The new recipient of the Winemakers’ Winemaker award, Anne-Claude Leflaive, embodies a combination of tradition and innovation, writes Patrick Schmitt.
Anne-Claude Leflaive. Photo credit: Colin Hampden-White
THE WINEMAKERS’ Winemaker award may be a baby compared with some industry accolades, but by its third year, it already appeared to be setting a trend. Established jointly by ourselves and the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2011, recipients have been red-winemaking males with names beginning with P. Initially we had two Peters – Peter Sisseck of Pingus and Peter Gago from Penfolds – and then a Paul: Paul Draper from Ridge Vineyards. But in 2014, with our fourth recipient, we proved this was not a long-term tradition. Not only was the winner this year a woman, but also a white-winemaker – and with no Ps in her name, either.
That person was Anne-Claude Leflaive, someone responsible for the world’s most expensive dry white wine, the conversion of her family domaine to biodynamics and the establishment of a winemaking school in Puligny-Montrachet – as well
as the creation of the world’s first egg- shaped cellar.
Sadly, unlike previous recipients, Anne- Claude had to accept the award via video link because the ceremony clashed with the annual Paris-based tasting for the Domaines Familiaux de Tradition de Bourgogne, a 28-strong collection of Burgundy’s most famous family-owned operators, including Leflaive.
Nevertheless, she expressed her feelings about the award to camera, allowing us to screen her acceptance to almost 200 high- profile members of the wine trade on 24 March at ProWein. This occurred during an evening event where, following the announcement to much applause that she was this year’s Winemakers’ Winemaker, her wines were poured.
“I am very happy and proud to be selected for this award by my fellow winemakers and Masters of Wine,” she said, adding, “For me, it was a great surprise and a great honour.”
Attendees applaud the winner of the Winemakers’ Winemaker 2014
Continuing, she explained, “I think the respect of other winemakers around the world comes from the fact that this is a family domaine that has been built up over three generations. We care for our wines like children – but, for me, the most important thing is to have good grapes and work with respect in the vineyards.”