A New Vintage and A New Winemaker At the Head of Domaine Leflaive

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

The 2017 harvest is well under way in the Northern Hemisphere, and Puligny-Montrachet in the Cote d’Or in Burgundy, France is no exception. According to their website, at Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, harvest took place from Aug. 29-Sept. 5. And the 2017 harvest marks the first vintage with a new winemaker at this historic winery.

Domaine Leflaive was created by Joseph Leflaive in 1910 but the Leflaive family has been established residents in Puligny-Montrachet since 1717. Joseph’s children, Vincent and Joseph-Regis, inherited the property upon his death in 1953 and in 1990, Vincent’s daughter Anne-Claude Leflaive and Joseph-Regis’ son Oliver became co-directors. Upon Anne-Claude’s death in 2015, Brice de la Morandiere, great grandson of the founder Joseph Leflaive took charge.

Under Anne-Claude’s control, famed Burgundy winemaker Pierre Morey made the wine at Domaine Leflaive from 1988-2008, followed by Eric Remy from 2008-2017. In January 2017, under Brice de la Morandiere, oenologist Pierre Vincent became the new general manager.

Pierre Vincent is a soft-spoken man whom I met earlier this year during my visit to the winery. He is also charming, funny, humble, serious and passionate, all characteristics that came across as we joined him in his “kitchen” (the wine cellar) of his new home.

Vincent is originally from the southern part of Burgundy where his father raised cattle. Knowing he wanted to work with nature but did not want to do the same thing as his father, he studied wine in Dijon. As a winemaker, he could work with nature, making a connection between the soil the final product. Prior to coming to Domaine Leflaive, Pierre was the technical manager of Domaine de la Vougeraie, owned by the Boisset family, for 10 years.

He also told me that he travels regularly around Burgundy and Loire and tastes different wines from different countries in order to find the right approach for his winemaking style.

Before winemaking comes into play, Pierre believes that “80 percent of making wine is the work in the vineyard. It is not the winemakers, it is the land,” he expressed and it is the soil that makes Burgundy so special. At Domaine Leflaive, which is biodynamically farmed, Pierre oversees 44 hectares of vineyards, including 24 hectares in Puligny-Montrachet, with five hectares of grands crus and 10 hectares of Premiers Crus, and 20 hectares in Maconnais, with three hectares in Pouilly-Fuisse and 17 hectares in Macon-Verze.

Ultimately, Pierre wants to express the purity of the wine and looks for balance between the rich and opulent with the acidity in his wines.

An oceanic climate with continental tendencies, Burgundy’s weather changes quickly. And 2017 is no exception. According to reports, 2017 in France started out a bit difficult with March being the warmest month in memory followed by freezing temperatures and frost in April. Weather has affected previous recent vintages. According to Pierre, the typical average yield is four tons per acre but he said 2015 was low and 2016 was terrible. What I heard back, via the importer Wilson Daniels, is that for 2017 the word is that the yields were moderate and the quality of the fruit is good with good acidity.

Domaine Leflaive 2017 is now in the cellar going through fermentation, and I am looking forward to trying Pierre’s first vintage. Back in early April, when I was visiting, I asked him where he thought he would take Domaine Leflaive. He said that his main goal is to continually improve the quality of the wines because there is always room for improvement. And if there was one change he thought he might make, he said that he is looking to possibly change the LeFlaive philosophy of exclusively white wine and buy some red grape vineyards. Now that Pierre Vincent has his first harvest at Domaine Leflaive under his belt, we will see what the future holds.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.