Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaines Leflaive, Burgundy, France 2015
Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaines Leflaive, Burgundy, France 2015
We’ve had a bit of a coup. I don’t mean that our office has been overrun by Bolsheviks, I mean that we’ve secured a rare parcel of wine from the greatest producer of white wine on the planet, the mighty Domaine Leflaive. Some might argue that title belongs to Didier Dagueneau and they are, of course, entitled to their incorrect opinion.
As a wine merchant, I learned long ago that to seek charitable commiseration for all the hard graft we put in when tasting wine is similar to someone who booked a holiday with Monarch Airlines looking for sympathy for being stranded by the pool of a 5-Star hotel while their flight home is being organised. So, I won’t ask for indulgence here, but I’ll just say that we tasted this wine alongside almost three hundred other wines on one particularly arduous day of tasting and it was the absolute star (including several wines from the same stable: a Rully, an Auxey-Duresses and a Saint Veran from Leflaive). Instead of waiting until the next day, we knew this little parcel would vanish if we didn’t put our cards on the table immediately, so we bought as much as was available. As we were leaving, we noticed a heated debate between the man from Domaine Leflaive and an irate St James’s Street wine merchant, in blazer and fuchsia cords, gesticulating wildly and hollering something half-audible along the lines of “What do you mean it’s all gone? Who the ***** are Vin Cognito?!”
Pouilly-Fuissé Domaines Leflaive
Even Leflaive’s entry level ‘Bourgogne Blanc’ retails for upwards of £45.00 a bottle these days. Their village wines (Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault) sell for £80.00 a bottle and the Premiers and Grand Crus are silly money. So imagine our delight when we found a village wine that we could sell for £39.95. Not cheap, but a Leflaive village wine! We were a little sceptical at first, but on digging deeper, we noticed something on the label. It’s the sort of small detail you might get credit for noticing during an initiation test at MI5. If you look at the label above, you will notice that it doesn’t say Domaine Leflaive, it says Domaines Leflaive. If you still haven’t spotted the difference, I’m afraid you’re not cut out for the Secret Services. The pluralisation of the word ‘Domaine’ indicates that the vineyards for this particular wine are not owned by Leflaive themselves, but come from contracted growers. However, they work very closely with each grower and only use fruit from those who fully embrace Leflaive’s biodynamic principles. Once in the winery, the wine is vinified in exactly the same way as their own Puligny-Montrachets, so the only real difference is the name on the land registry. And the price.
Along with the legendary Domaine Leroy, Leflaive were the first Burgundy domaine to embrace biodynamic viticulture and philosophy, which they describe as combining “biological cultivation with cosmic influences”. Yup, cosmic influences. But, before we leap on that phrase and call it voodoo nonsense, I think it's worth looking at it from the other side. Practicing biodynamic viticulture may include some practices to which scientific scrutiny might raise an eyebrow (moon cycles, root days, cow horns full of fermenting cow dung buried in the vineyard etc), but the flip side is that the attention to detail that goes into every aspect of the viticulture and vinification, including the wholesale rejection of herbicides, pesticides and non-biological chemical additions, means that, at worst, no harm is done and at best, it improves the quality of the fruit.
My love affair with Leflaive (by James)
Domaine Leflaive was the very first domaine I visited when I went on a buying trip to Burgundy 15 years ago. I think that’s known as ‘hitting the ground running’. My small group of tasters was joined by a group from Paris and we stood, sub-terra, in a reverential circle, like members of an occult set, transfixed by the high priestess of Puligny-Montrachet, the late, great, Anne-Claude Leflaive, who detailed the intricate diversities of each vineyard and, without knowing it, initiated my love affair with Burgundy. I realise now that I had taken the path to enlightenment and, with my very first step, walked straight into Nirvana.
I remember trying to write a tasting note and my pen freezing shy of the page. The words wouldn’t come, because these weren’t aromas that had substitutes in the world of fruits and flowers and spices. Some kind of mysterious alchemy had taken place in the interaction between earth, vine, grape, yeast, oak and the hand of the winemaker, which made the flavours otherworldly. Description was futile. And what a relief! Instead of writing about peaches and lemons for the umpteenth time, it made one think about the topography of the landscape, the impact of the soil, the vicissitudes of the vintage and the subtle but unmistakeable fingerprint of the winemaker. It’s what I have hoped to find in every Burgundy since, but I quickly realised I had started my journey at the top of the mountain and the road would be serpentine and fraught with expensive disappointments. I’m so thrilled to have found this wine, because it’s absolutely not a disappointment.
It's a beautiful wine, subtly rich and terroir-driven, with a mineral-rich core, silky and delicate on the front palate, but expanding into opulence on the finish, and, most importantly of all to me, it’s definitively a ‘Leflaive’ wine, with that flinty vitality and that pulse of quartz-like energy that comes from the biodynamic fruit and its relationship with the stones beneath it. It’s sourced from vineyards around La Roche de Solutré and fermented in barrel (20% new) followed by 12 months ageing in barriques. Light filtration. 13.5% alc. Drink now-2024.
The Wine Spectator: “A toasty, opulent profile sets the stage for the peach, lemon tart, mineral and spice flavours in this harmonious, graceful white. All the elements are woven together by vibrant acidity allowing the finish to linger.” 93 points
"I tried this wine at your tasting (which was excellent by the way – so many interesting wines) and thought it superb." - Mr. C.C.
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