We grabbed a few extra bottles of 2015 these are now available in the Shop. See what’s left.
I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Ben this week tasting through a range of his 2016’s with a couple of 2014’s in the mix. Turns out he’s good mates with Alex Moreau who I’ve spent a fair bit of time within Australia and Burgundy. So much so he’s Godfather to Tom, Alex’s son!
His high profile has not taken his head from the earth. He’s well and truly connected to the ground, both, by feet and focus. It was fascinating to hear him talk of the experiments he runs, the main influences on his winemaking over the past 10-15 years, his plans for the future, and, of course, the background to each the wines we tried. We recorded the audio for the session and share it in several podcasts below.
How to drink wine with Benjamin Leroux!
A Review of the 2016 Vintage for Benjamin Leroux
When you hear of the how widespread the frosts of 2016 were, it’s a surprise that any wine made it into bottle at all! While some areas remained untouched, many saw production drop to just 15% of normal. There are some good and bad consequences for us, the bad being, there is not much wine to go around, the good being that many sites were declassified, not for lack of quality, simply because there was insufficient wine to firstly make the wine practically, remembering this is a region that often makes only a barrel or two of a particular wine, secondly there wasn’t sufficient volume to justify an individual bottling.
It was simply not feasible to make most of the Grand Cru’s. Chambertin was hit particularly hard by the frosts.
Of the wines tasted, Leroux certainly seems more comfortable in the Côtes de Beaune. His whites show more harmony and refinement than his reds at this early stage, just post-bottling. It will be interesting to watch these wines evolve and see how they pull together.
I’ll be intrigued to see how Ben’s understanding of the different appellation and vineyards evolves over time. Moving from making 6 wines, only red for much of the time to near 50 is a considerable undertaking. With the minuscule quantities made of some wines, it is difficult to conduct many experiments, perhaps, slowing the evolution of styles.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to look at the 1er Cru’s from Côtes de Nuits, or the Grand Crus other than the Clos-Saint-Denis. Understandable given the price and volume of many of these!
Vintage backgound, winemaking consequences to achieve harmony, changes for the negociant.
Whites I – 2016 Bourgogne Blanc, Auxey-Duresses, Puligny-Montrachet and Mersault
The wines, different barrel formats, lees stirring, oxidation, PremOx and, bottling.
Whites II – 2016 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Baudines, 1er Cru Les Embazées, &, 1er Cru Tȇte du Clos
Exploring Chassagne-Montrachet, the history behind 1er Cru Tȇte du Clos (similar soil profile to Chevalier-Montrachet), and, Morgeot. The stylistic impact of frost on whites in Burgundy. Embazées great stand alone, Baudines needing food, longer lived, edge of phenolics. The difference between seeing the land as an asset and a lifestyle.
Reds I -2016 Bourgogne Rouge, 2014 Savigny-lès-Beaune, 2016 Savigny-lès-Beaune, 2016 Pommard
Vintage impact on the reds. Loads of 1er Cru in the village wines. Destemming techniques. Wild fermentation. Impacts of stalks. 1/3 1er Cru in the 2016 Savigny. Cork vs Diam vs Screwcap. Shift to using big oak, foudre. The history of the 228L Burgundy barrel. Modern vs Traditional. Élévage. Climate change. 2/3 1er Cru in the Village Pommard.
Experience across varieties, villages, and, influence on winemaking
At Comte Armand, Ben only made 6 wines all Pinot. There was a period where they made some whites. His exposure to a vast number of villages and parcels has accelerated his experience. Remember winemakers rate of learning is limited by only having a one shot a year at making wine. Compare this to my experience where we had 28 grape varieties from one site and Yering Station where we had a dozen varieties from dozens of sites across the entire Yarra Valley, an area roughly 50 times the size of the main quality producing area of Burgundy!
Reds II – 2016 Volnay, 2014 Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans, 2016 Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans, 2016 Volnay 1er Clos de la Cave du Ducs (monopole)
Young vine Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans went into the Volnay. 14 drinking well now. 2016 Tightly wound. Clos de la Cave du Ducs is an excellent wine. Discussion of Aligoté and it’s potential. It always reminds me of doing vintage at Domaine Bernard-Moreau, drinking it at the end of the day as a Kir, mixed with Cassis. Discussion of Saint-Romain appelation.
Reds III – 2016 Morey-Saint-Denis, 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin, 2016 Vosne-Romanée, 2016 Clos Saint-Denis
Exploration of Côte de Nuits, changes in barrel sizes and use.
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 centre 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 cuvées. 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.
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