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Average critic rating : 92.0 points
The 1996 Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles has an austere nose, gradually revealing minerals, chalk, and sun-baked gravel scents after considerable coaxing (it had been bottled three weeks prior to my visit). On the palate, this medium-to-full-bodied wine is exceptionally expressive, bursting forth with multiple layers of minerals and sweet citrus fruits. Its concentration, precision, definition, and balance are brilliant. Lastly, its length is mind-boggling. Drink it between 2004 and 2012+. Wine Advocate.June, 1999
A fine, relatively airy nose of honeysuckle, pear and a deft touch of pain grillé introduces medium weight, crisp, even racy flavors of moderate complexity underpinned by plenty of acidity and punctuated by good if not sensational length. This is indeed a lovely wine but not to the standard that one expects with this wine as it lacks the overall complexity and breed that it often possesses. This is all the more curious as when taken as a group, the Leflaive '96s are knockouts. Tasted three times with consistent notes. Allen Meadows, Burghound , oct. 2006
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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