Feature Coverage

Domaine Leflaive 2013 Vintage

“You can more or less judge your Burgundy ‘cache’ by the wines you are allowed to taste…There is one wine that has eluded me since I first visited the domaine back in the late 1990s: the fabled Montrachet from Anne-Claude Leflaive. My tactic is always the same. I ask whether there is the usual single barrel, the answer is ‘Oui’ and then the momentary pause indicates that unfortunately it is not for tasting. It’s a policy I completely understand and support. This year I asked the question and Antoine Repetit de la Bigne instead replied: ‘Yes’ and then invited me to taste it. I had come of age. It’s the same rush of elation as the first time you order a beer or drive a car on your own. I could give up here and think: ‘Yeah…Essex boy did good.’ Of course, hardly anybody is ever going to experience the luxury of actually drinking the 300-odd bottles, so perhaps we should get on and discuss what mere mortals can drink. Fortunately, the news is that Leflaive has produced an excellent set of 2013s…

“’The 2013 vintage started very humid. The end of the winter was very wet and the soils took time to warm up,’ the ever-congenial Antoine explains as he mounted a ladder to one of the stainless steel vats. ‘Everything was still very wet continuing into May, when the river in Meursault overflowed. In Meursault you could see vineyards under almost a meter of water! The flowering was late and we had poor [atmospheric] conditions because there were two rainfalls. It took three weeks for flowering to finish. July was average. We had a little hail on 23 July that touched the Meursault side of the vineyard (Combettes, Sous de l’Ane) but August was sunny and warm. We started picking 28 September and finished 6 October. The harvest was quite stressful. At the beginning we planned to pick slowly with a smaller team, but the forecast was unstable and unreliable. Sometimes they would say it would rain and it would be sunny – and vice versa! We had to stop on two afternoons because of rain. The reason was because they were unsure about the wind. It came from the Mediterranean: warm and bringing wet conditions that bought botrytis pressure. We finished picking with a much bigger team. We even had one of the pickers phoning his friend in Brussels!’

“’The first good surprise during alcoholic fermentation was that the wines were very aromatic with a moderate level of acidity and good acidity. We had a clear separation between alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. We didn’t have a problem with any late malo and it finished by the end of June so that everything was racked by the next harvest. The wines have been more integrated since October. The quantities are down by about 20%.’

“As is customary, I tasted the wines from tank (with one notable exception). They had all been racked in August. Firstly, it is clear that there is extremely good terroir expression here. Each wine belongs to the same ‘family’ but they are all individuals with something unique to say. I would not ascribe superlatives to every single cuvee – it’s not that kind of vintage. But there is perhaps more consistency here than I expected given the pressures on the picking team come harvest. There were two crus that really punched above their weight: the Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet and the Puligny-Montrachet Combettes, the latter in Grand Cru territory. They just seemed to transcend the limitations of the growing season, wines with audacity and ambition. As for the Montrachet? Well, it was an astonishing wine no doubt, and even though by this time I had tasted several 2013s from barrel, this seemed to occupy a rarefied atmosphere. Departing the domaine, I was still on a high. I had been deigned with one of the rarest wines in Burgundy. What’s the next goal?”

Neal Martin, December 2014
Domaine Leflaive 2013 Vintage