Domaine Leroy Volnay-Santenots du Milieu (signs of past seepage) 2009
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
No name enlivens and ignites a discussion of Burgundy as quickly as Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. She is unrelenting in every way, from her personality to how she runs her business to the quality of the wine in the bottle. The Leroy family’s 50% ownership of Domaine Romanée-Conti gave Lalou ample ability to amass the deepest and most revered cellar in Burgundy during the past six decades. Speculation is rampant about its size and holdings; only one person knows for sure. Today, Lalou is the force behind three domaines: Maison Leroy, Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay.
The story of the Leroy family’s dominance in the wine world began more than a century ago, in 1868, when François Leroy founded Maison Leroy in Auxey-Duresses, a small village near Meursault. When Lalou’s father, Henri, joined the family business in 1919, the firm was already established as one of the greatest in Burgundy. Lalou joined her father in 1955, taking over the house in 1971.
Maison Leroy is the heart of the Leroy empire, a négociant house through which Lalou purchases and distributes wines from most appellations in Burgundy. With her legendary palate and stringent standards, she unearths some of the most thrilling wines of each vintage, then ages or finishes the wines herself, only releasing them to the market when she knows they are at their peak. Lalou never fails to impress with her unparalleled depth and understanding of the most hidden corners of Burgundy’s terroir.
On the hillsides between Pommard and Meursault, Volnay is one of two villages in the Côte de Beaune of Burgundy that is recognized for its extraordinary Pinot Noir. Pommard is the other; the rest of the villages are most known for some of the most exceptional Chardonnay in the world. While Volnay Pinot Noir tends to be light in color and more delicate than that of Pommard, they typically stand on par with each other in regards to quality and demand.
Volnay can’t claim any Grands Crus vineyards but more than half of it has achieved Premier Cru status. Volnay Premiers Crus vineyards stretch across the entire village from northeast to southwest, abutting and actually falling “into” Meursault. Where they merge is a vineyard called Les Santenots. Pinot Noir grows in this Meursault Premier Cru but since that village is most associated with stellar whites, the Pinot Noir from Les Santenots, takes the name Volnay Santenots. Immediately above it are Volnay’s other prized Premier Cru, Le Cailleret, Champans, Clos des Chênes and Le Cailleret.
Volnay Pinot Noir are earthy with red or blue fruit. Aromas such as smoke, herbs, forest, cocoa and spice are common and on the palate they are gorgeous and concentrated with finesse but won’t truly charm you without some age.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”