Embarrassingly Good: 2016 Benjamin Leroux Whites
Posted on: 07/10/18 12:00 PM
Talents like Benjamin Leroux are rare, once in a generation, really. Plaudits have been pouring in from day one, with comparisons to other once-in-a-generation talents, such as Henri Jayer. After a star turn at Comte Armand, Leroux set out on his own, with a micro-négoce project that sought out some of the more overlooked crus in Burgundy – Chassagne 1er Embazées or Volnay 1er Cave de Château des Ducs, for example.
But the new Maison was also rooted in supreme value, with Bourgognes and Village wines that overdelivered and often included declassified juice in the blends. As the house has matured, Ben has been able to secure contracts in some of Burgundy’s greatest terroirs – Chambolle 1er Amoureuses, Clos de la Roche, Bâtard-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, et al. – and now he is able to produce one of the most stunning arrays of wines in all of Burgundy.
The 2016s are flat out gorgeous. I have tasted them both from barrel and from bottle. The whites bristle with energy, are wonderfully complex and impressively long. What has been a very strong house has become one of the strongest sources for exceptional quality in all of Burgundy. Buy liberally here – you can hardly go wrong.
From previous offers: I would like to call Ben Leroux’ wines “Domaine,” rather than négociant. I know, technically, it’s not correct. After all, Benjamin only owns a small passel of his own vines, but he farms the vines himself or works only with growers who adhere to and follow the same strict demands he employed himself at Comte Armand, namely lutte raisonnée or biodynamism. There are no herbicides or pesticides employed in any of the vineyards and the rows are ploughed by horse. At present, more than 50% of the vineyards he exploits are certified organic or biodynamic.
Suffice to say, after his star turn with Comte Armand, and with the impressive results from his upstart Maison Benjamin Leroux, the press has been wild for these impressively opulent, intensely mineral and beautifully crafted wines.
“You may remember that when I asked Allen Meadows, aka Burghound, on this video who he thought might be a natural heir to the late great Henri Jayer of Burgundy, one of the two people he cited was young Benjamin Leroux of Domaine Comte Armand.” – Jancis Robinson, January 2009
In the cellar, the winemaking is as demanding and detail-oriented as it was at Comte Armand. The reds are also naturally fermented in tank or barrel fermented, depending on the appellation. Oak is used judiciously, no more than 40% new for any of the wines. Benjamin prefers, instead, to let the vineyards speak for themselves, prizing the purity of the fruit and natural concentration achieved by rigorous work in the vineyards.
It should be noted that, Benjamin has focused on Puligny and Volnay, and his style fits these appellations excellently: elegant, but powerful; regal, and seductive; aromatically intense and yet long and bright on the palate. Simply put, these wines are exceptional and I cannot recommend them to you more strongly.
After my visit to his winery and tasting through the range for several vintages now, I am convinced that these are wines to get in front of, as they represent some of the best work coming out of Burgundy today.
Benjamin Leroux represents the new order in Burgundy – wines that age miraculously and show their terroirs beautifully, and yet have a suavity and purity of fruit that drinks wonderfully well young.
“An airy and restrained nose offers up notes of apple, pear and plenty of citrus elements. There is solid volume to the delicious and round medium-bodied flavors that evidence a discreet minerality on the citrusy and moderately dry finish.” – Burghound
“Aromas of white-fleshed fruit, lavender, hazelnut and a hint of brown butter lead to rich, concentrated and minerally middle weight flavors that display very good detail before culminating in a youthfully austere, sappy and more complex finish. This is a quality Meursault villages and worth your interest.” ♥ – Burghound
“Here too there is a touch of matchstick sitting atop the aromas of pear liqueur, acacia blossom and soft oak wisps. The caressing, supple and seductively textured flavors contrast somewhat with the notably intense, moderately complex and solidly persistent finish.” – Burghound
2016 Chassagne 1er Embazées
“Though there is enough reduction to mask the fruit today, there is by contrast good freshness to the medium-bodied flavors that possess a caressing mouth feel that carries over to the lightly mineral-infused finale that is clean and agreeably dry.” – Burghound
2016 Meursault 1er Genevrières Dessous
“A restrained nose consists of petrol and matchstick though with much more subtle wood influence. The mouth feel of the middle weight flavors is noticeably finer as well as a bit more mineral-inflected if not quite as concentrated, all wrapped in a relatively delicate, balanced and impressively persistent finish. Lovely.” – Burghound
Meadows’ note is awkward. I have tasted this now twice, and what was an intensely backward wine is now coming together to reveal its underlying class and complexity. For lovers of minerality and length, this rapier of a wine is a monument to both.
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