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Benjamin Leroux Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Tête du Clos 2015

62 year old vines, insanely low yields = Outstanding Chardonnay!

Tête du Clos is a sub-climate of Morgeot and is, to our mind, one of Chassagne’s top few 1er crus. Here, at the apex of the vineyard, the soil is almost ‘solid rock’ to quote Leroux, with some white marl and plenty of limestone rocks on the surface. It’s about the same altitude as Les Embazées, but this showcases a completely different expression of Chassagne. Leroux’s old-vine Tête du Clos parcel (0.4-hectares planted in 1955) produces small, concentrated clusters, and he only managed to get the insanely low yield of 18 hectolitres per hectare in 2015. The resulting power of the wine means that it saw a tad more new oak than the preceding Chassagnes; 25% in this case. Where Meadow’s refers to “reduction” below, what he is probably seeing is a vineyard character (due to the lack of topsoil), not winemaking artefact. As the man said—the wine is ‘Outstanding’.

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About Benjamin Leroux

“You may remember that when I asked Allen Meadows, aka Burghound, on this video who he thought might be a natural heir to the late great Henri Jayer of Burgundy, one of the two people he cited was young Benjamin Leroux of Domaine Comte Armand.” Jancis Robinson

“Leroux’s passion, ambition and sheer talent have already resulted in a number of stunning, beautiful wines, but my sense is that the best is yet to come.”  Wine Advocate # 194 May 2011

“I have never heard a more articulate and insightful presentation.” James Halliday on the Leroux 2008s Masterclass with Benjamin Leroux, The Australian, 11th September 2010.

Benjamin Leroux, previously manager/winemaker of Domaine Comte Armand launched his own label with the 2007 vintage. He works from a brand new winery in the center of Beaune (just off the Boulevard) that he shares with Dominique Lafon and two other wine growers. The operation is very small and will eventually specialise, primarily, in Puligny and Volnay, but with many other appellations also covered. While there are over twenty terroirs produced, this is certainly a ‘micro negociant’ operation with only two to five barrels made of most of the cuvees. Leroux works with vineyards he manages, vineyards he owns and also buys fruit (never juice or wine) from growers with who he can work closely; growers that produce the quality of fruit to match Leroux’s exacting standards.

Leroux’s vision has always been to build an Estate and to this end he has already started buying vineyards. The first stage of his evolution however has been to establish the micro negociant business: a phase that has allowed him to establish a winery and refine his ideas and his understanding of the terroirs with which he wants to work. The way Leroux has structured this side of his business is highly innovative. His aim has been to create the same quality standards of the finest Domaines, despite not owning most of the vineyards. He has long-term relationships with the growers that he works with, some of which he pays by the area of land rather than the quantity of fruit harvested. This allows him to dictate lower yields, ripeness, date of harvest, and so on. He only works with high quality growers who plough or do not use herbicides or pesticides. Most are organic or biodynamic. For those that are not there is an understanding that they will move to organics over a five-year period. Leroux’s knowledge of the Côte is encyclopedic and he has been able to unearth some very interesting, previously hardly known sources for his portfolio. It’s important not to underestimate how close Leroux works these growers as that is one of the keys to his ability to coax the finest fruit quality from the vineyards.

A total of 120 barrels were produced in his first vintage, 2007 and some of the cuvees offered had already been produced by Leroux for a number of years at Comte Armand. These wines have now come across to the Benjamin Leroux label. Leroux is considered one of the most gifted and knowledgeable wine growers in all of the Côte d’Or.

Leroux is considered one of the most gifted and knowledgeable wine growers in all of the Côte d’Or. It only suffices to ask any other serious producer about Leroux to realize the respect he has garnered amongst his colleagues in the region. He was always considered a prodigy, studying at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune from the age of 13 and taking the reins at the esteemed Domaine Comte Armand when he was only 26. Leroux’s success with the Domaine’s wines over the last decade has well justified the decision to appoint such a young man to run the show. He continued to manage Comte Armand until 2014, despite now having his own range of wines (another sign of how well respected he is). While his range includes many famous terroirs, Leroux is determined only to work with vineyards that have been well managed and produce outstanding fruit, regardless of whether or not they have famous names. This makes sense, Leroux’s knowledge of Burgundy’s countless terroirs runs deep and producers like him are waking up the wine world to the fact that the reputation of many Côte d’Or vineyards has as much to do with the producers who work them than any intrinsic qualities of the sites themselves.

A Review of the 2015 Vintage for Benjamin Leroux

“As the ratings and commentaries demonstrate, 2015 was a first-rate vintage for Leroux. However, I was particularly impressed with some of the villages level wines as they box well above their respective weight class in the appellation hierarchy.” Allen Meadows, Burghound

“Leroux’s 2015s… combine silkiness and power and avoid edgy tannins.” Stephen Tanzer,

“I will leave the [2015] tasting notes to do the talking. There are some exceptional wines here that rank alongside the illustrious names of Burgundy. He certainly has the gift of touch that seems to elevate everything from village crus to grand crus.” Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

There’s been a lot of hype about the reds in 2015, completely justified, and tasting Benjamin Leroux’s wines from cask has provided its fair share of breathtaking moments. All the wines were a joy to taste early. It will be fascinating to compare them from bottle. There is a lot of power but also tremendous freshness and purity (in both reds and whites). One of the big talking points this year is bound to be Leroux’s return to his old stomping ground in Pommard. For many years Leroux has said it would take a pretty special offer to bring him back to the village where he honed his craft as the young prodigy at Comte Armand. He appears to have found just the motivation in his favoured 1er of Rugiens, on the same iron rich red clay as the Clos des Epeneaux. There’s also a Pommard village cuvée this year—so the right kind of lightning struck twice in 2015.

The Pommard wines aside, there are a number of new cuvées offered this year, although we also say goodbye to a number of wines as well – the Vosne Suchots being a prime example.

In terms of the vinifications, those parcels with ripe stems saw a high degree of whole bunch ferments this year. Not only was this to help preserve freshness, Leroux also noted that, “whole clusters allows you to extract a little less and the stems suck up a bit of sugar and alcohol, and the tannins are smoother.” Another feature this year was that Leroux pulled back on punch downs (pigeage), a theme we have seen with many top Burgundy growers. I have the feeling that Burgundy has learnt the lesson of 2005 – in a year where power is a given, a gentle extraction is best.

The 2015 white wines here are also extremely impressive. Leroux rapidly picked all the white parcels between 2-6 September, and there’s ample, vibrant acidity (alongside surprisingly pungent minerality in many cases) to buffer the supple flesh of the vintage. Since we tasted the whites from barrel, Leroux has noted an increased focus and tension as the wines continued their maturation. For the most part he took the whites out of barrel after 12 months and put them to tank on lees (for the last six months). Leroux likes the added freshness that a little controlled reduction approach can bring. He’s in good company; the likes of Antoine Jobard, Vincent Dancer and Olivier Lamy said exactly the same thing to us this year. Another feature of his approach with 2015 (that Leroux again shares with the aforementioned growers) is how little new oak he has used across both colours. The village whites, for example, saw only between 0% and 15%. Even the powerful terroirs like Bâtard, Clos de la Roche and Clos Saint-Denis saw less than 50%. For the entry-level whites Leroux is using more and more 1200 litre ovals and the Bourgogne rouge is now raised in giant, Beaujolais-style five thousand litre casks.

91-93 Points

“Enticing aromas of ripe peach and apple, musky hazelnut and sexy spices. Fat, silky and utterly seamless, with its richness nicely counterpointed by well-integrated acidity. A serious mouthful of wine with a long, spicy, lightly dusty finish.”

90-93 Points

Outstanding Top Value. “Here too the pungent nose is composed by notes of reduction and wood nuances. Otherwise there is impressive volume, mid-palate density and richness to the broad-shouldered and powerful flavors that possess a suave yet entirely serious mouth feel before concluding in a beautifully complex, balanced and lingering finish that is shaped by citrus-tinged acidity. In short, this is impressive and built for mid-term aging.”

Allen Meadows, Burghound issue 67

Where in the world does the magic happen?