This year Benjamin took on a parcel of 100 year old, goblet pruned Aligoté Doré - the high-quality, low yielding cultivar in Bouzeron (Côte Chalonnaise). Leroux has considerable pedigree with this variety, as followers of Domaine Comte Armand will no doubt attest.
Benjamin Leroux, the gifted manager/winemaker of Domaine Comte Armand launched his own label with the 2007 vintage. He works from a brand new winery in the center of Beaune (just off the Boulevard) that he shares with Dominique Lafon and two other wine growers. The operation is very small and will eventually specialise, primarily, in Puligny and Volnay, but with many other appellations also covered. While there are over twenty terroirs produced, this is certainly a ‘micro negociant’ operation with only two to five barrels made of most of the cuvees. Leroux works with vineyards he manages, vineyards he owns and also buys fruit (never juice or wine) from growers with who he can work closely; growers that produce the quality of fruit to match Leroux’s exacting standards. Half of the vineyards that Leroux works with are currently organic or biodynamic (this percentage is growing) and 100% of the sites are ploughed with no herbicides or pesticides used at all in any of the sites. Leroux’s vision has always been to build an Estate and to this end he has already started buying vineyards. The first stage of his evolution however has been to establish the micro negociant business: a phase that has allowed him to establish a winery and refine his ideas and his understanding of the terroirs with which he wants to work. The way Leroux has structured this side of his business is highly innovative. His aim has been to create the same quality standards of the finest Domaines, despite not owning most of the vineyards. He has long-term relationships with the growers that he works with, some of which he pays by the area of land rather than the quantity of fruit harvested. This allows him to dictate lower yields, ripeness, date of harvest, and so on. He only works with high quality growers who plough or do not use herbicides or pesticides. Most are organic or biodynamic. For those that are not there is an understanding that they will move to organics over a five-year period. Leroux’s knowledge of the Côte is encyclopedic and he has been able to unearth some very interesting, previously hardly known sources for his portfolio. It’s important not to underestimate how close Leroux works these growers as that is one of the keys to his ability to coax the finest fruit quality from the vineyards. It goes without saying that he never buys juice or finished wine, only fruit, and that he nominates the harvest dates and will pick himself if necessary. A total of 120 barrels were produced in his first vintage, 2007 and some of the cuvees offered had already been produced by Leroux for a number of years at Comte Armand. These wines have now come across to the Benjamin Leroux label. With the vintages 2009 and 2010, Leroux has the first great vintages with which to work and the wines do not disappoint. As the Jancis Robinson/Burghound quote above makes clear, Leroux is considered one of the most gifted and knowledgeable wine growers in all of the Côte d’Or. It only suffices to ask any other serious producer about Leroux to realize the respect he has garnered amongst his colleagues in the region. He was always considered a prodigy, studying at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune from the age of 13 and taking the reins at the esteemed Domaine Comte Armand when he was only 26. Leroux’s success with the Domaine’s wines over the last decade has well justified the decision to appoint such a young man to run the show. He continues to manage Comte Armand despite now having his own range of wines (another sign of how well respected he is). While his range includes many famous terroirs, Leroux is determined only to work with vineyards that have been well managed and produce outstanding fruit, regardless of whether or not they have famous names. This makes sense, Leroux’s knowledge of Burgundy’s countless terroirs runs deep and producers like him are waking up the wine world to the fact that the reputation of many Côte d’Or vineyards has as much to do with the producers who work them than any intrinsic qualities of the sites themselves.
NEAL MARTIN - WINE ADVOCATE
The 2016 Bourgogne Aligoté is a new addition to the range and comes from old vines. Benjamin had a lot of empty barrels and so he thought it would be a good opportunity to "park" some Aligoté instead of risking the barrels drying out and becoming unclean. It has a light perfumed bouquet with dried honey and tangerine notes. The palate is balanced with a smooth opening, a touch of spice and a brisk, slightly saline finish. This is a fine debut.