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2010 Bourgogne Aligote, Leroy
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Domain Leroy is arguably producing the greatest red Burgundy wines on the Cote d`Or at present. Lalou Bize-Leroy started out as a négociant, working for her family's Maison Leroy, which was founded by her father, Henri. There are three entities to the Leroy empire: the Maison Leroy based in Auxey-Duresses; the Domaine d’Auvenay named for Lalou Bize-Leroy’s own home near St-Romain, and the substantial Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée.
Lalou Bize-Leroy also owns a quarter of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, where she was co-director until the other shareholders ousted her in 1992, partly because she had started a competing winery. In 1988 Lalou Bize-Leroy purchased the Domaine Charles Nöellat in Vosne Romanée and renamed it Domaine Leroy, which included the buildings and cellars which are now the domaine’s headquarters, and a wonderful array of vineyards including Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, Clos de Vougeot, premiers crus Vignerondes and Boudots in Nuits and Beaumonts and Brulées in Vosne. The following year further vineyards were purchased from Domaine Philippe Remy, including Clos de la Roche, Latricières-Chambertin and Le Chambertin, while further holdings have been added since.
The domaine has been farmed biodynamically from the start and is now certified by ECOCERT. It was not always easy and the 1993 vintage was certainly a catastrophe with rampant mildew – but they had nobody but themselves to blame, for being behind in their treatments, according to Madame.
The next exciting, if controversial, move was the change in training system for the vines. For some time previously the hedging (rognage) of the vineyards had been done by hand rather than more abrasively by machine. However it is not natural for the vine to be cut back and it affects the vine’s performance both in the current season and the following year, so now, after the flowering, when the shoots are lengthening, they are curled over instead of being cut back. This minimises entrecoeurs and second crop bunches forming, as well as leaving the vine happier and healthier. Nobody could have doubted the well-being of the Leroy vines on the eve of the 2008 harvest.
Horses however are out. Domaine Leroy was among the first to start using horses to plough the vines, but managing the artisans who own and operate the horses proved insurmountable. At one point five different operators were being employed and they still could not be guaranteed to be there at the necessary moment. Now Leroy use little Caval tractors which weigh less than a horse.
Lalou Bize-Leroy has 23 hectares of vines, mostly Premier and Grand Cru classified. In the vineyard Lalou practises biodynamism as well as severe pruning and crop-thinning. The result is ridiculously low yields.
Domaine Leroy is blessed with a heritage of ancient vines, in part because Lalou Bize-Leroy never grubs up and replants. Instead she replaces individual missing vines, from her own cuttings, but never too many at once in a given vineyard. These old vines combined with her training and pruning policy, restricting the bunches to just four per vine, explain in part the concentration of Leroy wines. The average yield across appellations and vintages at Domaine Leroy is around 16 hl/ha, according to Lalou.
In the cellar there is no winemaker (vinificateur) nor oenologist, André Porcheret not having been replaced when he left after the 1993 harvest. The grapes are of such quality that they do not need a winemaker! After rigorous deselection on the sorting tables, which employ as many people as there are pickers, the grapes are placed, stemmed and all, in wooden fermenting vats. After fermentation the wines are matured in new barrels from Cadus and François Frères.
Jasper Morris MW, author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
A grape that was first recorded in Burgundy in the 18th century and is still planted almost exclusively there, though there are limited plantings in Bulgaria, Moldavia and even California. It is a moderate-yielding grape that tends to perform best on south-east facing slopes and in warm, dry years.
For your Burgundian vigneron, Aligoté is not nearly as profitable to grow as Chardonnay - consequently it tends to be relegated to lower quality vineyards. In the wrong hands and in the wrong sites it can produce thin, raspingly acidic wines that are remarkably undistinguished. However the best growers produce balanced examples with nutty and citrus hints which are most appealing to drink. The best Aligoté wines traditionally come from Bouzeron in the Côte Chalonnaise. Along with blackcurrant liqueur, it is the key ingredient of Kir.
Bourgogne Blanc is the appellation used to refer to generic white wines from Burgundy, a wide term which allows 384 separate villages to produce a white wine with the label ‘Bourgogne.’ As a result of this variety, Bourgogne Blanc is very hard to characterise with a single notable style, however the wines are usually dominated by the presence of Chardonnay, which is just about the only common factor between them. That being said, Chardonnay itself varies based on the environmental factors, so every bottle of Bourgogne Blanc will vary in some way from the next! Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are also permitted for use in Bourgogne Blanc under the regulations of the appellation.
As Bourgogne Blanc is very much an entry-level white wine for most regions in Burgundy, prices are usually very reasonable, and due to the terroir and climate of Burgundy, Bourgogne Blanc wines tend to have a strong acidity to them, combined with a vibrant and often fruity palate when compared with other whites from the New World, say, allowing fantastic matchmaking with many different kinds of food.
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