Domaine Leroy. If you are a serious Burgundy drinker, you probably recognise Domaine Leroy as one of the icons of Burgundian wines, and Lalou Bize-Leroy being one of the most influential winemakers in the business. After inheriting her father’s negociant business in 1955, she went on to co-manage DRC and brought Romanee Conti into the world stage as one of the most sought after wine in the world. After departing DRC in 1992, she started Domaine Leroy and has ever since created top-rated wines and receiving numerous accolades from wine critics around the world.
Leroy’s wines are low yielding and she emphasises on long fermentation before careful ageing. Her consideration for the terroir and her obsession with quality are very noticeable in her marvellous wines. Leroy is also one of the biggest advocate for biodynamic wines, meaning the wines are free of chemicals treatments, pesticides, fertilisers etc., essentially all-nautrale.
2004 was a unique yet controversial vintage for Leroy.That year, Madame Leroy declassified all her upper level wines to villages level as she found that the 2004 vintage lacked the level of quality and vibrancy that her wines represent. She declassified her wines into five – so the Vosne Romanee includes Grand Cru (Richebourg, RSV), 1er cru (Brulees, Beaux Monts) and Villages (Genaivrières). Bourgogne includes Clos Vougeot and all the Leroy holdings in Cote de Beaune, from Grand Cru to Villages, etc.
There are many theories from critics as to why she did what she did; but little did people know that 2004 was also a depressing year for her as her husband, Marcel Bize passed away. She did explain that she became seriously depressed and found it difficult to take her normal interest in her wines despite her capable team. Some say it was more to the story…lady bugs, hail, etc. But interestingly enough, while Leroy declassified all her reds (both at Leroy and Auvenay), she bottled as normal all of her whites. So whatever conclusion resulted in the view that the reds wouldn’t be up to par was not applicable to the whites. So have prices reflected this phenomenon of declassification? Not necessarily. Some say this vintage did not deserve to be declassified, and is the bargain of the century. But some insist that the 2004 vintage clearly differs in character and grace versus her other products. But nonetheless, drinkers were eager to give this vintage a try given the story behind it.
We might never find out what really happened, but the 2004 vintage will always carry the unknown factor and challenge the drinker to ponder upon the nuances of this interesting yet controversial vintage.