About this WINE
Olivier Leflaive is the son of Joseph, nephew of Vincent and cousin of Anne-Claude. He was co-manager of Domaine Leflaive with his uncle Vincent from 1982-1990, and with Anne-Claude from 1990-1994, by which time the négociant business, which he had started in 1985 in order to have some wines to play with outside Puligny-Montrachet, had really blossomed. It was time, in the interests of both parts, to withdraw from the domaine and concentrate on Olivier Leflaive Frères. He employed the talented Jean-Marc Boillot as winemaker and initially had no vineyards and bought in grapes from selected growers.
I should not have used the term ‘négociant’ to describe this business, as the word is never used on any of the labels which specify that the wines have been vinified, matured and bottled by Olivier Leflaive Frères. Olivier wants to make clear the distinction between his operation, where all the wines have been vinified whether purchased as grapes or must, and the type of négociant who buys vinified wine in barrel, or indeed even already bottled.
Production is now around 70,000 cases across 65 different appellations, 85 per cent in white wine. Included in the production are his own vineyards which cover 15 hectares in Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault. Wines which are solely from Olivier Leflaive’s own vines are marked ‘Récolte du Domaine’. These holdings are about to be swelled with the proportion of Domaine Leflaive due to Olivier and his brother Patrick, which they have been able to take back at the end of an agreed 18-year lease with the domaine.
Under the auspices of winemaker Frank Grux, since 1988, the wines are vinified exactly as they would be at any other first-class Burgundy domaine, with all the whites being barrel-fermented and being aged in small oak barriques. Olivier Leflaive is looking for elegance and finesse rather than power and ‘specularité’. There is little new-oak effect and his wines are usually attractive young. The wines are hallmarks of elegance and purity rather than muscle and are more than worthy of the famous Leflaive name.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
Puligny was one of two villages (along with Chassagne) which gained permission in 1879 to hyphenate the name of its most famous vineyard, Montrachet, to its own.
The reputation of Puligny-Montrachet is based around its four Grands Crus. Montrachet labels often boast a noble, triumphant ‘Le’ in front of its name, lest you dare confuse it with any lesser wine. It has much to be proud of, with many considering Montrachet to be the greatest white wine in the world. At its best it has an intensity, complexity and elegance that make you wonder how such a wine could be made from mere grapes.
The luxurious and explosive Chevalier-Montrachet is not quite as deep, although it is probably the next best. Only marginally less impressive, and rather more consistent than Montrachet is the richly textured Bâtard-Montrachet (also shared with Chassagne). Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet is equally good, with the focus on honeyed finesse and exquisite balance rather than richness.
These legendary wines are supported by a host of fabulous Premier Cru vineyards capable of reaching Grand Cru quality. Brimming with flavour and intensity, Le Cailleret and Les Pucelles (which both lie across the road from Le Montrachet) are prime candidates, along with Les Demoiselles, Les Combettes and Folatières.
Sandwiched between the larger Chassagne and Meursault, Puligny produces wines that are more striking than any in the Côte d’Or, portraying a floral elegance alongside a stylish, steely concentration. They are very different to Meursault: more refined and delicate, and less rich.
Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Grands Crus normally need at least eight years before they can be broached, and last for 20 or more. Premiers Crus should generally be enjoyed between five and 15 years of age; village wines from three to 10 years.
In theory, you can find red Puligny-Montrachet, but it scarcely exists anymore, and is rarely worth the price tag.
- 114 hectares of village Puligny-Montrachet
- 100 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (17 in all). The best vineyards include Les Demoiselles, Le Cailleret, Les Pucelles, Les Combettes, Les Folatières
- 21 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Le Montrachet (part), Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet (part), Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet
- Recommended Producers: Leflaive, Carillon
- Recommended Restaurant: Le Montrachet (excellent cuisine and good wine list; also an hotel)
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.