The Queen of Burgundy

23 March 2017
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

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Lalou Bize-Leroy is a trailblazer who has been involved in the wine business since 1955. She joined her father in the negociant business when her father was running Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC). Her reputation as a skilled, quality hound who could sniff out great wines is common knowledge among Burgundy specialists. She was co-manager of DRC until 1992, but after she departed as co-manager, she has focused on both her family’s negociant business, Maison Leroy, as well as Domaine d’Auvenay and Domaine Leroy for which she is renowned. There is no one else who can claim the title of ‘Queen of Burgundy’.

 

Bize-Leroy is a pioneer in many aspects: embracing biodynamic viticulture before it became trendy in Burgundy, adhering to very low yields, unique training and strict pruning policy and individual replantings. She relies more on intuition and listening to the land than on science or numbers. It is easy to spot her vineyards with their wild Medusa-like vines whose canes are never cut or hedged and low-hanging small grape clusters that are half the yield of her neighbors.

 

Madame, as she is known to those close to her, has more style in her 80s than most women half her age. She may be petite in size but her intensity and charisma make most people feel small in her presence. She comes alive and the intensity in her blue eyes sharpen when she speaks about her vineyards or her wines. When I ask her how she manages to get so much intensity, depth and energy in her wines, she replies, “It is simple, I love my vines more than most people.”

 

Bize-Leroy divides her time between her negociant business as well as her two highly regarded domaines, Domaine d’Auvenay and Domaine Leroy, where no expenses have been spared to craft some of the most brilliant, age-worthy Burgundy reds and whites.

 

If you are budget conscious, Leroy is not for you. If price is no object, the wines crafted by Madame’s skillful hands and tended under her watchful eye, are sublime. From Domaine d’Auvenay, I would recommend her large range of white wines – from brilliant grand crus such as Batard-Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet to the more modest Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Folatieres. I even adore the humble Auxey Duresses and Bourgogne Aligote. From Domaine Leroy, some think the extraordinary prices are justified when they sip the awe-inspiring Romanee Saint-Vivant, Richebourg or Musigny. For mere mortals with budget constraints, I can recommend her Bourgogne Rouge (US$35) in fantastic years such as 2015, 2010, 2009 or 2005.

 

【Q & A 】

  1. Which wine(s) are you most proud of and why?

I am proud of all my wines since they are meeting my expectations more and more as time goes by. That is to say: They give us a more and more precise way to learn the secrets of their land and their identity. This is of course if every year, we are attentive to the life of each vine – the soil and plant – to better understand their lives, their “actions”, what they need, and their reactions following the care that we provide.

 

  1. Describe one wine that you feel is the most reflective of your unique terroir/site?

I have always researched this passionately, that is, a wine to reflect more and more faithfully its land. It can change, it changes every year.

 

  1. Overall, are there more advantages or disadvantages in being a woman in your position (or is there no difference whether one is male/female)?

I do not think being a woman changes anything. One must love the vines, to be near them, think about them, communicate with them, that may perhaps result in becoming a better woman? It is only in this way that we can “teach” the vine, and perhaps give them a beginning of a consciousness – to give them the feeling of being loved. I am sure it applies to giving us beautiful grapes, tasty, real fruits of their land. It is these grapes, deconstructed during the fermentation by yeasts contained in the bloom of their skin, that give wines the image of their land, and carries in them, etched in their flesh like stigma, the essential characteristics of their deep earth.

 

  1. What drives or inspires you to be the best at what you do?

It is the love of my wines.

 

  1. What does work-life balance mean to you?

Work, that is my life.

 

  1. If you could make wine in another region in the world besides Burgundy, where would it be and why?

 

It would be absolutely impossible to take care of the vines and wines elsewhere than in Burgundy. I am like my vines, deeply rooted in this land.

 

My top rated Domaine Leroy wines from 2012 and 2013 (2015 vintage will be tasted in June 2017):

1. Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru 2012

A perfect Chambertin. Majestic, classy, rich and generous while remaining elegant and subtle. This wine is filled with contradictions and the flavours are constantly changing so it is hard to pin down – at once very spicy, then floral and filled with smells of the earth, next exuding dark berries and plums. The wine has energy and vibrancy along with an amazing concentration of flavours. Long, persistent finish. A breathtaking wine.

100 points

 

2. Domaine Leroy Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2012

This exuberant Clos de la Roche is filled with spicy, mixed berry fruit flavours that envelop the palate. This wine offers a gorgeous array of flavors, incredible intensity and concentration with a very long finish. A magnificent, sublime wine that seduces the palate with its complexity and depth.

99 points

 

 

3. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2012

A silky, very fine Musigny that whispers and reveals intricate details as the wine swirls in the glass. This is a celebration of flowers, red berry fruits and lovely minerality. This is one of the best Musignys produced in this vintage; a wine that combines both finesse and amazing concentration. Only 2 barrels of this wine was made in 2005.

98 points

 

4. Domaine Leroy Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2013

In 2013, Leroy’s Clos de la Roche sings from the barrel – not just a simple song, but a symphony. Enticing, complex aroma with layers of mixed berries and an array of exotic sweet spices. The tannins are silky and fine with fresh acidity that lifts everything to a higher octave. This isn’t a big, concentrated wine, but an intense, sinewy one that will age for several decades in your cellar.

98 points

 

5. Domaine Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru 2012

This Richebourg is a symphony of flavours that is both intense and delicate. There is exuberance and intensity in this layered wine, filled with wild strawberries, nutmeg and dried jasmine flowers. The finely etched details of the wine’s flavors and shape becomes sharper on the palate, rising in a crescendo towards the end and ending with a lingering and haunting finish. Clearly a wine of  breeding and class, this Richebourg can be summed up in one word: majestic.

98 points

 

6. Domaine Leroy Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2012

A magnificent wine that is vivacious, complex and intensely floral. The palate explodes with an array of crushed rose petals, violets and jasmine. The red berry flavours mingle with sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The wine is exuberant now and should remain this way for much of its life. This is a sexy, phenomenal wine.

98 points

 

7. Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru 2013

Leroy’s Chambertin is always magisterial and profound. 2013 has finely etched details starting out with a complex nose of wild flowers, savory spices and blackberry fruit. The palate is velvety and persistent with a tannin-acid structure that rises in the finish leaving behind minerals and the taste of fresh earth for more than 30 seconds. A profound wine that is nearly as good as the 2012.

98 points

 

Image Credit: Lalou Bize-Leroy of Domaine Leroy