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Average critic rating : 89.0 points
The 2013 Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos D’Ane was affected by flowering (though not as poor as in Puligny) plus hail and a low juice-to-skin ratio. It has a lifted bouquet with fresh citrus lemon, white peach and minerals. The palate is fresh and minerally on the entry, actually not too stylistically distant from a Puligny, with a linear, stony, correct finish with a subtle spicy aftertaste. ||You can more or less judge your Burgundy “cache” by the wines you are allowed to taste. You work your way up until you are deigned with a glass pipette full of Chevalier-Montrachet from Domaine d’Auvenay or Romanée-Conti or Clos des Lambrays (the elusive Taupenot-Merme of course.). There is one wine that has eluded me since I first visited the domaine back in the late 1990s: the fabled Montrachet from Anne-Claude Leflaive. My tactic is always the same. I ask whether there is the usual single barrel, the answer is “Oui” and then the momentary pause indicates that unfortunately it is not for tasting. It's a policy I completely understand and support. This year I asked the question and Antoine Repetit de la Bigne instead replied: “Yes” and then invited me to taste it. I had come of age. It’s the same rush of elation as the first time you order a beer or drive a car on your own. I could give up here and think: “Yeah…Essex boy did good.” Of course, hardly anybody is ever going to experience the luxury of actually drinking the 300-odd bottles, so perhaps we should get on and discuss what mere mortals can drink. Fortunately, the news is that Leflaive has produced an excellent set of 2013s…||“The 2013 vintage started very humid. The end of the winter was very wet and the soils took time to warm up,” the ever-congenial Antoine explains as he mounted a ladder to one of the stainless steel vats. “Everything was still very wet continuing into May, when the river in Meursault overflowed. In Meursault you could see vineyards under almost a meter of water! The flowering was late and we had poor [atmospheric] conditions because there were two rainfalls. It took three weeks for flowering to finish. July was average. We had a little hail on 23 July that touched the Meursault side of the vineyard (Combettes, Sous de l’Ane) but August was sunny and warm. We started picking 28 September and finished 6 October. The harvest was quite stressful. At the beginning we planned to pick slowly with a smaller team, but the forecast was unstable and unreliable. Sometimes they would say it would rain and it would be sunny - and vice versa! We had to stop on two afternoons because of rain. The reason was because they were unsure about the wind. It came from the Mediterranean: warm and bringing wet conditions that bought botrytis pressure. We finished picking with a much bigger team. We even had one of the pickers phoning his friend in Brussels!” ||“The first good surprise during alcoholic fermentation was that the wines were very aromatic with a moderate level of acidity and good acidity. We had a clear separation between alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. We didn’t have a problem with any late malo and it finished by the end of June so that everything was racked by the next harvest. The wines have been more integrated since October. The quantities are down by about 20%.”||As is customary, I tasted the wines from tank (with one notable exception). They had all been racked in August. Firstly, it is clear that there is extremely good terroir expression here. Each wine belongs to the same “family” but they are all individuals with something unique to say. I would not ascribe superlatives to every single cuvee – it’s not that kind of vintage. But there is perhaps more consistency here than I expected given the pressures on the picking team come harvest. There were two crus that really punched above their weight: the Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet and the Puligny-Montrachet Combettes, the latter in Grand Cru territory. They just seemed to transcend the limitations of the growing season, wines with audacity and ambition. As for the Montrachet? Well, it was an astonishing wine no doubt, and even though by this time I had tasted several 2013s from barrel, this seemed to occupy a rarefied atmosphere. Departing the domaine, I was still on a high. I had been deigned with one of the rarest wines in Burgundy. What’s the next goal?| eRobertParker.com.December, 2014
Domaine Leflaive: The Importance
Domaine Leflaive has long been an icon of white Burgundy and is globally recognised as the most famous estate in Puligny-Montrachet. Adored by Chardonnay connoisseurs, this family-owned winery is distinguished by the care they take throughout the vinification process. Wine Advocate’s Neil Martin put it exceptionally well when he said: “If you do not like Leflaive's wines, then you do not like white Burgundy.”
The winery was hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “the greatest of all Puligny producers, the kind of wine that should be delivered by Grace Kelly.” And Robert Parker rates them as “Outstanding”, saying that they “set standards for white Burgundy that few other estates can approach” and that “their Puligny Premier Crus and Grands Crus combine richness and polish with depth and at times almost a lacy intricacy of flavour that can take a taster’s breath away. No one should pass up a chance to purchase villages Puligny or generic Bourgogne from this estate either, and even those are worth cellaring.”
In 1976, Leflaive’s Premier Cru wine Les Pucelles was chosen to compete in the renowned Judgement of Paris, one of only four French whites selected. Les Pucelles is a true testament to the producer’s transcendent craftsmanship and has also been welcomed at the prestigious Grand European Wine Jury of 1997 as well as the 1980 Great Chardonnay Showdown in Chicago.
Domaine Leflaive: The Insight
As a leader of biodynamic viticulture, Domaine Leflaive is renowned for the attention to detail and care that goes in to nourishing each vine from ground to bottle. This organic method of cultivation enriches the soil with plant-based compounds, thus sparing the vines of harmful herbicides and allowing the wine to exude the particularities of the Puligny-Montrachet terroir.
Their Grand Cru wines have consistently scored highly with Wine Advocate, Neal Martin describes them as “wines with audacity and ambition.” Le Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Bienvenue Batard Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet dominate Wine Advocate’s top scorers from this domaine, all of which are produced in tiny quantities. It is also worth noting that Neal Martin flags up Domaine Leflaive’s ability to “transcend the limitations of the growing season” – so even in less than favourable vintages their wines are worthy of consideration.
For those looking for an accessible opportunity to taste the top quality white Burgundy produced by this domaine, their Bourgogne Blanc and Mâcon Verzé provide just that.
Domaine Leflaive’s wines age excellently. Allen Meadows has previously noted that one particular vintage of Le Montrachet “even at almost 20 years of age… is still cruising along like it was only 10 as the freshness of the aromas is uncanny.” To help judge when the wines are ready to drink, Domaine Leflaive’s website provides an excellent database of recommendations by wine and by vintage.
Domaine Leflaive: The Background
The winery traces its roots back to 1717, when Claude Leflaive relocated to Puligny-Montrachet to cultivate several acres of vineyard. It was in the early 1900s when Joseph Leflaive, a brilliant marine engineer and descendant of Claude’s, expanded the family’s foothold with a series of vineyard purchases and established Domaine Leflaive as a top quality producer.
Today the domaine extends over 22 hectares with nearly 11 hectares of Premiers Crus (in Les Combettes, Les Pucelles, Le Clavoillon, Les Folatières and Sous le Dos d’Ane) and 5 hectares of Grand Crus (in Chevalier Montrachet, Bâtard Montrachet, Bienvenues Bâtard Montrachet and Le Montrachet). Domaine Leflaive became Burgundy’s leading biodynamic producer thanks to the stewardship of Joseph’s granddaughter, Anne-Claude, who became head of the domaine in 1990. She ran this in tandem with her cousin for two years, but he broke off to run a separate négociant business: Olivier Leflaive. After Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée Conti put her in touch with a biodynamic consultant, Anne-Claude became a real pioneer of the farming practice.
After her untimely death in 2015, Anne-Claude was succeeded by her nephew Brice de La Morandière - the fourth generation to lead the domaine. The winery continues to uphold the Burgundian tradition with year-long fermentation in oak barrels before clarification in stainless steel tanks throughout the second winter. It is this respect for exceptional viticulture and winemaking that has earned Domaine Leflaive a place in the cellars of Burgundy aficionados across the world.
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