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Richard Leroy Les Rouliers 2011

Richard Leroy Les Rouliers 2011

Phew. At last.

I’ve had this bottle sitting on the top shelf of my kitchen wine fridge for more than a few weeks (given that cigars are stored in a humidor, there is surely a more elegant name for my ‘wine fridge’ than that, but whatever it is it escapes me). Indeed I suspect it has been lingering there for more than a few weeks, because I tend to empty my cellar into my wine fridge in large and infrequent batches, so some bottles can sit there for quite a while before I get around to pulling the cork. This weekend I finally decided that moment had come for the 2011 Les Rouliers from Richard Leroy.

I have been meaning to check in on this particular vintage for some time, my last bottle having been back in August 2015, four years ago. When I originally tasted it from barrel, two years prior to that, it had shown a lightly mineral and gently reductive character, all well and good. Its potential was clear. Returning to it in 2015, however, and tasting it from bottle for the first time, I was taken aback by the powerfully reductive character on the nose. This went beyond the charming flinty and matchsticky aroma of reduction (which has more to do with the presence of volatile sulphur compounds than the word ‘reduction’ would suggest) to a more eggy character which suggested the presence of a high level of hydrogen sulphide. So much so that, while I have long admired Richard’s wines, in that state I found the wine close to undrinkable (although, naturally, I did my best).

Richard Leroy Les Rouliers 2011

Back in 2015 I put the rest of my bottles into the cellar. I accidentally bought more than I intended too (oops!) and at the time I was concerned this might be an error which I would come to regret. Four years on, though, with prices rising stratospherically (something I predicted would happen to Winedoctor subscribers years ago), and frozen out of any allocation of the microscopic frosted 2016 vintage in favour of the trade (I bet Robert Parker never had that problem), I realise I should perhaps be grateful for what stock I have. I resolved to check in on them again before too long, but I had a dilemma. I didn’t want to check in too soon as it was clear that the degree of reduction here would not resolve overnight. But I didn’t want to leave it too late as zero-sulphite cuvées do not always survive as well as you might hope in the cellar. I had no experience with this sort of wine on which to make a certain judgement. I settled on about four years. And so here I am, late in 2019, pulling the cork.

The 2011 Les Rouliers from Richard Leroy displays a really quite a rich golden hue, a slightly darker pigment than I would have otherwise expected, and in truth a little worrying. The aromatic profile, however, seems very true to that which I found four years ago, starting off dominated by the aromas of matchstick and flint. There are some notes of sour orchard fruit coming in from behind, but it is still those reductive elements that really dominate. They have a much less forceful hold on the wine than they once did though, and the slightly offensive notes of hydrogen sulphide have at least faded away. And the palate is a real charmer now, really quite pure and precise, certainly minerally, a swirling mass of flinty and matchsticky reduction, but countered by some substantial textural elements and a fine acidity. While this is a wine which remains aloof, brooding and even rather surly, I can certainly enjoy drinking this now, although to me it still feels like a wine that speaks of future promise. All in all this is very good, but it still needs to be left alone in the cellar I think. I shall adopt a ‘hands off’ policy, but the question is for how long? Another four years, maybe? 96/100 (16/9/19)

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