through which Madame Lalou purchases and distributes wines from most appellations in Burgundy. Her reputation has been built on an innate skill in unearthing some of the best wines of the vintage, then completing the vinification and maturation process, before releasing them under the Maison Leroy label.
Our tasting takes the form of three tranches, “Blanc”, “1er Rouge” and “2eme Rouge”.
2014 Bourgogne Blanc
A crystalline gold colour; very bright, showing its youth. A little restrained on the nose: citrus leads, a hint of richness but you can tell this has only been in barrel for a short period of time. Also a slightly idiosyncratic note of aniseed evident. To taste, very refreshing with high acidity and good lemon peel and mineral character. Fairly austere, like a young Chablis. Nothing out of place; an enjoyable, straightforward wine.
2010 Bourgogne Blanc
Interesting comparison with the above. Deeper in colour to start. Nose is not instantly attractive; seems somewhat rustic, showing a forest-floor (and slight fungal) dampness akin to a 20-30 year vintage Champagne. Very little traceable fruit. Palate similarly challenging: acidity has ebbed away while still maintaining that high alcohol, meaning it was unbalanced. Finish, surprisingly long, was of rich vanilla. The room concurred that the 2014 was definitely more approachable and appealing.
1990 Mersault Les Charmes 1er Cru
We move on to a completely different proposition, from generic Bourgogne appelation wine, to a specific vineyard in Mersault. A medium-gold colour, very deep as the below picture shows (left of the three). Straight out of the glass it is very expressive, and a great example of mature Cote d’Or white wine: smokiness, vanilla, a slight vegetal note and a real nuttiness (hazelnut and, as a fellow guest commented, marzipan-like almond).
Surprisingly fresh mouthfeel, some citrus and stone fruit there with a high acid thread; front palate led so its finish – mostly of vanilla and toast – was fairly short and narrow. Overall, starting to fall away but still a very good wine, it could see anything up to 3-5 more years of peak drinking.
2003 Bourgogne Rouge
From the year of Europe’s famously hot Summer, where most winemakers faced an extremely tough vintage. It showed in this wine unfortunately. Nose not presenting a lot – some sweet spice like cinnamon, and a mushroom-like fungal character, confirming its age. Structurally fine on the palate, with tannins especially very appealing, but almost all the fruit had gone save for some very ripe plum. Alcohol very prominent too, so balance definitely an issue.
The middle of the three pictured below was excellent, immediately showing class and quality. It had a beautifully floral nose, with soft cherry and sweet spice, star anise particularly, also featuring. So balanced and layered, making you return to the glass. A strong violet note really hits you upon first taste, but it is the power and concentration that is most striking. With real finesse, there was a lovely black cherry and soft spice finish but, in keeping with starting-to-mature Pinot, a savoury/meaty note was also developing, adding complexity. Super wine.
2006 Morey St. Denis Aux Cheseaux 1er Cru
The winemaker’s influence jumps straight out the glass on this one…in the form of caramel and toffee. That initial burst of oak-led effect was very prominent, but as soon the wine got a handful of swirls, exotic spice (cardamon, cumin) took the wheel. Minimal fruit but really interesting albeit slightly unusual. Medium bodied and decent acidity, this Premier Cru wine was not in the same bracket as the generic Santenay, but highly enjoyable and thought-provoking nonetheless.
1982 Aloxe Corton
Upon first glance of this 34-year-old wine (below, left), things were not looking hopeful: cloudy and dull, without even taking a sniff you could tell it was either going to be over the hill or faulty. Fortunately, it was not the latter…but the former, probably yes for most people. Fully mature and under the heavy influence of oxidisation, what was clear that it was not to everyone’s taste around the table. It did however produce some excellent discussion.
In the place of traditional Pinot Noir traits, the oxidised character had produced something you could describe as a combination of a Fino Sherry and a Madeira (that is, two fortified wines, both produced under the heavy influence of oxidative effects). A bitter almond note led the nose (i.e. the Fino) and to taste, the finish was of pure coffee, raisins and mocha (Madeira). Aged red Burgundy shouldn’t necessarily taste like this, but in spite of the ugly first impression, and its lack of instant likability, the more people tasted this wine the more they engaged with it.
1985 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru
Quite the difference to the above. Straightaway: so much fresher and more vibrant than the Aloxe, visibly in better shape. Built how you would expect mature Pinot red Burgundy to be. Some faint floral hints, but the the nose was dominated by savoury features like dried bacon, dried fruit, and what everyone enjoyed describing as a “farmyard” character, that hard-to-put-your-finger-on savoury aroma. I also picked up, oddly, a demonstrable egg white smell. This was really easy to drink, medium bodied, refreshing acidity and most of all, very well rounded with genuine elegance to it. Satisfying and enjoyable, stylistically almost an everyday drinking wine, and a great way to finish what was a terrific tasting from this famous house.
Guest blogger David Rogers is a Hong Kong-based wine writer. As well as working in collaboration with merchants and distributors in the city, he hosts his own blog, The 23rd Parallel, and writes for US-based online wine magazines Palate Press and Grape Collective. You can follow him on Facebook here, or go straight to his blog here. He holds a WSET Advanced Level certificate.
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