Arriving at Domaine Leroy at Vosne-Romanée is always an exciting moment, and by the same token there’s always a sense of wonder in terms of what the visit will bring. Sometimes it’s a tasting of Maison wines. Sometimes a mix of Domaine and Maison, sometimes Domaine wines from barrel… or bottle. Sometimes Madame Bize herself is present – if not Frédéric Roemer presides. If neither are available there’s no visit. Simple as that. Visits can range from ‘just’ a tasting, to a tasting and ‘tour’, to all of the above plus lunch. Today it’s all of that plus more… a visit to ‘home’ – Domaine d’Auvenay. This morning both Lalou and Frédéric are there to greet Bengt and I and and both are in outstanding form. Lalou is increasingly something of a mythical figure, rarely sighted, never around apparently. Well, today she’s very much alive. As ferocious an intellect as ever, today I notice for the first time perhaps that she has a great sense of humor as well. And she was mountain climbing (her other great passion) last Friday! The visit is a delight from start to finish.
At lunch she’s quick as a flash that she didn’t pay over market value in a recent purchase for Domaine d’Auvenay of a couple of parcels in Bâtard Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet Enseignères. “There were many other bidders,” she protests. She also suggests that there are many ‘wine snobs’ who miss out on many of the superb ‘Maison’ wines, in the belief that it is only the Domaine wines that are great. And says that the 2010 Chambertin (from Domaine Leroy, and hyped as possibly its greatest wine yet) may only just be the equal of the greatest Maison wines. If the 1972 Romanée-Saint-Vivant that we have over lunch is anything to go by, in all of its ethereal, youthful profoundness, she may well be right. In fact, you get the impression she usually is.
Today’s tasting at Vosne-Romanée is a look at the 2011s from barrel. As always it’s 100% new oak, all François Frères barrels (Lalou says they “almost” know exactly what she wants – there that sense of humour!) and all whole bunches used. The immediate good news is that after the dire production levels of the 2010 harvest, 2011 is back to “normal”. Yields ran at 24 hl/ha, similar to vintages like ’96, ’99 and ’09 though stylistically she likens it most to 1996 with regard to its levels of fruit purity and intensity. After tasting through the whole line-up you’ll find no argument from me on this.