California makes the best Chardonnay in the New World according to Anne-Claude Leflaive of leading Puligny-Montrachet estate Domaine Leflaive.
Napa Valley, California
Speaking exclusively to the drinks business during a Leflaive wine dinner at Christie’s in London last week, Leflaive said: “Of all the so-called New World countries, I think California is making the best Chardonnay.
“There are some very good winemakers in the region and they benefit from the chalk soil and old vines. All good Chardonnay is born of a certain terroir.”
Leflaive was loath to pinpoint specific producers, though admitted to having tried some “excellent” Californian Chardonnays.
In terms of her own wines, she admitted that the issue of premature oxidation is still a problem in Burgundy for the whites.
“We don’t know exactly where the problem comes from, but we think it comes from the cork,” Leflaive told db.
“We changed our cork supplier in 2007 and there have been far fewer problems with premature oxidation in our wines ever since,” she added.
On the subject of biodynamics, Leflaive remains steadfast in her belief that practising biodynamics in the vineyard leads to better tasting wines.
“Biodynamics reveals the best image of the soil and the terroir. It’s the best way to reflect the terroir so that if you shut your eyes and take a sip of wine, you’re back in the land.
“Biodynamics brings purity to the wines and helps you get back to your origins. I’ve never found it difficult being biodynamic, but I’ve always been convinced I had to do it and never cared what other people think,” Leflaive asserted.
Like “flying fifth” Bordeaux estate Château Pontet-Canet, Leflaive has recently brought in horses to plough the grand cru vineyard sites and employed someone specifically to look after the horses.
In addition, she has expanded her biodynamic practices to vegetables and trees, and is turning the estate into a small biodynamic farm including an environmentally friendly wooden house built by her architect daughter.
“I’m expanding my biodynamic practices and aim to buy in more biodynamic grapes this year for my Bourgogne Blanc,” she said.
With Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 on pour at the Christie’s dinner, Leflaive revealed she had never opened a bottle for her own consumption.
“It’s so precious and there is such a small amount of it, I keep it in the cellar and only open it for very special occasions,” she said.
While interest for her wines is spiking in Asia, and leading the way for white Burgundy in China and Hong Kong, Leflaive cites the UK as a far more important market for her.
As for the 2012 vintage, yields at Leflaive were down by 50% due to two fierce hail storms in June and August, which will inevitably lead to price rises.
“Prices will have to go up but I’m not sure by how much yet. We’ve got a good amount of stock in our cellar, so we’ll have wines to sell next year,” she said.
Outside Burgundy, Leflaive is focusing on her 10-hectare biodynamic Loire Valley estate Clau de Nell in Anjou, where she makes Grolleau, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and has just planted Chenin Blanc to make a white.
Click on the video to watch the full interview with Anne-Claude Leflaive.