March 31, 2011

Anne-Claude Leflaive is in Town…

Last thursday we were delighted to have Anne-Claude Leflaive over for a wonderful dinner at The Greenhouse. We started with the delicious Bourgogne Blanc 2005 as an aperitif. The wine was just starting to open up and worked well, some balanced richness starting to emerge, no rush at all but if you have a case it is well worth trying a bottle. The plot for the Bourgogne Blanc is very close to the Domaine. Anne-Claude later described it as a “wine of energy”.

Following an Amuse bouche of crab we were onto Meursault 1er Cru Sous Le Dos d’Ane 2007 and Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 1er Cru 2000.  Adam introduced Anne-Claude who spoke with real energy and passion as well as lots of humour.  She recalled how C&B were the Domaines first customer way back in the 1960’s and that, charmingly, there has never been a contract always a “Gentleman’s/womans(!) agreement”. Of the pair of wines Anne-Claude explained that back in 1995 the “Sous Le Dos d’Ane” vineyard was replanted from Pinot Noir to Chardonnay as she had realised that the soil was just so much more like the Meursault Les Perriers soil next door than the Blagny 1er Cru La Piece Sous Le Bois “Pinot” soil (where as an aside Matrot makes very good Pinot) also next door – it was just made for Chardonnay. So from 2000 a Meursault was produced, this Meusault, 2007, was taut and highly strung having a bright future, it is somewhere between Puligny and Meursault in style to my mind. The Folatieres 2000 was one of the happiest surprises of the night for me as it has no rights to be as good as it was, 2000 being a difficult vintage in burgundy but particularly for the whites. I found the Folatieres really balanced a little enjoyable opulence too, spot on. Interestingly Anne-Claude said Folatieres was a very important vineyard for Puligny as a commune as it is a big 1er Cru but also has many growers so fills the role of standard bearer to a degree. The Meursault and Folatieres were served with diver caught Scottish scallops, sauteed wild mushrooms, cep foam and cumbawa (kaffir) lime; it was a great combination.

The final two wines from the Domaine were then served; the two wines were both Grand Crus separated by 1 meter – Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet 2006 and Bâtard-Montrachet 1996 they were accompanied by roasted farmhouse veal from Aubrac, cime di rapa cabbage, fondant celeriac and mousseline. It was interesting to taste these two wines with an age gap of 10 years. Bienvenues was described by Anne-Claude as “the fight of her life” because on taking over the Domaine in 1990 it was not in good shape (despite only being the same age as Anne-Claude) it should have been hitting its strides but instead it was in bad health so Anne-Claude decided to go Biodynamic on that vineyard (the Domaine, as of 1998, is well documented as being fully Bio dynamic) and ultimately it worked.. patience and good vineyard work, the ultimate tools of success. I found the Bienvenues structured and youthful, again balanced and with great texture but to my mind there is more to come (some in the room “preferred” it to the Batard but not me) I would be looking again in 2 years. (As an aside the Bienvenues 1999 from Anne-Claude was my white wine of the year last year.)

So on to the Bâtard-Montrachet 1996, as we had done at the master class with Anne-Claude a couple of years ago when we showed the (wonderful) Chevalier, we were keen to show this vintage as it is a highly controversial one. There were those (winemakers and domaines in Burgundy) in 1996 who were scared of the acidity in the wines and de-acidified. Domaine Leflaive did not and the Batard showed that this was completely correct, amazingly at 15 years of age it was just starting to hit it’s stride. From the very first pour, it opened out and was one of those wines that I enjoyed far too much to bother writing detailed tasting notes – even briefly. Had I written anything, it would have been “complete.” If I had a case of it (I don’t!) I would be fascinated to follow this wine by having a bottle a year from now and I would decant it as it just gets better. I have always found the Domaine’s wines all repay decanting.

There was a wonderful story that Anne-Claude told about the 1996’s. In the winery, Anne-Claude and team were getting very nervous as the fermentation just would not start, on the Monday of one week it was suggested that yeast would have to be added on the Saturday if nothing had started of it’s own accord. Anne-Claude’s face at this stage suggested this might not even have been an option but I suppose it would have to have been.. eventually. Anyhow, visiting on the friday (nothing had started on the fermentation front!!) was the Society of Tastevin of Tahiti, who suggested a little song to encourage things along. So out came the Yukelele (seriously!) and everyone was singing away, the visit ended and guess what? The next morning, THE saturday, Anne-Claude got an early call to say the fermentation tanks were now bubbling away!! The 1996’s will forever be the “Yukelele” vintage at C&B from now on.

The Domaine, Anne-Claude and the wines, were on great form for the whole evening it will remain a memorable event.

We did have one more wine – Lodovico 2007 from Tenuta di Biserno in Tuscany – with mushroom Gougère as a way of balancing the end of the meal. It showed very well…click here to read more about it.  The wonderful evening ended with a palate cleansing desert of Blood orange sorbet with Cointreau mousse.

Question: Which of Anne-Claude Leflaive’s wines have you tasted recently? We’d love to know what you thought.

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