Article - RareWine Academy - 19. January 2021

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy - The Most Powerful Woman In The World Of Wine

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy is, by any standards, a true legend when it comes to the production of legendary wines from Burgundy. Read this portrait of "The Queen of Burgundy"...

“There is no winemaking and no winemaker in Burgundy! We are guardians. We watch, we observe, we make some decisions but it is the grapes that come first - they guide us. Our job is to look, observe and try to understand."

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, in an interview in 2017 with Forbes.

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy - "The Queen Of Burgundy"

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy has been widely known for years as the "Queen of Burgundy" and one of the most powerful women in wine. Today, she is behind the most expensive red wine sold in the world, as well as white wines that bring tears of joy to even the greatest wine lovers, if you are lucky enough to even get close to her almost legendary wines. At almost 89 years old (born 3 March 1932), Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy is indeed a living legend, and she is still active both in the vineyards and on the estate.

Few people have influenced the ’rise-to-fame’ of Burgundy as much as Henry Jayer, Anne-Claude Leflaive, and then Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. And if the great Henry Jayer is often referred to as the "King of Burgundy", surely Madame Leroy must be the rightful inheritor of the throne as the "Queen of Burgundy".

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy Is An Uncompromising Businesswoman

If we look at the current situation for a moment, 88-year-old Madame Leroy is in charge of no less than three companies: a negociant business called Maison Leroy, the Domaine d'Auvenay, and Domaine Leroy. The last-mentioned is the name behind the most expensive wine in the world, produced on the almost mythical grand cru vineyard Musigny. This wine is traded for around €40,000 in the 2015 vintage.

The Maison Leroy negociant business is a classic trade business, as you would associate it with Burgundy. Here, Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy runs the negociant business with all her values in mind, and therefore only the best grapes are purchased. Most of the wines are made from grapes from parcels where Bize-Leroy and her people tend the vines themselves throughout the season. This ensures raw material of the highest quality.

Domaine Leroy was founded in 1988, as Madame Leroy had problems purchasing enough grapes for her negociant business. She acquired the Domaine George Noellat and thus got the first vineyards into the portfolio, which has since been expanded by further acquisitions. Today, Domaine Leroy owns about 23 hectares of vineyards at some of the most attractive addresses in Burgundy.

Domaine d'Auvenay is the country house where Lalou Bize-Leroy lives herself. The estate is located in the hills behind the golden slope of Saint-Romain. She lives here with her husband, and together they operate this micro-domaine according to biodynamic principles. In total, the domain has just over 4 hectares, making it an almost microscopic production.

All three companies are operated according to biodynamic principles. The right preparations are used, and the wine is only made when the stars and moon are in the right position. All wines are to be considered as benchmarks in Burgundy, and they are only produced in very small quantities.

Domaine Leroy Wines Selection of the almost mythical wines from Domaine Leroy

Baptised In Mythical Red Wine - The Story Of Madame Bize-Leroy

Marcelle "Lalou" Bize-Leroy was born into a real wine family in 1932. The family business, Maison Leroy, was founded by her great-grandfather back in 1868. Lalou's own father, Henri Leroy, decided from birth to "baptize" his daughter with the precious drops of the family's own wine from the legendary Musigny vineyard. So, he dribbled the 1929 Musigny vintage onto her lips, and so it was clear from an early age that wine was to occupy a very special place in Lalou's life. At the age of 23, Lalou was already involved in the daily business of the family winery.

And we can almost say that the adventure was completed in the most beautiful way when in 2018, after more than 20 years on the throne, Lalou dethroned the DRC - Romanée-Conti as the most expensive wine in the world - and it was precisely her Musigny wine that did it.

Madame Leroy In Charge Of Domaine De La Romanée-Conti

As if that was not enough, the story of Madame Leroy's importance to Burgundy is only strengthened when examining her CV in more detail. In addition to the Maison Leroy, the family also owned 50% of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), which was already at the time considered one of the top producers in Burgundy.

The DRC became Lalous's second home, where she made her apprenticeship and was coached by her father Henri. So, it was only natural that she was promoted to co-manager in 1973, along with the well-known Aubert de Villaine, who still runs the DRC today. In the following years, the two of them together lifted the DRC into the absolute super league of producers, and still today DRC is in a league of its own. Together, they introduced organic methods of cultivation, as well as even more precision in the vineyard and cellar. In 1992, Lalou stopped working for the DRC, and Aubert de Villaine has been running the estate ever since. To this day, Madame Leroy owns 25% of the DRC but does not take part in the daily business.

Maison Leroy

Back in 1971, she took charge of Maison Leroy and began insisting on raising the quality. Not an easy time for a principled woman at an executive level, but Lalou did and still does things in her own determined way. So, she steadfastly decided to buy only the absolute best grapes, avoiding the popular Pinot Noir clones that gave high yields but low quality.

The uncompromising selection of grapes resulted in vintages with few bottles for sale, but her innate talent and commitment to quality proved fruitful over time. Today, Maison Leroy stands for some of the finest negociant wines from Burgundy, and even wines that are in excellent balance and with great potential for development.

Domaine Leroy

In 1998, Bize-Leroy acquired her first vineyards and founded the Domaine Leroy. Here, Lalou introduced biodynamic cultivation, entirely according to the principles of Rudolf Steiner - and was thereby one of the very first top producers in Burgundy to take such drastic steps.

In the beginning, people shook their heads, not least in 1993. There was a high level of humidity on the Cote d'Or, which caused mildew to spread rapidly in the vineyards. The conventional winegrowers sprayed, Madame Bize-Leroy's biodynamic principles forbade her to spray, and she lost a large part of the harvest. Ultimately, when her microscopic amount of wine from 1993 came onto the market, the quality was exactly the superior level she wanted. With her cynicism and adherence to principle, she has not always made friends in the neighborhood, but her wines earn praise from every corner of the world.

Today, Madame Bize-Leroy owns about 23 hectares of vineyards where the grapes for Domaine Leroy are harvested. Among them are some of the most prominent vineyards such as Le Chambertin, Musigny, Richebourg, and some other grand cru vineyards. The beautiful line-up also counts a wide range of the superior premier cru vineyards in Burgundy.

Domaine d’Auvenay

The Domaine d'Auvenay is the latest project for Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. This is where Lalou lives with her husband and makes her smallest productions. The estate is located in Saint-Romain and has four hectares of vineyards that are bottled under this name. These micro-productions are also among the most sought-after in the wine world due to their high quality and small productions. The productions have to be counted in single barrels. Nevertheless, these are some of the best vineyards in Burgundy, on which Lalou has acquired parcels. Chevalier-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, and Bâtard-Montrachet as the three most beautiful white wine vineyards, and then there are the two outstanding grand cru vineyards Bonnes Mares and Mazis-Chambertin, from which red wine is produced. It is hard to imagine better raw material, and when interpreted with Lalou's usual eye for perfection, these are also wines of the highest standards.

Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy - the most powerful woman in the world of wine.

Future Benchmarks And Investment Assets

Well, dear Madame Leroy will soon be 89 years old, but there is no indication that she intends to rest on her laurels. Everything is set, and her parcels are sharply positioned in the best areas of Burgundy. They have been cultivated according to biodynamic principles for several decades, which has created rich wildlife in the vineyards. In this way, the vineyards achieve a good balance, which helps to strengthen the vineyard's own immune system. As a result, the vineyards are no longer so susceptible to powdery mildew, as they were when mentioned in 1993. The natural balance in the vineyard protects against many of the classic wine diseases as we know them.

In recent years, the wines of Domaine Leroy in particular have also been among those that have experienced the greatest price increases and shown the greatest resilience to external crises such as Corona. There is already speculation that the day will come from which Madame Leroy will retire from work to enjoy life, and at that time a distinction will be made between before and after ‘Madame Leroy’. The wines she produced herself will rise disproportionately more in price than the wines that come after. So here is an opportunity to make a really good investment before it is too late - if you are lucky enough to get anywhere near Lalou's legendary wines.

Madame Leroy On Top Of The Power 100 List

Every year in January, the English wine exchange, Liv-Ex, publishes a list of the 100 most powerful brands in the world of wine, and this year's list has just been revealed. The Liv-ex Power 100 list for 2020 is topped by none other than Domaine Leroy, which is yet another testimony that Madame Leroy is by far the most powerful woman in the world of wine. In 2019, Domaine Leroy was to be found in 3rd place, and in addition, it is now the 3rd year in a row that Domaine Leroy is to be found in the top 5 on the Liv-ex Power 100 list.

Among the criteria on which the list is based include year-on-year price development, trade value, trade activity, number of wines, number of vintages, and average price across all wines from the producer in question.

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