Visiting Benjamin Leroux

There are few producers who incite a real excitement within me before visiting their estate.  These are not necessarily the top tier producers like Cathiard, Leroy or Anne Gros (although don’t get me wrong, I was totally amazed being in their cellars), but instead winemakers who rarely produce hardly a bottle that disappoints, and Benjamin Leroux is one of those special winemakers.

Leroux has been steadily improving his technique in making both white and red wines, although sometimes criticized for being “too gifted” with his white wines.  This is a fair statement.  When we recently visited the estate, the 2016 vintage of Batard Montrachet, Auxey Duresses Blanc, Chassagnes (especially the “Tete du Clos” among the 1er Crus) were as good as any I have tried over the years.  However we were equally stunned by his Nuits St Georges, Volnays and Gevrey Chambertins.  These reds were sophisticated, inviting and pure.

To achieve his steady, high performance, Leroux maintains strong communication ties with the vineyard owners from whom he sources his grapes.   He is highly involved with the vineyard management, right up until the harvest.

While in the cellar, Leroux showed us an empty bottle of his Bourgogne Rouge marked as ‎€30.  This surprised me, and as I grappled for the reason behind this price jump Benjamin put me at ease.  It was a joke.   Made the day before by a Danish importer who was visiting and truly thought the quality of the wine deserved twice the price.  And he was not far off, Leroux’s Bourgogne is one of the first class Bourgognes due to the declassification of more than 50% of Santenay, Monthelie villages & etc.

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Leroux has also commented that in the markets like the UK, the US and Japan, he is exporting everything in screw caps even with his Grands Crus – believing in better preserving of the wines and less problem caused by the corks of lesser quality.  This is not something the Hong Kong market is ready for just yet, as the screw cap is still strongly associated to inexpensive wines and that it could even take from the pleasure of the sommelier opening a bottle.  Despite these speed bumps, it probably implies the upcoming trend of what’s ahead for the Hong Kong & China market.

 

– Jessica Chan

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