Among the many hallowed, venerated and legendary properties in Burgundy, Domaine Leflaive lays claim to some of the most precious terroir — Grand Cru vineyards like Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet. The domaine also encompasses Premier Cru vineyards like Les Pucelles and Le Clavoillon in Puligny-Montrachet.
Moreover, the estate is quite large and diverse, with over 24 hectares (59.3 acres) in Puligny-Montrachet, of which 4.8 hectares (11.9 acres) are grands crus and 10.8 hectares (26.7 acres) are premiers crus, all growing one varietal: Chardonnay. Since 2004 the domaine has expanded into the Mâconnais and cultivates some 20 hectares 49.4 acres) in Mâcon-Verzé and Solutré-Pouilly.
The roots of the Leflaive family go back to 1717 when Claude Leflaive took up residence in Puligny-Montrachet. Much later, in 1905, Joseph Leflaive was able to buy 25 hectares (62 acres) when Burgundy was still suffering from the effect of the phylloxera epidemic and vineyards were cheap.
Joseph initiated an ambitious program of replanting with better-adapted stock. He also began to sell wine under his own label rather than to négociants. In 1953, his investments paid off and Domaine Leflaive came to be recognized as a top producer.
Joseph’s sons, Vincent and Jo, carried on the family name until their children, Olivier and Anne-Claude, managed the estate in 1973. Ultimately, however, the two cousins took separate paths and Vincent’s daughter, Anne-Claude Leflaive, assumed full control of the estate.
Once in charge, Anne-Claude began to experiment with biodynamic cultivation. She was passionate about the philosophy, but with the family legacy riding on every decision, she was also cautious. It was only after seven years of exhaustive trials — comparing the pros and cons of biodynamic-organic and conventional techniques — that she felt comfortable making the profound changes that were required in the vineyards.
Wine critic Tim Atkins was a firsthand witness to the final proof and conversion: “What convinced her to switch entirely to biodynamics was a comparative tasting of the 1996 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Clavoillon, sourced from the domaine’s biggest parcel at 4.79 hectares. Anne-Claude showed two blind wines, one biodynamic and the other not, to journalists and importers. Everyone preferred the biodynamically grown wine, pronouncing it fresher and more alive. I can still remember the joy on her face.”
In a relatively short time, Domaine Leflaive became the most successful white wine domaine in the Côte de Beaune. Eric Asimov, New York Times wine critic, described the transformation: “While it is impossible to determine the precise effect of agricultural methods on the wine itself, the Leflaive wines after the conversion to biodynamics seemed to be purer and more transparent.”
A decade later, Anne-Claude expanded the domaine to the Mâconnais in the south of the Burgundy region, where she could produce more reasonably priced wines, and into Pouilly-Fuissé, another more moderately priced area. In 2008, she acquired Clau de Nell, a Loire Valley estate. She also helped found a school, École du Vin et des Terroirs, intended to explore the production of wine from an environmental and humanitarian point of view.
Anne-Claude was named “the world’s top white winemaker” by Decanter Magazine in 2004, and in 2014, the Institute of Masters of Wine named her “Winemaker’s Winemaker”.
Then, amidst the hard-earned triumphs and accomplishment, tragedy struck. Anne-Claude was diagnosed with cancer and passed in 2015 at age 59. The wine world continues to mourn her loss.
Just last year, we were fortunate to visit Domaine Leflaive. Not surprisingly, the first thing we noticed in the reception area was a portrait of Anne-Claude — a testament to her legacy and the fact that, though absent, her presence is still very much in evidence.
Brice de La Morandière, the great grandson of Joseph Leflaive, has taken over management of the Domaine. Under his capable watch, the estate continues to maintain biodynamic practices. Indeed, after almost 25 years of organic farming, the terroir is exceptionally healthy and vital, with unmistakable character.
We marveled again at Anne-Claude’s creative perception, when we toured her “Cave de l’Oeuf” – an egg-shaped cellar constructed using the proportions of the Golden Ratio (just like the Mona Lisa and Great Pyramid of Giza). Building materials from a mixture of wood, clay, straw and earth bricks create a natural humidity of 80% and a constant temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Truly a nurturing space.
After leaving the cellar, we experienced the tasting of a lifetime — 2017 Domaine Leflaive ranging from Premiers Crus such as Meursault sous le Dos d’Âne, Puligny-Montrachet Clavoillon, Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières, Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles, Grands Crus Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet.
By the time we left, we were walking on air — awestruck at having experienced such masterful wines. No doubt Anne-Claude was looking on and smiling.
Here a selection from Domaine Leflaive as well as a few more notable white wines. To order write [email protected] or call 850-687-1370.
2018 Mâcon-Verzé. $52.99. 24 bottles
2018 Mâcon-Verzé le Monte single vineyard. $61.99. 6 bottles
2018 Pouilly-Fuisse. $82.99. 8 bottles
2017 Pouilly-Fuisse. $69.99. 6 bottles
2018 Auxey-Duresses. $88.99. 18 bottles
2014 Clau de Nell Cabernet Franc. $34.99. 10 bottles
2015 Clau de Nell Cuvée Violette. $43.99. 2 bottles
Newly-Released 2018 Domaine Leflaive
Also available is this collection 2018 1er Crus and Grands Crus estate wines landing this fall. Sadly, the prices reflect the 25% tariffs currently levied on all French wines coming into the U.S. But, Domaine Leflaive is incredibly special, so let us know if you’re interested. We’ll confirm as we receive orders.
Bourgogne Blanc. $79.99
Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Âne. $229.99
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Le Clavoillon”. $229.99
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatières”. $325.99
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Combettes”. $359.99
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Pucelles”. $422.99
Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru. $809.99
Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru $849.99
Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru. $1,089.99
Other White Burgundies
2016 Jean-Marc Vincent Auxey-Duresses “Les Hautes”. $89.99. 6 Magnums
2017 Henri Perusset Mâcon-Farges “Vieilles Vignes”. $27.99. 36 bottles
2018 Henri Boillot Meursault Charmes 1er Cru. $89.99. 20 bottles
2018 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Combettes”. $109.99. 6 bottles
Elsewhere in France
2016 Monier Perréol Saint-Joseph Blanc. $25.99. 36 bottles
2018 La Reine Juliette Picpoul de Pinet. $16.99. 96 bottles
2017 Maxime Magnon Corbieres Blanc “La Bégou”. $34.99. 24 bottles
2018 Domaine la Tour Vieille Collioure “Les Canadells Blanc”. $28.99. 74 bottles
2018 Château du Seuil Graves Blanc. $29.99. 48 bottles
2017 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc. $119.99. 6 bottles
2018 Joseph Mellot Sancerre “La Chatellenie”. $29.99. 96 bottles