Beyond elusive … not even in my dreams. The red grands crus of Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay are both very rare and very costly, but the whites are even further away from the snout of the Winehog.
Both the Chevalier-Montrachet and the Batard-Montrachet are in what I would call a league of their own, not to mention the d’Auvenay Criots-Batard-Montrachet and the focus of this article, Leroy Corton-Charlemagne. Even Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Montrachet is struggling to keep up price-wise with these rarest of gems.
So while the d’Auvenay and Leroy whites are relatively unknown to the broader wine world, they are in high demand by the lucky few who can afford such treats, and who don’t blanch at shelling out for them.
Domaine Leroy and d’Auvenay – a bit of background
Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy is the leading lady of Burgundy, with her roots in the very prestigious Maison Leroy that was founded by her great-grandfather Francois Leroy in 1868 – although he was selling wine already in 1851.
His son, Joseph Leroy, expanded the business, and his grandson Henri Leroy in 1942 acquired a large share in Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from Jacques Chambon, thus becoming co-owner with the de Villaine family.
In 1988, Mme. Bize-Leroy founded a new estate, Domaine Leroy, now one of the most prestigious estates in Burgundy.
Two years later, Mme. Bize-Leroy took over her father’s home and estate, Domaine d’Auvenay, buying out her older sister Pauline Roch (1929-2009). She then began to expand the estate with vineyards in both the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune – red and white – creating a boutique domaine alongside Domaine Leroy and Maison Leroy.
With a large share in DRC, Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay, Mme. Bize-Leroy is a both prominent and dominant force in Burgundy, owning plots in almost all the top grand-cru vineyards from Montrachet to the Vosne-Romanée grands crus to Musigny, Bonnes-Mares and Chambertin. And also Corton-Charlemagne, to complete the list.
Corton-Charlemagne – at the top, yet not matching the top Montrachets
Corton-Charlemagne is considered by many to be the best white vineyard outside Puligny and Chassagne (perhaps not counting the elusive white Musigny).
In my world, the classification is correct in general: Montrachet first, Chevalier- and Batard-Montrachet second and third, and Criots- and Bievenues-Batard-Montrachet fourth (and sometimes third in the best cases).
Tasting a great Corton-Charlemagne, however, does make me wonder if it’s not on a par with Criots and Bienvenues. Even Meursault Perrieres is in this league when made by Coche-Dury. So perhaps the classification should be:
- Meursault Perrieres
The Domaine Leroy plots of Corton-Charlemagne
Mme. Bize-Leroy acquired her parcel of Corton-Charlemagne just after establishing Domaine Leroy in 1988, as the first vintage she produced of the wine was 1989. Please note that Maison Leroy – her negociant business – also produced Corton-Charlemagne from time to time.
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Adam Vignola says
I’m curious about your thoughts on pricing for Domaine Leroy/ Leroy,d’Auvenay, Coche-Dury, and Raveneau just to name a few producers…to be honest. It would seem to me….they totally obliterate the idea of “Terroir” with their pricing on their village-level wines. Raveneau’s $150 dollars for Petite Chablis. Leroy’s $2000 nearly for a village-level Nuit St-George (Aux Bas de Combe, etc)…Coche-Dury $1200+ for Village-level Meursault Les Chevalieres…..or even worse Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay $2500 for Village-level Les Narvaux in Meursault. I get your initial reaction is to reply always consider the producer first. Well, then how is not the case that the producer model from Bordeaux Classification a better classification than Bourgogne? (I’m a Burgundy fan – Devil’s advocate) …if your whole pitch as a Burgundy producer is our classification is superior……and the reason is that this piece of land is better than the one next to it in producing world-class wines. Yet, you ask this of the consumer to pay $1500 for Les Vignots a Village level Pommard in the midst of Pommard trying to get Epenots and Les Rugiens promoted to GC status……I’m perplexed how this isn’t a “spit-in-the face” of “magic” of terroir and the brilliance of the Bourgogne Classification structure. To wrap up….yes, we can fall back on the reliance and say “Terroir” can take into account the hand of “man” (though, that idea has become less fashionable in the age of Natural Wines – I digress)….but clearly a blended GC white from Alsace or red wine from Bordeaux would demonstrate someone is assembling those wines…as opposed to monocepage winemaking….but I just find Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy pricing to be a bit over the top along with the rest mentioned above. I will add…I don’t mind paying $100 – $200 on a bottle of wine. (on occasion)…more even if I was more wealthy….but at some level….. the “best value” is lost on these producers. $150 for Petite Chablis when I can drink Les Clos for the same- if your answer contains the remark “Well, Raveneau’s Petite Chablis is worth it”….then we are back to “What is Terroir?”. If Coche-Dury $1000 village-level Les Rougeots is so much better than Domaine Henri Boillot $150 Les Perrieres….then again…..it’s like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real…I’m starting to doubt “terroir” isn’t mostly….man’s hand…..meaning Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy’s wines are worth their stratospheric pricing …and terroir relies much less on the soil/ microclimate and the vintage. Happy to hear what your thoughts are on the subject. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Steen Öhman says
Prices and top end Burgundies are difficult … as the supply is often much lower than the demand. From what I know many of the expensive bottles are not very expensive from the estates – but demand push the prices in the secondary market. I know that Leroy is very expensive from the estate .. but Roumier and Coche Dury are not frightfully expensive from the estate … from what I hear.
Adam Vignola says
The Finacial Times has an excellent article by Jancis today…..free last I looked – Would you pay £6,000 for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc?. Not to push….but you dodged the question. If I had unlimited money….it wouldn’t matter, would it? I’m asking if charging $2500 at the cellar door or on a secondary market….for village-level wine……basically torpedoes the whole “Terroir” mantra. Domaine Jean Yves Bizot Marsannay Clos du Roy sells for nearly $700. It can’t be if that’s what they can get so be it….and on the other hand…..you need to respect the price for wines from this vineyard….because it’s so unique to this mystique we call “terroir”.
….but there are just too many pricing anomalies, from too many producers, for me to ignore – either blatant price gouging….or a thumb in the nose to the concept of “terroir” …as clearly it’s not as big of a factor as we are told to believe.
Steen Öhman says
I do agree that the grey market prices are crazy for some wines. And sometimes these are more or less induced by the producer pricing.
I do still think that terroir is important … but also the location of the plot within the vineyard, the grape clone and the grower … plays a huge role .. just to mention a few factors. Jean Yves Bizot Marsannay Clos du Roy is a very good wine … 700$ is more than I can pay … and is influenced by the quantities offered and the attraktivity of the producer – the Vosne villages are not cheap either.
Burgundy is certainly not for the poor … but there are many exciting terroirs
Adam Vignola says
I had time to think about this question. Obviously, the secondary market is separate as this market is driven solely and exclusively by demand. Further clarification is needed because I certainly don’t want to say that Les Amoureuses or Cros Parantoux are expected to be priced less than any Grand Cru in Musigny or VR. That’s a nonsensical position to take and I don’t believe that to be true. First and foremost is the fact that these are (To steal from Parker) are super 2nd premier crus. (in artful but works) However, Raveneau’s $150 dollars Petite Chablis does grate on me because it seems to throw the whole concept of terroir out the window (Especially, if you know a little history about Petite Chablis) – Along with some of the clearly “ex-cellar” pricing offers from Leroy Coche-Dury. And, here’s the point about these maps you painstakingly put together….does it matter as much as you say? Henri Jayer is always going to get more for his Les Brulees than Francois Confuron-Gindre Les Brulees ($7,000 to less than $100). Here’s where you may argue that’s what these maps show…..Jayer’s vines are way better placed on the slope “see look at my Google earth photo.”….$6,900+ better positioned? I can’t imagine the quantities are so dramatically different What one guy makes 600 bottles and the other 450 bottles?? Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy is long been reported to reduce yields in the vineyard (and pick late, to be honest)…to make these limited quantities wines. Whether or not her yields need to be as low as she keeps them is a debatable question. Here, I find more honor in contrasting Aubert De Villaine’s pricing. He doesn’t price his Bouzeron unreasonably nor his California wines. He could be like Lalou and price gouge if he wanted too but he doesn’t. She apparently makes great wines I’m told and I have no doubt she does. However, she’s remarkably “Teflon” in escaping any criticism…..in English print at least…..perhaps as it is rumored….. not in private conversation.
Adam Vignola says
7. Meursault Perrieres
What would make up your next 5 white wine vineyards by rank? Le Clos? Genevrières? Les Caillerets? Les Pucelles? Les Folatieres? I’d be interested in your thoughts.