When you want well-made white Burgundy wines at reasonable prices, look to Olivier Leflaive.
In 1984, Olivier Leflaive began his wine business in Puligny-Montrachet, the most prestigious white wine village in Burgundy. Not long after that, I met him outside his small winery; he was wearing cowboy boots and his American convertible was parked nearby. Nearly thirty years later, the impression is still vivid.
I don’t know if his affection for iconic American symbols influenced his business model, but he did exhibit a broader view than other French winery owners when he opened a café next to his winery decades before other Frenchmen thought about Napa Valley-styled wine tourism. Today, his daughter Julie Leflaive manages La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive, an upscale hotel and restaurant, and tour program at his Puligny-Montrachet winery.
Given his location, it was only natural that Leflaive’s initial wines were white and time has not changed his focus, even with the addition of a few red Burgundy wines. As his business developed, Leflaive purchased vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet and adjacent Chassagne-Montrachet, but Leflaive remains a negociant wine company, one that sources grapes or embryonic wine from other growers.
The arrival of spring is my signal to start thinking about lighter and fresher red and white wines, such as the 2010 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles. While Bourgogne Blanc is the basic regional wine, Leflaive shows it can be sophisticated, too.
The 2010 Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles is composed of grapes from vineyards within the highly-regarded Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet villages. This is a significant step up from other negociants who source grapes from outer areas of Burgundy.
Frank Grux has been Leflaive’s winemaker since 1988. After fermenting the wine in stainless-steel tanks, Grux transferred about 60 percent of the wine to French oak barrels for eight to 10 months’ aging and then blended it before bottling. This intelligent approach added body, aroma and flavor while preserving the natural mineral, apple and pear character of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet grapes.
Last month, Patrick Leflaive, Olivier’s brother, presented the 2011 Les Setilles at tastings in New Jersey and Manhattan. It follows the same procedures as the 2010 wine, and both will be delightful with a frittata of spring peas, asparagus and ramps, grilled chicken breast with morel mushrooms, or the season’s first soft-shell crabs sautéed and served with a lemon butter sauce and capers. Add Les Setilles’ attractive price and you have the recipe for your spring menu.
The 2010 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles retails for about $19. The 2011 vintage will arrive in May and be priced about the same.
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