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Wine Legend: Domaine Leroy, Richebourg 1999

This domaine is among the very greatest properties in Burgundy....

Wine Legend: Domaine Leroy, Richebourg 1999, Côte de Nuits Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

Bottles produced 2,685

Composition 100% Pinot Noir

Yield 23hl/ha

Alcohol 13.5%

Release price N/A

Price today £5,570

A legend because…

Lalou Bize-Leroy created Domaine Leroy in 1988 by buying the richly endowed 12ha Charles Noëllat estate in Vosne, followed some years later by Domaine Philippe Rémy in Gevrey-Chambertin. Today she owns 22ha. She has always been utterly uncompromising, with a strong belief in biodynamic farming and very low yields that rarely exceed 25hl/ha. She converted the entire domaine to biodynamics in 1988. This refusal to cut corners is what justifies her very high prices, but few would question that the quality of her wines places the domaine among the very greatest properties in Burgundy.

Looking back

In 1993, severe mildew almost destroyed Madame Bize-Leroy’s crop, allowing some to question whether the biodynamics was at fault – she insists this was not the case. When the decade ended with the 1999 vintage, she was thrilled with the quality, commenting on the wines’ astonishing fruit and richness.

The vintage

Rain in June led to mildew, so treatments were essential, though at Leroy these were consistent with biodynamic principles. The summer was exceptionally warm, and by 20 September the grands crus were ready to be picked. Those who overcropped didn’t achieve full maturation until October, by which time some rain had fallen. Overall, the problem in this vintage was not lack of ripeness but the very large crop – yields were very high, except, as usual, at Leroy. Here the excellent balance of fruit, acidity and tannin meant there was no dilution and ample structure.

The terroir

This great site in Vosne-Romanée covers just over 8ha, and almost half is owned by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Leroy has the second largest holding, with 0.78ha. The soil is a mix of clay and sand, with limestone debris and pebbles. It lies mid-slope at 260m-280m. Vines are pruned severely to reduce yields.

The wine

Grapes are sorted twice at the winery. There is no destemming or crushing. Leroy favours a cold soak before a gradual fermentation in open-top vats of 18-20 days at a moderate temperature, with regular punchdowns. The grands crus are aged in new oak for 18 months, with just a single racking. The wines are bottled without filtration or fining.

The reaction

In 2010, Allen Meadows of Burghound wrote: ‘Neither is it hard, dry or aggressive, merely quite firm, wrapped in a sappy and extract-suffused finish that goes on and on… This should be sensational in time.’

Clive Coates in 2012 tasted and wrote: ‘Just about mature. Still quite closed on the nose. But lots and lots of depth and concentration. Very intense and very high-class. Full-bodied. Not yet ready. A very impressive, profound, multi- dimensional wine.’ Decanter Premium members can see the note in full here.

Jancis Robinson in 2018 found it: ‘Intense, rich, broad and explosive and exuberant. Stuffed full of dramatic ingredients with a mass of fine tannins lurking underneath. Hint of something (deliciously) fungal and a floral note too. Extremely persistent.’

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