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Wine Reviews
The Wines of Leflaive

© Sue Courtney, 2nd December 2001


The Leflaive name in the town of Puligny in the French region of Burgundy goes back to the year 1717 and although associated with wine and the vine since that time, the family's label was not created until the 1920's. This was shortly after Joseph Leflaive had replaced the old vines with new rootstock better suited to each parcel of land. Now Domaine Leflaive is one of the most respected producers in Burgundy.

When Joseph died in 1953, his some Vincent took over running of the Domaine.

While Domain Leflaive has a website at http://www.leflaive.fr/ , for a succinct summary check out this page.

Olivier Leflaive is the nephew of Vincent and in 1984 he decided to create an adjunct to the family property. However until 1992, Olivier continued to co-manage Domaine Leflaive.

Checking out Olivier's Leflaive's website, he obviously has a musical bent and a sense of humour.

Most of the wines we tasted were from 1997. This was the year that Domaine Leflaive became accredited as 100% biodynamic.

Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet 1997
Well coloured lemon gold with subdued aromas of soft citrus with floral hints. Very tight at first in the mouth with lifted lemon and warm nut bread flavours, dry oak, a touch of steely acidity and a mere hint of lanolin. A grainy texture and good balance although rather dry on the warm (hot) full-bodied finish. (NZ$80-90).

Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet 'Morgeot' Premier Cru 1997
Well coloured lemon gold with more brightness than previous wine. Perhaps a whiff of H2S at first and something almost reminiscent of red berries. Good grapefruit aromas with hazelnut. A tighter wine than above, very lean and nutty with milky malolactic and emerging lemon pie richness then becoming a full nutty flavoured wine with a creamy texture. Plenty of grapefruit and lemon zest and a hint of apricot. Round and ripe with some bright spice on the cedary oak and very full and firm on the finish. Lovely! (NZ$110-120).

Olivier Leflaive Mersault 1997
Similar in colour to the previous. A spicy lemon pie aroma with a touch of honey and a whiff of oak. A lemon leesiness is very dominant in the palate. Lifted bright acidity, tending to be steely, milky and grapefruit-like. Brighter acidity than the Chassagne's. Full flavoured, rich and creamy at first on the finish before vanilla and that steely character emerges again to linger on the finish. Sniffing the empty glass there's an aroma of custard and baked loquat. (NZ$80-90).

Olivier Leflaive Mersault 'Charmes' Premier Cru 1997
Ditto the colour. A definite summer meadow fragrance of wheat and hay with the merest hint of licorice / butterscotch / white custard. Lifted at first in the mouth with good bright acidity, a flash of steeliness, then the honey comes to the fore - honeyed oak, honeyed spice - and a slightly burnt butter flavour that gives a nutty buttery taste. The wine just slides over the palate. It's full and round and very balanced with an elegant, dry finish and a very ripe citrus character lingering. (NZ$120-130)

Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1997
Grapefruit-like, milky malolactic dominant aromas. Warm and leesy in the palate with lemon, honey and spicy oak. Superbly rounded with a lovely meld of malolactic on the oak and the fruit. Warm citrus emerges and a flavour that is almost lanolin-like but not quite. There's a milky creamy texture with citrus and oak spice. (NZ$130)

Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 'Les Combettes' Premier Cru 1997
Smoky, scented wood with some floral nuances then later leesy, grapefruit and malolactic aromas. In the palate the wine is very seamless and very balanced. There's plenty of spice and hints of honeyed pears with nuts and stonefruits. It's quite hot in the mouth but the flavours and texture are beautiful. It's rich with a slightly viscous texture and excellent length. (up to $NZ250).

I took a sip of the previous wine, which I though was very good, then went back to this wine. It makes me realise what a gorgeous wine the 'Les Combettes' is.

Olivier Leflaive Bātard-Montrachet Grand Cru 1998
What an amazingly intriguing wine this is!. Each time I smell it, there is a different nuance. At first it smelt of fresh paint, then after that had ebbed away the fruit salad, vanilla, musk and hazelnut aromas waft in and out. It's intensely flavoured in the palate - it really is a fruit salad with apricot, pineapple, pear, peach and butterscotch. Bright acidity lifts the wine. Leesy characters emerge with flowers, nuts, spice and an underlying milky, citrus layer. Very tight with dry tannins. Concentrated, yet complex with the myriad of so many flavours. Very fine smoky oak too. This is just a totally amazing wine. (NZ$310-$330).

Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 1997
Tight grapefruit aroma - getting to the almost overripe stage of the fruit. Pear and nuts with hints of butterscotch too. Full bodied and rich, the wine is very, very tight, but very, very balanced. You can taste the potential with ripe fruit flavours on top of the milky, spicy oaky flavours - flavours that evolve as the wine sits in the glass. The wine has tremendous power and length although the texture is a little grainy at this stage. A wine that will mature magnificently. (NZ$500-$550).

Thanks to Negociants New Zealand and Fine Wine Consultant Sam Kim, for hosting the tasting.


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