Tasted in Puligny-Montrachet with Pierre Vincent, 09 October, 2017.
Place Pasquier de la Fontaine
Tel: +33 3 80 21 30 13
For a few years I had the nagging feeling that Domaine Leflaive had lost some of their polish. The wines were still good – but were they great? As good as the wines were in the last few years, I often had a more positive feeling after tasting the wines chez Olivier Leflaive – something that no-one could have said in the 1990s, and seemingly something that no-one dared to say it in the 2000s!
Whilst it was a very sad time, it seems that moving on from the loss of Anne-Claude Leflaive has been the catalyst for a more general change at the domaine. After a very successful time at Domaine de la Vougeraie, Pierre Vincent took on the hot-seat rôle at this domaine in January 2017 – so whilst the 2017s will be his first full vintage, it seems that he has already made his mark with the 2016s.
The most obvious change is that you no-longer taste the wines in the old cuverie at Place Pasquier de la Fontaine – you now taste in the cellars that are connected to the famous ‘egg cuverie.’ The always candid Pierre explains the change thus:
“This cuverie was completely renovated in 2017 – for instance we now have a standalone ‘press-room’ with 5 presses. Everything has now been moved here from the other location and all the wines are now worked under an atmosphere of nitrogen. Historically the first year of elevage was always here then second year of elevage was in the other cuverie – the wine necessarily being physically moved from one location to the other. It’s clear that the domaine had some problems of oxidation in the last years so maybe this voyage was a part of that problem. We don’t know, of-course, but here is the opportunity to make one less manipulation of the wines – and it was previously a big manipulation!
”Following the renovation it’s now a larger cellar – and all extending out from the 2002 egg-cellar – the roof constructed with wood, straw and earth and with small wells walled off here and there – we always have fine humidity.”
Pierre on 2017:
“Our grapes ripened quickly, so we were in the first wave of pickers – Biodynamics seem to give a more precocious maturity. We saw good balance and 12.5°-13° – finishing our harvest 05 September. No acidification was necessary – that’s thanks to the biodynamics. We harvested with a team of 60 people for the domaine’s 24 hectares, aiming to finish harvesting in one week, aided by maturity that comes all at the same time. We have two presses in the Mâconnais, and the must comes here once per day – those wines are vinified in another building close to the Hotel Montrachet.
The yields were good – our cave de grand cru held only 8 barrels last year, but this year it’s 24.”
Pierre on 2016:
“The wines had already started their malos when I arrived. The grand crus had 10hl/ha, indeed only 5 in Montrachet. It was not just the 25% that was lost to frost in the bourgogne and villages, there was mildew too! But fortunately the 1ers were largely unaffected, even the volume for Pucelles was correct. All the wines here ended up with a pH of around 3.05 – so just about ideal. What’s not ideal is the quantity – 2016 will be a nightmare to commercialise with only 20% of the normal volume of grand crus!”
A big piece of news last year, was that from the 2014 vintage, the domaine changed to DIAM seals. Pierre wasn’t overtly positive about DIAM while working at Vougeraie, but he currently seems happy to keep with them – “We have enough changes just now!”
I was clearly tasting at a domaine where there was more elevage required, based on that my modest number of ‘must buys’ are assuredly conservative. A fine start for Pierre at this great old domaine…
This was the only cuvée from the Mâconnais that made it through the frost and hail in 2016:
All assembled. The domaine has 11 parcels, one of which will be 1er Cru. 100% oak elevage, 15% new.
Bright, nice aromatic freshness and depth. Lovely, bubbly freshness with insinuating, beautiful citrus flavour. What a great start! You won’t taste the new oak. Bravo – absolutely delicious.
12 months in barrel, 10% new. All the vines in the commune of Puligny – three large parcels bringing 4 hectares – but only 20 hl/ha
A very different nose – fine, high-toned, precise. Very fine, mobile, nice energy, with melting mid-palate flavour. Fresh, delicious complex and long…
4.6 ha from around the village. All have completed their first year of elevage separated – they are only assembled for the second part of elevage – here with 15% new oak.
A narrow but deep aroma – a little vibration of reduction. Supple, less overt precision vs the bourgogne but with more growing width of complexity and very fine acidity. There’s a little more cushioning to the texture with this one. Really beautifully finishing flavour – really something! If the precision improves with elevage (and it usually does) this will be a great wine.
2016 Meursault 1er Sous le dos d’âne
From vines planted in 2004 and 1995 – all the 1ers have 20% new oak
A very pretty floral perfume with nice width. On the palate this is a little stricter than some years, but in the middle there’s a super, mouth-watering, flavour that bursting out, trying to escape the bounds of your palate. More finishing power than the previous wines before narrowing into a persistent line. Really lovely, if lacking a hint of the sweetness of some previous vintages.
2016 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Clavoillon
This vineyard was planted to red in the early 1900s. Today Leflaive have a virtual monopoly of this large climat, as such it serves as their ‘laboratory’ a place where they try different treatment regimes, different pruning et-cetera. It’s the biggest parcel of the domaine at 4.8 ha. The Chavy family have about 1 ha and together that’s most of the vineyard…
Fewer top notes, here a broader aroma that’s a little deeper and faintly reductive. Bright, fresh, lots of volume, fine energy, and showing the little sweetness that the Meursault lacks.
2016 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Combettes
At the limit of Puligny next to Meursault Charmes though these vines are not on the edge of the vineyard. There is virus here but they still got 30 hl/ha in 2016
An airy, fresh top note, modest but very inviting. The palate is a little similar, less strict structured than the Clavoillon, melting flavour and delicious flavour too. The first wine with a mix of flowers and salinity in the finish – it’s very lovely.
From two parcels, just above Clos de la Garenne, usually the first harvested as this is a hotter location.
Perfumed and floral wine. A little extra fat, but only a little, this is joyous in the mouth – fresh, melting flavour, long, almost with a twist of orange in the finishing flavour too. Bravo!
Some aromatic impact here – a little hardness of minerality and an agrume fruit behind. Ooh, what a mineral wine, direct, intense, long, slowly – but only slowly – melting. Cut from stone – wait, wait, wait for this great wine – it’s not for today. Super stuff – pure but today austere…
2016 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet
7 versus the normal 24 barrels…
An implied weight of aroma and decent width – less higher-toned. A little gas, lots of volume in the mouth, waiting for the gas to pass, the wine slowly insinuating, getting bigger in the mouth, waves of growth – really a wine that holds my attention – though today I had to work for it. Contemplative and beautiful.
A fine floral nose – not powerful but very fine and slowly augmenting with a stronger perfume. Supple, structural but no hard edges, complex, saline, ingraining flavour. Holding strong in the finish. Certainly not austere but more structured than the Bienvenues. Great stuff.
A tighter nose, subtly mineral and reserved, with a faint agrume fruit. More supple in the mouth than the nose suggests – wide, wide, subtle complexity. This needs more time in elevage for clarity. Lovely finishing agrumes – I’m a little too early for tasting this…