Wednesday morning I drove to Vosne-Romanée for a visit with Lalou Bize-Leroy at Domaine Leroy.
Tasting chez Leroy is an interesting look at the characters of several villages, both in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, and from village to grand cru in the appellation hierarchy.
Leroy’s yields are perhaps the stingiest in Burgundy, and 2006 is no exception at 19 hectoliters per hectare (just more than one ton per acre). It shows in the wines, which are very concentrated and need time to reveal more of the essence of terroir.
I have tasted a number of mature wines from Maison Leroy, the merchant company, as far back as 1949. These wines age superbly; some bottles from the 1950s, like the 1955 Chambertin, are magnificent.
The range was bottled in December, just before Christmas. A few seemed to be suffering a little from the bottling, with shy aromas and reticent flavors. The remainder, however, offered some of the most delicious primary Pinot Noir notes I encountered from 2006.
Bize-Leroy said they did nothing special in 2006 and encountered no problems with rot. “It’s not 2005 or 2003, it’s more like 2002,” she explained about the character of the vintage. “There’s a lot of intense fruit. There’s also very good balance between fruit, body and richness.”
Among the village appellations, I was charmed by the Vosne-Romanée Aux Genevrières, which comes from the vineyard behind Bize-Leroy’s house. Very perfumed, it showed delicate red fruit notes like strawberry, along with floral tones, a silky texture and long finish (89-92). The Chambolle-Musigny Les Fremières was more intense, evoking red currant, blackberry and a touch of coffee, expanding on the palate to a long finish (90-93).
My favorites from the eight premiers crus were the slightly shy Volnay-Santenots, with its concentrated wild berry flavors and supple texture (90-93) and powerful Nuits-St.-Georges Aux Boudots, a velvety red with well-integrated tannins, beautiful balance and long, saturated finish (91-94).
The Vosne-Romanée Les Brûlées offered a ripe, exotic nose of spice, cherry and raspberry compote on a dense frame, yet remained fresh, very long and stylish (92-95). Finally, the Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes, as charming as its name suggests, displayed sumptuous aromas of black cherry and blackberry with a hint of violet, fine concentration, but lacy and subtle on the finish (92-95).
At another level are the grands crus. From the Côte de Beaune, the racy Corton Renardes reminded me of wild mountain berries. It was cool and refreshing with intensity and length (93-96). By contrast, the Romanée St.-Vivant is a city woman, sophisticated and classy, with a gossamer texture providing the backdrop for its violet, rose, spice and fruit flavors (94-97).
The Richebourg delivered a powerful attack, with intense strawberry and cherry notes. It’s a bit square and closed at this stage compared to the RSV, yet has richness and great length (94-97). A return to elegance, the Musigny was satin and lace, yet a seething intensity of spice, flowers, red fruits and mineral (95-98).
The Latricières-Chambertin also exhibited a mineral element, along with wild cherry and berry notes matched to a harmonious, silky frame (95-98). The Chambertin wasn’t revealing its full complexity on the nose, but in the mouth was powerful, with coffee, black cherry and mineral flavors. It doesn’t have the finesse of the Latricières now, yet needs more time. An impressive, regal wine (95-98).
My first appointment after lunch was with Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier at the Château de Chambolle-Musigny. Since 2004, when he reclaimed the 22-acre Nuits-St.-Georges Clos de la Marechale, Mugnier more than tripled the surface he cultivates and reorganized his operations, increasing from one employee to six. As a result, he feels there has been a lot of progress in the vineyards, with more detailed work by hand and an improved training system for the vines.
Mugnier echoed what I heard at many addresses. There was more rain than usual during the summer and by the end of August the grapes weren’t looking so good. He kept a close watch on the meteorological reports as the harvest approached. “I think we were lucky because we had less rain in September than other regions [in France],” he said.
He started picking on Sept. 18, a few days before the official ban de vendange. The grapes were perfectly ripe, with the same sugar levels as in 2005 and with exceptions the grapes were generally very healthy.
“At the end of the fermentations, the wines were very tannic, hard,” he continued. “But by February or March  the tannins had completely softened. This brought flesh and body to the midpalate. Combined with the fresh fruit flavors like you have in a very cool year, 2006 is more typical, distinguished and refined.”
All the reds in Mugnier’s cellar were racked and blended in November 2007 and returned to barrel.
The Chambolle-Musigny delighted with its fresh blackberry and violet scents and pure, focused fruit expression on the palate (88-91). It comes from two different terroirs and Mugnier said: “I like the blend better than each separately.
Adjacent to Bonnes Mares on the southern side lies the premier cru Chambolle-Musigny Les Fuées. It was more concentrated than the above, vibrant and detailed, with a strong mineral component (90-93). As expected, the Bonnes Mares showed greater depth still, with blackberry and black cherry flavors and terrific length (91-94).
The Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses was the most inviting wine in the cellar. Violet, red and black currant aromas were followed by a beam of pure fruit. It was lacy, detailed, long (92-95). “Les Amoureuses plays to your emotional side; Les Fuées and Bonnes Mares play more to your brain,” mused Mugnier.
Mugnier’s third vintage of the Nuits-St.-Georges Clos de la Marechale featured rich, dense, black cherry flavor with opulence, balance, structure and length (90-93). The Musigny was rich, with a touch of chocolate and very classy. Complex red fruit notes unfold across the palate and it’s powerful and elegant at once (93-96).
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