Such is the variety of sites that Benjamin Leroux works with that each year the release of his wines offers a unique snapshot of the vintage. 2016, according to Leroux, was a year in which terroir was able to confidently assert its presence… and so the 2016 release, held in Melbourne at Iki Jime, was educational to say the least!
Leroux presents as a softly spoken, intelligent and charming man but his apparent humility belies his experience making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy. The former Domaine Comte Armand winemaker established his own small négociant business in 2007 with the help of an English investor and hasn’t had much cause to look back.
In Australia, as in other countries, Leroux’s wines continually gain popularity, apparently borrowing a little of the old-school and a little of the new. Though the 2015 vintage yielded a couple of blockbusters, the 2016 harvest (despite its troubles) seemed to give wines with ample fruit but also acidity and good tannin structure. Stems are managed well and use of new oak is minimal.
From memory Leroux’s 2015 Chardonnays all showed a poise and tension that carries over to the 2016s. It was the Auxey-Duresses that won my favour amongst the village wines; at once lush and tense, very graceful. The Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault were both classically styled with the former seeming to win over most tasters.
The premier crus offer a noticeable step up in quality. The Chassagne-Montrachet Les Baudines, creamy and lush with not just acidity but some tannin bringing the wine into balance. Les Embazées offered something a little earthier and more firmly mineral, delicious.
It was the Tête du Clos that had my attention though. A lieu-dit within Morgeot that rarely appears on labels is celebrated with great style in Leroux’s wine. Pure and bright, white peach nose. Supple on the palate, concentrated and showing great balance and length.
Though Leroux is far from my favourite Burgundy producer (not being critical, just a matter of taste), his Savigny-les-Beaune wines I find to be consistently beautiful. Sadly, due to frost, the premier cru Hauts Jarrons was missing from the 2016 line up and useable fruit from that site found its way into village Savigny-les-Beaune. Both the 2014 and 2016 were shown together, the former more fragrant, prettier and brighter (as expected) and the latter a bit firmer and darker toned overall but a wonderful wine.
Of course, the Pommard and Volnay village wines showed well and were classic. The Les Mitans premier cru of Volnay again was presented with a 2014 beside it, a wonderfully savoury, earth/mushroom laden and satin-textured wine, very seductive. The 2016 was darker and fuller.
The premier cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs showed very strongly. Powerful, firmly tannic and mineral. Very good indeed and deserving of considerable patience. 2016 marks the tenth vintage in a row that Leroux has worked with this site. Clos de la Cave des Ducs is a monopole owned by the family of Leroux’s friend Jean-Charles Carré.
The Gevery-Chambertin was probably the pick of the three village Côte de Nuits wines shown at this tasting (alongside Morey-Saint-Denis and Vosne-Romanée). Leroux is the proud owner of a 3500l foudre that houses a third of this cuvee during elevage. This is not an excessively muscular Gevery, still dark fruited and faintly smokey but not brutish. Very nice.
Benjamin Leroux’s Clos Saint-Denis grand cru comes from a parcel of vines planted in 1962 which, we’re told, is (and always has been) managed organically. The wine is destemmed entirely and one third of the barrels used are new. It’s concentrated and powerful but beautifully perfumed. It’ll last in the cellar for anyone who’s interested.
When you look at the prices Leroux charges for his wines and the quality level they sit at, it’s very easy to see why people (consumers and trade) fawn over them so. They don’t always move me but the 2016 vintage has yielded some very fine wines indeed.