Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Burgundy Legends: Anne-Claude Leflaive and Pierre Morey
Last Thursday, March 5th, I went to an out of the ordinary tasting.
Anne-Claude Leflaive from the prestigious Domaine Leflaive and Pierre Morey, one of Meursault's most famous producers, were both in town to present their 2006 vintage whites.
Although, I tasted, poured and sold their wines for many years in France, England and even here in New York, I never really had the chance to meet these legends in person.
The wine tasting took place at "Le Bernardin", undoubtedly one of New York's top 5 restaurants. With a world renown Chef/Owner like Eric Ripert who spend 50% of his time on TV and traveling , this fantastic restaurant could have lost a bit of its charm, essence and quality. Fortunately (for us customers and food lovers), often-under-the-spotlights Chef Eric Ripert is a discreet and humble person, who enjoys the ovens and warm lamps of his kitchen where he can express all of his talents. That's right, unlike some other TV Chefs, it is not unusual to spot Chef Eric Ripert in the kitchen of his own restaurant. Unfortunately for me, he wasn't here that day.
However, I came to taste the wines and succeeded to exchange a few words with the masterminds who crafted them. Not too crowded, it was a very pleasant tasting in one of the private salons of "Le Bernardin", served with some "Amuse-bouches" and Cheeses to complete the experience. What a treat! It is not everyday that Anne-Claude Leflaive and Pierre Morey pour their own wines in New York. Apparently, it was a big come back for Anne-Claude Leflaive who last came in New York 4 or 5 years ago.
FYI: For the novices and those who couldn't come, all the wines presented and tasted were white (except 2 reds), made from 100% Chardonnay, aged in new "Piece" Burgundy barrels (228 Liters) for some and big used Burgundy Foudres (big oak barrels) for others. Go to www.leflaive.fr for more info. Unfortunately, I could find a website for Pierre Morey, but just Google it and you'll find plenty of info.
FYI (again): These wines are quite expensive to very expensive, however, I didn't let the price influence my opinion or my palate. As always, I let my taste buds decide about the quality of these wines and despite the prestige of these 2 houses, I couldn't avoid making a few comments.
Little parenthesize about:
Should we be influenced (during tasting) by price or fame??
NO!?! Absolutely Not!
Remember, that at the end of the day, even if for certain reasons (and in some cases), a few wines can command a certain high price, in most cases, price doesn't make the wine. And nobody should buy wine solely based on price (professional wine buyers and customers included). Your taste buds should determine the price of the tasted wine. And if you estimate that the price is too high for the quality of the wine, do not buy it.
Also, it is not always the case that the fame of the wine corresponds with the quality of the wine. Highly marketed wines often correspond to a more global, generic, crowd pleasing type of taste and often lack of personality, character, complexity and depth.
In fact, like for inexpensive wines, expensive and heavily marketed wines quality can also vary a lot due to bad vintages and other specific factors like: lack of ripeness; too high acidity; too dry, green, bitter tannins; suffer from drought or too much rain during growing season; bad cork; bad storage conditions; dirty cellars; poor climate; weird winemaker style; bad decisions; wrong blending; excess of manipulation; etc...
So, as I said, my taste bud sensations were the only influence to my opinion, the way I tasted and wrote my notes (and it should be the same for you, every time you taste, whatever the cost or the fame of the wine is).
Here are the wines that I tasted, starting with Domaine Leflaive then Pierre Morey, both imported by Wilson Daniels Ltd., and distributed by Martin Scott Wines in NYC. My notes are short and only reflect the main characteristics of these wines. Still very young, they will surely develop and integrate with time (and offer even more in a few years).
A few words about Anne-Claude Leflaive: After spending some time abroad, Anne-Claude Leflaive came back at the Domaine in 1990, bringing her interest, knowledge and skills to improve her family's property. She then took full control of the Domaine after her father's death in 1993, was named Manager in 1994, and gradually helped to constantly improved the quality of the wines since, assisted by her co-manager cousin Olivier Leflaive (see also Domaine Olivier Leflaive) and winemaker Pierre Morey until the 2006 vintage (see Domaine Pierre Morey).
2006 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze
Suggested retail price $35-$40
Bright and mineral on the nose, the attack is somewhat fat and rounded, followed by a great acidity in the mid-palate. Nice overall, a bit pricey in my opinion. I would have loved more for the price.
2006 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc
Suggested retail price $58-$64
Here again, the wine has a fat, rounded attack (a usual characteristic for Domaine Leflaive, that do full malolactic fermentation, ageing on the lees and use new oak barrels adding fatness, roundness and vanilla-toasted-bready flavors, for all of its wines). The palate is harmonious and fairly complex, quite long for a simple Bourgogne white (not so sure if "simple" is the right word to use to describe Domaine Leflaive's wines which are anything but simple....). Excellent balance. A lovely wine overall, and surely better than the previous Macon-Verze. But here again, price isn't low...
2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Monrachet
Suggested retail price $110-$120
Vanilla, oak, toasted notes mixed with peach, citrus flavors constitute the main flavors of this super fat, viscous, concentrated wine. The luscious finish lingers for a while. Even if very good, this wine seemed really rich but somehow less elegant than I remembered compared with other vintages. Could it be the ripeness due to September 2006's sunshine just before harvest?
2006 Domaine Leflaive Meursault 1er Cru "Sous le Dos D'Ane"
Suggested retail price $165-$174
Excellent structure, lovely fatness and richness, really complex and long. Here again the wine is rounded, waxy, fat and woody. It is balanced and focus with depth and texture. Very interesting wine...
2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Monrachet 1er Cru "Clavoillon"
Suggested retail price $158-$164
Superb, refined, mineral, fat yet fresh, fruity and floral, with really good acidity that carries the fruit and the minerality through the long-lasting finish. An excellent wine to discover the greatness of Domaine Leflaive's Puligny(s), without paying the price of "Les Pucelles".
2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Pucelles"
Suggested retail price $275-$290
For me (and many other wine buyers, I think), Puligny-Monrachet "Les Pucelles" is the benchmark of Domaine Leflaive and one of the pillars on which the village of Puligny proudly stands. It is an institution. Over my 17+ years of wine tasting and wine buying, "Les Pucelles" has always been my favorite Puligny.
I still remember when, as a young Sommelier in a highly secluded private club for businessmen, stars and millionaires in London (1997 at Monte's Club on Sloane street), I opened my first bottle of "Les Pucelles" 1992....WOW...what a perfect wine! I sold many of them and enjoyed the first sip of them all (slow decantation in front of the customers always requires the Sommelier to taste the wine to make sure that the wine is in perfect condition...).
The 2006 "Les Pucelles" is no exception to the rule, it was the highlight of the table. Superb, delightful, with beautiful balance and acidity. Rich and concentrated, it appeared less fat and fresher than any of the other wines on the table. Floral, mineral, citrus, white fruits, earthy, crisp and vivid, focus and long with a never-ending refreshing, inspirational finish. I loved it.
PS: "Les Combettes" and "Les Referts" are my other two favorites 1er Cru of Puligny-Monrachet.
2006 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenue-Bâtard-Monrachet Grand Cru
Suggested retail price $430-$460
Unbelievably complex, fresh, structured, balanced palate with an extremely long, integrated and inviting finish. Great but.... the price isn't as inviting. Another standard for Domaine Leflaive.
To resume, Domaine Leflaive remains one of the best Domaines for white Burgundy, topping the league of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Etienne Sauzet, Domaine Ramonet, Domaine Faiveley, Domaine Pierre Morey, Domaine Michel Niellon, Domaine Ramonet, Hubert De Montille, Henry Boillot, Raveneau, Dauvissat, Bonneau du Martray, and a few more.
Domaine Pierre Morey
Before describing the wines that I tasted from Domaine Pierre Morey, I would like to precise that the situation was a bit odd, because Pierre Morey was also the winemaker at Domaine Leflaive and that the 2006 vintage was his last vintage. So, somehow, although, he was pouring the wines from his Domaine behind his table, he could have also been pouring at Domaine Leflaive's table because he also crafted these wines.
Pierre Morey founded his own Domaine in 1971. He possesses about nine hectares of vines scattered in various villages like Meursault, Monthélie, Volnay, Pommard and Puligny-Montrachet, including a few vines in a Grand Cru vineyard (Bâtard-Montrachet) and few more rows in few 1er Cru(s) (Meursault Perrières; Pommard Grand Épenots; and Volnay Santenots). He produces his wines with the same passion and enthusiasm (or even more) as when he used to be at Domaine leflaive. He is renown for his love for the acidity, balance, structure and focus in his wines. Somewhat discreet and humble yet generous and open, his wines are his reflection and his legacy.
2006 Domaine Pierre Morey Bourgogne Aligoté
Suggested retail price $19-$23
Nice, crisp, vivid, with high acidity. This wine is bright, lively and slightly green, a tough tight on the finish. Overall nice and uncomplicated, a bit light on its feet.
2006 Domaine Pierre Morey Bourgogne Chardonnay
Suggested retail price $34-$38
Here again, quite nice with a fatter, rounder mouthfeel. In my opinion, somewhat short in the finish. I would have loved to see a bit more going on, especially for the price.
2006 Pierre Morey Meursault (Village)
Suggested retail price $100-$110
Meursault is really Pierre Morey's playground. His Meursault(s) are the perfect reflects of the quality of the terroir and the richness of this appellation. Pierre Morey for Meursault mirrors what Domaine Leflaive is for Puligny-Monrachet, a high quality standard benchmark for the appellation. Boasting floral, mineral, fresh white fruit flavors, his 2006 Meursault (village) is excellent, with great texture and vivid acidity. J'adore!
2006 Pierre Morey Meursault "Les Tessons"
Suggested retail price $110-$120
Here again, a classic, rich yet refreshing Meursault. Lot of minerality, character with a bright mid-palate expanding nicely toward the extremely long and refined finish. Loved it.
PS: unfortunately for us that day, it was the last Meursault on his table; however, Pierre Morey also produces 3 other Meursault(s) including two of my all time favorites that I would have loved to taste: Meursault "Les Terres Blanches" and his precious Meursault "Perrières".
2006 Pierre Morey Bâtard-Monrachet Grand Cru
Suggested retail price $340-$370
Fat, oaky nose with notes of white blossom, peach and minerals. The oaky, vanilla, toasted flavors in the palate aren't as integrated as I would like them to be and seem to overwhelm the other components of this wine. Would the oak flavors settle down and fade or integrated with time? Only time will tell. For now, I just wish the wine could have been as focus, bright and balanced as the two previous Meursault(s). Especially for the price.
2006 Pierre Morey Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Suggested retail price $25-$29
Soft, easy, a bit light yet well made, with bright cherry fruit and an interesting texture from attack to mid-palate. The finish, in my opinion, is a bit green (slightly unripe may be which is surprising because the fruit seems to be ripe... could it be the tannins? a touch bitter may be?). Not bad overall, quite juicy, earthy and high in acidity, may a bit of food will mask the finish.
2006 Pierre Morey Monthélie Rouge
Suggested retail price $44-$49
Bright, vivid, really balanced, earthy, fresh with bright red berry fruit flavors. I liked it a lot. It seemed in a much better shape than the previous Bourgogne red, with a better, riper finish.
To conclude this tasting, I just had a taste of the some of the mouth-wateing "Amuse-Bouches" concocted by "Le Bernardin" kitchen's team and also keep my eyes on the cheese trolley:
Shrimp salad on an Endives
Asian Tuna Tartar
Chicken Provençal on a stick
Celery Soup with Black Truffle
Classic Spanacopida, Spinach and Feta Cheese
Salmon Croque-Monsieur with Gruyère
Constant Bliss (American cheese, cow's milk, tastes like a double or triple cream)
Robiola (Italian, soft ripened cheese made with cow, sheep and goat's milk)
Garrotxa (Spanish, pressed cheese made with unpasteurized goat's milk in Catalonia)
St. Nectaire (French, pressed, uncooked cow's milk cheese made in Auvergne)
Beaufort (French, heated, pressed, salted cow's milk, hard cheese from Savoie)
Fontina (Italian, cow's milk semi-soft cheese from Valle d'Aosta, bordering nothern Piedmont)
I hope that you've enjoyed this tasting as much as me. Tampis! (if you missed it...).
See you next time for more tasting notes about some of my favorite wines.
LeDom du Vin
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