A Tasting with Gilles Desprez of Leroy

A Tasting with Gilles Desprez of Leroy

Friday 14th July 2017
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

Long before Lalou-Bize Leroy started up her eponymous domaine in 1988, Maison Leroy had built itself a reputation as the finest negociant house in Burgundy. 

Originally founded by Francois Leroy in 1868, the house became famous for its collection of old vintages as much as being a key shareholder in and global distributor of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti until 1992 (except for the United States and the UK.) Francois' great grand-daughter, Lalou-Bize, joined the family firm in 1955 and then became Directeur General in 1971.  With the help of investment from a Japanese distributor, Lalou purchased vineyards and created Domaine Leroy.  Setting about a relentless search for quality and embarking on a pioneering bio-dynamic revolution, she soon became one of Burgundy's icons.  

We were thrilled, therefore, to welcome Leroy's Gilles Desprez to London recently, who guided us through some fine white burgundies from their current collection, as well as a rather spoiling pair of Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanee Beaux Monts. 

The line-up of Leroys presented by Gilles Desprez

The collection is released once a year and at first glance the selection looks haphazard, but this is far from the case. For there is one very strict criteria on which the list is based-a wine's readiness to drink. Hence due to the style of a particular wine in a particular year, young vintages can appear before older vintages or a wine can be relegated back to the cellars when closing down only to reappear years later. A case in point is the delicious Meursault 2001. First offered in the prime of its youth and now listed amongst young premiers crus on the current catalogue, this has found a noble maturity. With flavours of citrus, butter honey and hazelnuts, this boasts all you could hope for in bottled-aged white Burgundy and offers a quality that belies its "villages" level. This a typical acquisition of Lalou's, with her sharp and uncompromising palate she is free to select any wines that come up to the mark, irrespective of status or reputation, and without the constraint of grower contracts.  Once selected the wines usually undergo malo, ageing and bottling in the Leroy cellars.  Another highlight of our tasting was the youthful Puligny Folatieres 2013, citrus and stones offset very gently by a little puppy fat - a beautifully balanced white burgundy fitting of the Puligny appellation. 

The crescendo came in the form of two domaine wines a 2014 and 1996 Vosne Romainee Les Beaux Monts.  The younger vintage, initially reductive and without giving much away, showed a quality of texture and concentration common to all of the Domaine Leroy wines.  Silky, focused and intense.  The 1996 proved how time and patience are essential for the Leroy wines.  A vintage of famously high acidity and firm tannins, yet this had no hint of a hard edge.  Smooth, satin-like dark berry fruit, mineral cherry and smoke.  Still extremely youthful but giving great pleasure right now. 

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