Who was he?
Pierre Leroy de Boiseaumarié (1890-1967) was the son of a cavalry officer. Following in his father’s military footsteps, he served as a fighter pilot (becoming a flying ace), in World War I, then went on to read law at Montpellier University. In 1919 he married Edmée Bernard le Saint who owned a château and vineyard in Châteauneuf du Pape in Vaucluse. There he became a winegrower.
How did he become so influential?
His first-class knowledge of the law, good public speaking skills and excellent powers of persuasion Baron Leroy as he was known – the perfect figure to head up the local winegrowing community at a time when the wine economy was in crisis.
How did he go about it?
In 1923 he set up a Winegrowers’ Syndicate in his own village, the aim being to achieve official recognition for a future Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation and eliminate fraudulent use of the appellation name. 6 years later he persuaded the vast majority of Rhône Valley wine producers to join him, and together they formed the Côtes du Rhône Winegrowers’ Union. They would go on to create a Côtes du Rhône appellation, setting parameters to control production and ensure quality. All growers from across the whole Côtes du Rhône region were eligible to join; there was just one condition, that “products would not be sold under the Côtes du Rhône name, regional or local, unless they consistently complied with traditional local practice, and were made from the classic local varietals grown on the hillsides”.
Grapes grown in alluvial soils or on the plains, and wines made from ‘outside’ varietals were excluded.
Yes, it all went well. Baron Leroy’s project won the approval of CNAOC, the Comité National des Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (forerunner of INAO) in 1937, which led to the official introduction of the Côtes du Rhône AOC.