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Posts Tagged ‘Clos des Epeneaux’

Successor to Henri Jayer?

Ben Leroux, it is whispered in reverent tones, may well succeed to the mantle of Henri Jayer as Burgundy’s emblematic winemaker.  Still only 35, Ben is, in the words of Allen Meadows, “extremely thoughtful . . . positively brilliant . . . one of, if not the, most gifted young winemaker in all of Burgundy.” While continuing as the régisseur at Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand),  Ben Leroux now also operates a boutique négociant operation in Beaune near Maison Bichot, just off the  périphérique, in a rented facility that he shares with Dominique Lafon.

Much as Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Leroux determined to become a vigneron at any early age, and despite not coming from a winemaking family, enrolled in Beaune’s Lycée Viticole when he was 13. Upon graduation, he took a Diploma in Oenology at Dijon University, and in 1990-1992 apprenticed to the brilliant and charismatic Pascal Marchand, who was at that time a 29 year-old wunderkind at the Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand).  Leroux rounded out his practical training in Bordeaux at Cos d’Estournel, subsequently with universally-respected Jacques Lardière at Maison Louis Jadot, and, finally, with Marcel Geisen in New Zealand. In 1999, when Pascal Marchand accepted new challenges at Domaine de la Vougeraie, Pascal selected Ben as his successor at Domaine des Epeneaux.

Ben intends to keep Maison Benjamin Leroux as a small, niche operation, producing fine wines from interesting or under-appreciated terroirs, working only with grapes (not must or young wine) that he carefully selects for quality. He has invested in top-of-the-line equipment and  exerts maximum control over his growers, converting them as possible to organic and biodynamic practices. Focusing currently on around a dozen wines, reds and whites.  Ben is already producing Burgundy of enormous character and remarkable quality.

Maison Leroux’s flagship wine is   Auxey-Duresses (blanc). The Chardonnay grapes are sourced  from three lieux-dits

Ben reviews technical notes with MW candidate Amy Christine of Veritas.

(La Macabrée, Les Hautés, and Les Boutonniers) situated in the Mont Melian section of Auxey, near the border with Meursault. The sourced parcels aggregate 2 hectares, and face east/southeast from an altitude of about 350meters. About half the vines are 25 years old; the other half 35 years old. The stony soil is white marl and limestone (22%) over a limestone base.

These parcels have heretofore been exploited by Comte Armand  and transformed by Ben Leroux into reference-standard Auxey-Duresses blanc.  Comte Armand has, however,  generously given over the rights to these parcels to aison Leroux.  The wine is a lean and racy analogue to Meursault, aromas of lime-blossom and hazelnut , and a fruit-forward and round mid-palate framed by crisp acidity.

Another of Maison Leroux’s noteworthy white wines is the village-level Puligny-Montrachet, which bears the unmistakable breeding of more exalted vineyards in Puligny.

One more fine wine from Maison Leroux is the Nuits-St-Georges, Aux Allots. Coming as it does from the section of Nuits closest to Vosne-Romanée, Leroux’s Aux Allots exhibits a measure of exotic spiciness together with elegant black and red fruit on the palate. Leroux also produces a spectacular Premier Cru Volnay from the tiny .64-hecatre monopole Clos-de-la-Cave-des-Ducs.

Although Ben Leroux is acknowledged as a technical master of scientific winemaking, he actually follows a very intuitive approach, which flows directly from his perception of biodynamics.  “For me,” Ben observes, “biodynamie is not a technique but a philosophy.”  In Ben’s weltanschauung, man has become disconnected more and more from nature of which he forms an integral part.   Rather than trying to impose our own rhythms on the outside physical world, Ben contends that it is just “common sense” to work harmoniously with the forces of nature, to attune ourselves with gravity, with the sun, with the cycles of the moon. Nevertheless, because  biodynamie is a philosophy and not a religion, Ben retains an open mind toward biodynamic techniques, and will, for example, abstain from “biodynamic treatments”, such as copper sulfate,  that he feels disrupt natural rhythms.

In the final analysis, the wines of Ben Leroux are so appealing precisely because his objective focuses on the human perspective. “For me,” he declares, “the goal is not a bottle of fine wine or exultant tasting notes. What interests me, instead, is to create memories of good times, of shared joy and happiness . .  . of what the French call bonhomie.”  Wine is ephemeral; memories abide.

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Pommard is a wine appellation that produces excellent red Burgundy. Wine so labeled must come from Pinot Noir vines planted in the commune of Pommard situated in the Côte-de-Beaune region of the Cote d’Or department of Burgundy in eastern France.    

South of Beaune are found the two communes, Pommard and Volnay, whose wines (apart from the Grands Crus of Corton) comprise the finest red wines of the Côte-de-Beaune.  The name Pommard, by tradition, derives from Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees and orchards, to whom early Gauls dedicated a temple on the site. This is the same goddess Pomona who    

The goddess Pomona

appears in full golden mufti on the Great Seal of the City of Los Angeles and whose bare pulchritude is captured by a demure statue now situate in the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.    

The commune of Pommard lies immediately adjacent to Beaune, and begins at the point where the Route forks into the Autun Road (RN 73) and the RN 74. Pommard is generally square-shaped with a center band, running more or less north-south, containing the 24 Premier Cru parcels totalling 125.19 hectares,  and 211.63 hectares of village-level Pommard. Total production averages around 13,532 hectoliters of wine per year, entirely red. There are presently no Grands Crus although Rugiens-Bas is expected to be promoted and Clos des Epeneaux would also be deserving.    

The prime vineyards in Pommard are generally thought to be located either on the Beaune side, where are found Les Pézerolles and Les Epenots; or to the south of the village, notably Rugiens-Bas. Interestingly, these two sections produce wines of distinct contrast. The stonier, better-drained soils of Les Pézerolles and Les Epenots produced finer, more delicate wines, whereas the iron-rich, clay soil of Rugiens-Bas produces more powerful and richer wines.    

Pommard

The vineyards of Pommard generally face south and southeast. The soil is somewhat varied in the commune, although there prevails generally a subsoil base Argovian limestone with an admixture of ferrous clay and marl. The thinner and rockier soils are found, not surprisingly, on the slopes above the city toward Beaune; and these give way to increasingly ferrous clay soils as the slope continues downward toward Volnay. Only in the area above the Epenots wall, along the Autun Road, is there much calcareous debris and pebbles.    

Among the finest producers of Pommard are Domaine de Montille and Comte Armand (Clos des Epeneaux).

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