Domaine Leroy

France Burgundy Vosne-Romanée

Maison Leroy was founded in 1868 by François Leroy in the small village of Auxey-Duresses.

Henri Leroy entered the family business in 1919 and expanded the portfolio of Leroy to include eau-de-vie at Gensac La Pallue, establishing a distillery near Segonzac. During the 1930`s he became a valued customer of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and a close friend with its co-owner Edmond Gaudin de Villaine. It seems hard to believe now, but at that time many winemakers, including de Villaine, were impoverished and it seemed inevitable that he would be forced to sell its monopole holdings. Fortunately in 1942, the other co-owner Jacques Chambon sold his share to Henri Leroy, which meant that the domaine could continue unchanged, although it was not until the 1950`s that he took a hands-on role in its management.

Henri had two daughters the younger of whom Marcelle took a great interest in her father’s negotiant business that she eventually took over in 1955, by which time she was know by her present name: Lalou.

She was just 23 years old: ambitious, temperamental, pugnacious and gifted. In 1974 she took over co-management of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, working alongside the placid Aubert de Villaine. The relationship was volatile, with two such diametrically opposed characters forced to inhabit the confines of one domaine. The walls must have eavesdropped on many protracted quarrels about how the domaine should be run and in particular, their distribution of wines around the world. In 1991 Lalou was unceremoniously fired and one of the persons voting her off the board was her own sister. Just to rub salt into the wounds, her daughter is in the employ of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

But Lalou was not left high and dry. In April 1988 she had acquired significant holdings (around 12 hectares) of prime vineyard from Domaine Charles Noëllat including rows of Grand Cru vines that had been left moribund over many years. Such soil does not come cheap, so she had to find financial backing, which came from the Far East, the Japanese company Takashimaya. Lalou had the bit between her teeth and in the following year augmented her acquisition with vines from Domaine Philippe Remy that included prize plots in Chambertin and Clos-de-la-Roche. This created a conflict of interest with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and it was only a matter of time before they parted ways. Subsequent to her departure from the Domaine, Lalou made further purchases of land that had belonged to her uncle, including a farm above Saint Romain where she lived with her late husband. The wine produced on this land is sold under the name Domaine d`Auvenay,  includes vines in Chevalier-Montrachet, Bonnes-Mares and Mazis-Chambertin and are vinified separately from that of Leroy.

During the 1990`s, the wines of Domaine Leroy became some of the most sought after not only in Burgundy but in the world. With Robert Parker enraptured by her pot-pourri of wines produced in miniscule quantities (we are talking literally one or two barrels here) it was inevitable that prices spiraled into the stratosphere. The tiny quantities were not only a result of the small acreage, but of Lalou's draconian practices of minimizing yields to unprecedented low quantities - often less the 20hl/hc, through rigorous pruning and sorting in the vineyard and the fact that many plots of vines are between 50 and 80 years old and are naturally low yielding.

Lalou has an almost obsessive approach to vineyard husbandry, which has been founded on biodynamic principles from inception. There is minimal interference with little cause for green harvesting or de-leafing that she believes inhibits photosynthesis and accumulation of sugar. Since 2000 there has been practically no pruning and yields, as one might expect, are phenomenally low. After picking, the fruit is rigorously sorted and the whole-bunch vinified in stainless steel, stalks ‘n all, with a brief ferment at a relatively high temperature (over 30 degrees) in order to enhance extraction. The wines are then matured entirely in new oak, the whites on their lees until malo and the bottling is done between December and March the following year.

“Lalou Bize-Leroy stands virtually alone at the top of Burgundy’s quality hierarchy.” - Robert Parker

“Perfection, Madame Bize-Leroy maintains, can never be attained; great wine is a journey, not a destination. It’s an admirable perspective for a producer. But as a critic and an observer, I can think of few producers whose wines so frequently call that contention into question." - William Kelley

"The reality is that Mme Bize-Leroy crafts wines unlike any others. Her reds are often spellbinding, while her whites are perhaps even more age worthy." - Antonio Galloni

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