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Burgundy ‘pioneer’ Anne-Claude Leflaive dies

The wine world has paid tribute to Anne-Claude Leflaive, one of Burgundy’s most respected winemakers and a leader in biodynamic viticulture, who has died aged 59.

Anne-Claude Leflaive’s death was announced by her namesake domaine in Burgundy on Monday 6 April.

The news prompted a mixture of shock and sadness across much of the wine world at the loss of one of Burgundy’s leading matriarchs.

Anne-Claude was named the best white wine maker in the world by Decanter magazine in 2006, having joined the family business in 1990 and become manager in 1994 following the death of her father, Vincent. She also helped to found a wine school named Ecole du Vin et des Terroirs in Puligny-Montrachet.

‘I am totally shocked,’ said Gerard Basset, Decanter’s Burgundy correspondent. ‘She was incredible, not only because of her delicious wines and because she was a pioneer, but also because she had so much charisma,’ Basset told Decanter.com.

‘I was in Florence for the Masters of Wine Symposium last year in May. She was on stage and she had the crowd eating her words.’

More specifically, Anne-Claude Leflaive is credited with having spearheaded organic and biodynamic vineyard management in Burgundy in an era when those methods were rarely employed.

Becky Wasserman, the long-serving Burgundy broker, said Anne-Claude’s passion for biodynamics also converted sceptical consumers, not just winemakers.

‘Anne-Claude Leflaive’s early experimentation and endorsement of biodynamic viticulture rendered this method of cultivation respectable to collectors of white Burgundies, who initially thought of the method as mystical and slightly radical,’ she told Decanter.com. ‘She was an important voice for the health and future of the vineyards.’

In an interview with Decanter published in 2006, Leflaive described biodynamic viticulture as a natural choice.

‘Before I had even heard of biodynamism, my instincts told me that whatever we do in our lives must be done with a respect for nature and the environment,’ she told Clive Coates MW.

Decanter’s publishing director, Sarah Kemp, said, ‘Anne-Claude was rightly renowned as one of the world’s most brilliant winemakers, but she was also an extraordinary human and charming woman who enhanced the lives of those she met. Her wines reflected her personality; refined, elegant, intellectual and almost spiritual, with a core of steely energy. She will be sorely missed by her many friends and admirers. A great loss.’

Joss Fowler, of UK wine merchant Fine & Rare, said Leflaive’s wines were of ‘breathtaking quality’. He added, ‘A bottle of 2001 Chevalier-Montrachet that I was lucky enough to share some years ago remains the best bottle of white wine I have ever drunk.’

Leflaive leaves behind her husband, Christian Jacques, and three children. A memorial service will be held on Saturday 11 April at 11am at the church of Puligny-Montrachet.

Download Clive Coates MW’s full interview with Anne-Claude Leflaive as a PDF file here.

Written by Chris Mercer

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