“The Natural Heir to Henri Jayer”: 2016 Benjamin Leroux

Posted on: 10/4/18 12:00 PM

Ben Leroux

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. Just two examples:

“… wines … that rank alongside the illustrious names of Burgundy. He certainly has the gift of touch that seems to elevate everything from village crus to grand crus. ” – Neal Martin

“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. I can’t stress just how good these wines are, with legs to age, but an undeniable glory in their youth. Loading up here is not just wise … it’s necessary!

2016 Benjamin Leroux: Les Rouges

2016 Leroux Savigny les Beaune Rouge

Burghound: mostly from Les Fourneaux with declassified 1er Hauts Jarrons as well. “There is enough reduction to suppress the underlying fruit though there is very good density to the subtle mineral-inflected flavors that deliver excellent length for a villages level wine on the balanced if mildly rustic finish. Very good quality here and the influence of the 1er is evident. Note that I would suggest decanting this if you’re going to open a bottle young.” ♥ Outstanding, Top value

2016 Leroux Volnay

Burghound: Leroux noted that this cuvée contains 80% declassified young vine 1ers in 2016, mostly from Santenots and Mitans. “A notably more elegant nose offers up excellent freshness to the pure red cherry, spice and warm earth nuances. The sleek, intense and beautifully textured middle weight flavors possess a lacy but punchy finish where a hint of salinity appears. This is lovely and again, the influence of the 1ers is very much in evidence.” ♥ Outstanding, Top value

2016 Leroux Gevrey Chambertin

Neal Martin: The 2016 Gevrey Chambertin Villages was two-thirds in tank and the remainder in a single foudre. There are scents of Bakewell tart and bilberry on the nose, nicely defined and pretty, almost Chambolle-esque. The palate is well balanced with sappy red berry fruit, a fine structure behind it with a tightly wound, slightly attenuated finish that will open up with bottle age. One to watch!”

Tanzer: “Good dark red. Subtly complex aromas of redcurrant, smoky underbrush and dried rose petal. A lovely silky, lightly saline midweight with noteworthy red berry intensity. Like the Vougeot Clos du Village and Savigny-lès-Beaune, this wine finished its malolactic fermentation very early. This is normally Leroux’s largest cuvée (about 10,000 bottles per year) and does not include any declassified premier cru fruit in 2016. Should make a terrific village wine.” 90-92 pts.

2016 Leroux Vosne Romanee

Neal Martin: “The 2016 Vosne Romanee Villages is an expanded cuvée since Leroux takes all the fruit from his contractors. It has an engaging bouquet with a gorgeous red cherry and strawberry bouquet laced with violets. The palate is medium-bodied with supple red and black fruit, quite a good backbone for a village cru partly from whole bunch (50+%) with a detailed finish. Recommended.”

Tanzer: “Good deep red. Very subtle aromas and flavors of dark berries, spices, minerals and violet, plus a minty nuance. Suave, classy village wine with a fine-grained texture and a long, pliant finish. This lovely wine finished its malolactic fermentation early and will get an early bottling.” 89-91 pts.

2016 Leroux Volnay 1er Cru Clos de Cave de Ducs Monopole

Neal Martin: “The 2016 Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Caves des Ducs, which has 50% whole-bunch fruit, has a transparent, red cherry and crushed strawberry bouquet that opens with more confidence than the Les Mitans. The palate has a fine bone structure, quite focused and grainy in the mouth with a keen thread of acidity, quite stern toward the finish but you have to admire the detail here. This has great potential.” 91-93 pts.

2016 Leroux Volnay 1er Cru Mitans

Neal Martin: “The 2016 Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans, which had not been racked, had a tightly wound, slightly laconic bouquet with straightforward redcurrant and cranberry fruit laced with loamy scents. The palate is medium-bodied with grippy and chalky tannin, the red fruit overtaken by black fruit toward the finish that is Pommard-like in style. Good potential. Cerebral and quite delicious.” 90-92

Posted in Burgundy List By Ian Halbert