Someone whispered at our table, “the four toughest jobs in the world in order of difficulty: Winemaker of Domaine Leflaive, Mayor of New York City, Coach of Notre Dame Football and President of the United States.”
John and I were in New York to meet Eric Remy, Winemaker of Domaine Leflaive, and to taste his remarkable wines. Thirty folks sat down, as Eric introduced us to the Domaine, and took us thru some of the most extraordinary wines that are produced anywhere. Folks… tasting these wines? Hearing from the winemaker himself? Well… it just can’t get any better!
If you already know about Leflaive, you can skip to the next paragraph. It would be easy to say that Domaine Leflaive is the White Burgundy counterpart to Domaine Romanée Conti in Red Burgundy. But that doesn’t do justice either to Leflaive or Romanée Conti. Let me be direct… the wines of Domaine Leflaive are as essential to any cellar, as much as Ch. Latour is… or Giacosa Barolo, or Dominus or any other age worthy red wine. Leflaive Burgundies age out superbly in the cellar. And to think of Leflaive as a white wine to be pawned off on nuisance dinner guests, qualifies as a crime against wine! NO! These wines are to be savored, appreciated for their complexity, the layering of flavours, their rare combination of strength and finesse… the very same attributes that we love in great red wine!
Leflaive is great wine, and so little of the wine is made.
The History of the Domaine goes back to 1717 when Claude Leflaive settled in the Village of Puligny and began assembling parcels of vineyard around Puligny. But due to France’s inheritance laws, the size of the Domaine was trimmed to a mere 2 hectares by the turn of the 20th Century. In 1920 Joseph Leflaive took charge of the Domaine and began a period of acquisition. About 20 hectares were added bringing the size of the Domaine to 22.43 hectares with vineyards in 4 Grand Cru, 6 1er Cru, 5 Appellation Village and 2 Appellation Bourgogne (p.s. Ch. Lafite Rothschild, first Growth Bordeaux, farms 107 hectares). In 1990 Anne-Claude Leflaive and her cousin Olivier Leflaive became joint Managers of the Domaine. Olivier focused on his négociant business, and in 1993 Anne-Claude took sole control of the Domaine. Under Anne-Claude’s direction, Leflaive moved into biodynamic wine production, and today, along with Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, Leflaive is considered to be a leader in the field of biodynamism..
Eric Remy joined Leflaive in 2003 as assistant winemaker, and became winemaker in 2008 succeeding the legendary Pierre Morey. Following in the footsteps of a legend is never easy. But Remy has met the challenge square on with a level of confidence and skill that not only positions him as winemaker; but also Leflaive’s régisseur and vigneron. It speaks volumes to his talent that he is in complete charge of all wine operations at Leflaive, from vineyard, to winemaking, to managing the cellar and bottling. In today’s wine world it is a true rarity.
THE 2008 VINTAGE
Eric refers to this vintage as the “miracle vintage.” From the outset each phase of a growing cycle appeared threatened by one form of bad weather or another. After dodging the threat of mildew in May, and then oidium in July… the rainy weather at the end of August/beginning of September brought the specter of botrytis! And then the “miracle.” The north wind began to blow on September the 14th, and rescued the vintage as the whole of Burgundy saw ideal conditions return for the harvest. Cool, dry and sunny. Eric noted that the sugar levels were high and beautifully balanced with high level of acidity… and the wines produced were rounder in contrast to the angularity of the equally successful 2007 vintage.
We began with the Bourgogne, up next was the Village Puligny-Montrachet, then Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Ậne… and then the focus of the morning: 4 1er Cru Puligny-Montrachet and 3 Grand Cru. After the formal tasting we were able to taste some older vintages that acted as a reference point for how magnificently these wines age out. John and I each went back to re-examine our favorites… we compared notes, and as miraculous as the vintage itself… we were in agreement on the three best wines! The last time this happened Hoover was in Oval Office!
To say that great White Burgundy is “hard to get” is an understatement. But the wines of Leflaive? It’s easier to find stegosaurus teeth in your backyard.
Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières ’08 (Côte de Beaune, Burgundy)
From a 1.25 hectare parcel sandwiched between 1er Cru Le Clavoillon and Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet planted between 1962 and 1983. Fermented in oak casks of which 20% was new, and aged 12 months in oak and additional 6 months in tank before bottling. My notes include expansive aromatics of lemon, sweet flower and excellent minerality. LONG. Allen Meadows’ Burghound rated the wine “Outstanding” giving it a 90-92pt score. “A high-toned and clearly more elegant nose of green fruit, spice, stone and subtle floral nuances combines with detailed and admirably understated naturally sweet and minerally flavors that are striking in their purity, all wrapped in a long, linear and quite finely balanced finish. A wine of pungent minerality and finesse.” Drink 2016+
Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles ’08 (Côte de Beaune, Burgundy)
From a 3.05 hectare parcel adjacent to both Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet and Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet planted between 1954 and 1981. The elevage for Pucelles follows Foaltières with a touch more use of new oak. For me Pucelles is to White Grand Cru, what Cos D’Estournel is to First Growth Bordeaux… a wine recognized as “more than 1er Cru”; but “less than Grand Cru”… more expensive then other 1er Cru, yet less expensive than most of the Grand Cru. This Pucelles had amazing depth and concentration in a superb display of power matched with elegance. Length that goes and goes! Allen Meadows’ Burghound rated the wine “Outstanding” giving it a 91-93pt score. “A textbook Pucelles nose of honeysuckle and citrus is trimmed in a discreet application of oak that does not continue over to the delicious, round and quite generous medium-bodied flavors that possess excellent depth on the focused and unusually powerful finish. There is an ample amount of underlying tension that adds relief to the otherwise densely concentrated dry exact.” Drink 2016+
Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru ’08 (Côte de Beaune, Burgundy)
From 3 different parcel, two on the Chassagne side and a third on the Puligny side totaling 1.91 hectares planted between 1962 and 1989. Fermentation in Voges and Allier oak casks 25% which are new, aged for 12 months in oak, and then 6 months in tank before bottling. This is a dramatic wine, loaded with layering and complexity with an unmistakable petrol-minerality and intensity of scent that leads flawlessly to fleshy palate that begs for future keeping. Allen Meadows’ Burghound rated the wine “Don’t Miss!” 92-95pts “Here the nose is notably tighter and more reserved with aromas of citrus blossom and zest, spice, smoke, fennel and hints of acacia that introduce big, muscular and wonderfully complex broad-scaled flavors that culminate in a long, focused and explosive finish of breathtaking length and intensity. This should reward at least a decade in the cellar and drink well for a similar period thereafter. This too is terrific and very Bâtard.” Drink 2020+