A rarity: mature white burgundy at a decent price and with real verve.
From 68 Romanian lei, €24.40, £37.45, HK$418, 74,000 South Korean won, $74.99, and more…
I was inspired to make this recommendation by my recent tasting of 25 2014 white burgundies in which the Olivier Leflaive wines really sang out. And you needn’t just take my word for it. Our Andy Howard MW was tasting alongside me at this collection amassed by Burgundy specialist Sarah Marsh MW (three MWs in a tiny kitchen!) and he agreed with me. 2014, you will remember, was especially celebrated for white burgundy.
Obviously with this partial collection, I am extrapolating hugely. And we have reviews of only 10 Olivier Leflaive 2014s in our database of more than 220,000 tasting notes – but all of them get notably high scores.
We won’t have tasted the full range by any means, and it’s possible that the most lowly examples, Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Aligoté, will be fading a little by now. But I wouldn’t bet on it considering the excellent acidity of this vintage, exceptionally good for white burgundy, and the degree of lively fruit evident in all the examples we have tasted.
Olivier Leflaive is the cousin of the late and much-missed Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive and in 1984 set up his own négociant company Olivier Leflaive Frères elsewhere in Puligny-Montrachet, on the road that leads to the main road. He then went on to open a popular wine-themed hotel-restaurant named after him right in the middle of Puligny, a more relaxed (and less expensive) place than the smart Le Montrachet close to the headquarters of Domaine Leflaive. (I used to like the bed and breakfast run by the wife of the manager of Le Montrachet, La Chouette.) He retired from the wine company in 2010 but is still very present in Puligny.
Winemaker is Franck Grux, pictured here. He vinifies the produce of all of 120 ha (297 acres), 17 of which (42 acres) the company owns, most of them planted with Chardonnay – though I noticed looking through the many Wine-Searcher references to Olivier Laflaive 2014s that their red wines seem to be priced a little higher than their whites. I suspect this is simply because so many people (wrongly) automatically value reds above whites.
The company picks the grapes in about 40 ha (99 acres) of the vineyards they buy from, grapes from a further 20 ha are delivered to the winery and the produce of about 60 ha arrives as must, having been pressed by the grower.
Rebecca Palmer of Corney & Barrow has been following the wines of Olivier Leflaive for many years and has got into the habit of asking Grux for a slogan for each vintage. His slogan for 2014 was ‘Selon votre humeur, 2014 sera craquant ou croquant’. (According to your mood, 2014 will be either crisp or crunchy.)
This is her note about the 2014s from this source:
‘Olivier Leflaive’s 2014s promise to be very good – the most exciting and “complete” vintage in some years.
‘While it is never easy to assess wines at such an early stage in their development, tastings in mid April 2015 and again a month later suggest common themes: a harmonious balance of ripeness and acidity and a marked typicity of origin. Expect classics this year, across the board.
‘From Chablis: elegant wines but ripe too, chalky and invigorating with citrus acidities and the welcome tang of iodine. Further south, the Côte de Beaune is polarised, its wines reflecting weather events during the growing season. You will find particularly expressive, powerful wines from the hail-affected villages whose crop yields were slashed and remaining grapes tiny and concentrated (eg Meursault, Auxey-Duresses). These wines bear a resemblance to the richer styles of 2012, with fresher acidities. Meanwhile in Puligny, Chassagne and Saint-Aubin, we have benchmark wines: line and length, poise and precision. The Côte Chalonnaise is all charm: the wines are aromatic, ripe and well-balanced, representing outstanding value, as always.’
It’s not easy to find mature white burgundy that is both fresh and well priced but I feel confident that these wines will fit the bill.
Furthermore, according to Wine-Searcher.com, Olivier Leflaive’s 2014 whites are extremely well distributed and are still available in the UK (though only one wine at Lay & Wheeler rather than from their UK importer Corney & Barrow), US, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, Romania, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Korea and Australia.
I have not included the prices for the grands crus in my list above but would expect them to be lower than those for equivalent appellations from many other producers.