For close to two centuries, the Leroy name has been associated with wines of excellent quality. But it wasn’t until Lalou Bize-Leroy, great-granddaughter of the founder of Maison Leroy, established the Domaine Leroy that the estate’s own vineyards started producing some of the most competitive labels of the region. Today Domaine Leroy is well-known throughout the world for producing a shockingly low yield of very high-quality wines. The vineyard is planted with ancient vines and managed with 100% biodynamic agriculture.
Maison Leroy and the Acquisition of its Own Estate
Maison Leroy was founded in 1868 by François Leroy, winemaker and owner of vines at Auxey-Duresse, Meursault, Pommard, Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vougeot and Richebourg. The founder’s son, Joseph Leroy together with his wife Louise Curteley expanded the family business, adding liquors and distilled alcohols to the previously wine-based product profile. From as early as 1897 the Maison has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including grand prizes in Brussels, Dijon and La Rochelle. Henri Leroy, son of Joseph and Louise, joined the business in 1919 and expanded it even further by forming a subsidiary specialised in eaux-de-vie alcohol and by constructing a brand new distillery in the Segonzac region of Champagne. Perhaps one of Henri Leroy’s greatest legacies was the purchase of half ownership of the Domaine Romanee-Conti. He had fought hard to convince his friend, former owner Edmond Gaudin de Villaine, not to sell the vineyard following the world-wide financial crises of the 1920’s. And although he managed to convince de Villaine, the latter’s brother-in-law continued selling his shares after he inherited the estate, together with Marie-Dominique Chambon. For the next forty years, Henri Leroy dedicated his life to Domaine Romanee-Conti, transforming the estate’s signature product into one of the most widely recognised (and most expensive) wines in the world.
In 1955, Henri Leroy’s daughter, Lalou Bize-Leroy joined the business and in 1971 she became President and Managing Directory of Maison Leroy. Madame Leroy worked tirelessly, studying in great detail the terroirs of Burgundy to understand how they resulted in certain profiles of wine. She also started a great tradition: a series of very prestigious wine tastings hosted at her home in Domaine D’Auvenay. Starting in 1966, she would invite famous wine writers and critics, sommeliers and restauranteurs to taste the wines of Maison Leroy. Some of her most well-known guests included Paul Bocuse and Jacques Puisais, President of Oenologues of France.
In 1988 Lalou Bize-Leroy expanded the own vineyards of Maison Leroy with the purchase of a 21-hectare property from Charles Noellat at Vosne-Romanee. This property, along with others added later (e.g. Philippe-Remy of Gevrey-Chambertin), was to become Domaine Leroy. She made the decision to stop using synthetic chemicals and to instead rely on biodynamic cultivation.
An Entirely Biodynamic Vineyard
By 1988, all vines at Domaine Leroy were 100% biodynamic. The soil is treated with Maria Thun-style compost and manure instead of chemicals chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides, which would hurt the plants and soil. The land is tilled by hand. Ridging and de-ridging is carried out with the help of very light ATV in order not to compact the soil. Guyot pruning is carried out only on days when the moon is passing the constellations of Sagitarrius, Aries, Leo and sometimes also Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. The cuts are treated with a biodynamic product that protects the wound and speeds up healing. Several different types of teas and herbal mixtures are also applied depending on the needs of each individual wine. The vineyard is never replanted all at the same time but instead done vine by vine when necessary. Old vines are replaced by younger plants grown from the buds of sister wines. This means that all vines at Domaine Leroy are of different ages and related to one another, like a family. The severe pruning and crop thinning results in incredibly low yields (on average, 16hL per hectare, across vintages and appellations) of very concentrated wines, some of the most prized in the region.
The Vinification of Burgundy’s Most Prized Wines
The grapes of each vintage are sorted twice by hand – first on the vineyard at picking, then again at the winery. At the winery, the fruit is sorted not on moving conveyor belts but instead on two large sorting tables, in order to allow more time for the most careful selection. Fermentation is carried out in large wooden barrels without any crushing or removal of the stems. In this way the precious native yeasts that grow on the grape skins, are preserved. Throughout the long maceration period, Domaine Leroy practices both pigeage (pushing down of the hard cap of grape skins and seeds) and remontage (removing the fermenting juice from under the cap and pouring it over the top of the cap).
After the wines are finally pressed, they are moved to the first of two underground caves. It is here that the juice undergoes malolactic fermentation. The juice is poured off the lees and the wine is moved once more to a second underground cave. In this deeper and colder cellar the wine remains, ageing until it is ready for the bottle. In order not to harm the wine at its most fragile state, the liquid is moved throughout the winery only with gravity, without the use of pumps.
One of the most fascinating peculiarities of Domaine Leroy is that in the cellar there is no winemaker or oenologist. The wines are of such high quality that they are just left to age naturally!
3 wines from the estate
Leroy : Meursault 1er cru “Les Perrières” 2009
Leroy : Corton-Charlemagne Grand cru Domaine 2009
Leroy : Clos de Vougeot Grand cru Domaine 2010