Wine Legend: Leflaive, Montrachet 1992, Côte de Beaune Grand Cru, Burgundy, France
Bottles produced 300
Composition 100% Chardonnay
Yield approx. 30hl/ha
Release price $300
Price today £12,400
A legend because…
For many decades, Domaine Leflaive was the benchmark estate in Puligny-Montrachet, with 22ha of fabulous vineyards (today almost 28ha) in many premiers crus and also in four grands crus. Its reputation had faded in the 1980s, possibly because generous yields had led to a loss of concentration. However, in 1990 Vincent Leflaive retired and his daughter Anne-Claude became a co-director alongside her cousin Olivier. By then she was formidably well trained as a soil expert and oenologist. In 1994 she was in charge, aided by Pierre Morey, the cellarmaster at the domaine for 20 years up to 2008, who shared her enthusiasm for biodynamic farming. The reputation of the domaine’s 1992 Montrachet may have been enhanced by the fact that it was only their second vintage from this grand cru.
Anne-Claude was a passionate convert to biodynamism, entirely convinced of its capacity to bring out the very best in a great site. Visitors to the domaine were often presented, blind, with two glasses from the same vineyard, one farmed organically, the other biodynamically, and asked to decide which was the better wine.
Anne-Claude insisted the majority of her informed visitors chose the biodynamic wine. This was true in my case, and in that of neighbouring vigneron François Carillon, who wandered into the tasting room while I was there.
By 1992 she was just beginning her crusade. In 1990 she converted just one hectare of vines, and in 1992 added 3ha more. In 1997 the entire domaine had been converted to biodynamism. Given the domaine’s eminence, it’s surprising that Leflaive only managed to purchase its parcel in Montrachet in 1991. Thus 1992 was only the second vintage.
The early summer was warm and humid, but July and August were fine, even resulting in some blocked maturation of the vines until welcome rain fell in late August. Early September was very hot, bringing speedy ripening and some loss of acidity. That made the precise moment of picking of great importance. The white wines were ample and relatively forward, with some lack of structure, although the finest wines aged well.
Leflaive owns 0.08ha of Montrachet, which generally yields about 300 bottles. This single parcel, believed to have been planted in the 1950s, lies within the Chassagne-Montrachet sector, very close to the lane that separates Le Montrachet from Bâtard-Montrachet.
After careful sorting in the vineyard, the wine was pressed in pneumatic presses, then fermented in a single new barrel, with regular stirring of the lees until the end of the year. The wine was then aged for a total of one year in the same barrel, before being decanted into a stainless steel vat for the second winter.
Robert Parker tasted the wine in 1993: ‘The quintessential Chardonnay, it is an awesomely rich, highly extracted wine oozing with flavour, yet it is marvellously precise and focused… The [Leflaive Montrachet] wines are renowned for their purity and elegance, but the 1992s also display a special level of richness and intensity.’
More recently, Allen Meadows of www.burghound.com tasted the wine in 2018: ‘Even at almost 30 years of age, the 1992 Montrachet is still cruising along like it was only 10, as the freshness of the aromas is uncanny… exotic fruit aromas with fantastically complex secondary nuances as well as those of wet stone, honeysuckle and anise. The thick, concentrated and opulent, broad-shouldered flavours possess an incredible level of mouth-coating dry extract that… confers a distinct texture onto the mineral-driven and gorgeously long finish. This is one powerful effort, in fact so much so that this can only be drunk slowly. A stunner of a wine by any definition.’