Thursday, August 27, 2015

Olivier Leflaive: Vineyard Walk and Cellar Tour, with Patrick Leflaive – Bourgogne Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France

Pictures: Oliver Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru - The Wine and the Vineyard

We spent a morning and part of the afternoon at Oliver Leflaive. The visit comprised 3 parts: (1) We started out with an extensive walk through the vineyards of Puligny Montrachet. (2) This was followed by a visit of the winery. (3) We ended the stop in Puligny Montrachet with a tasting lunch at La Table de Olivier, the restaurant of Maison Olivier Leflaive.

Pictures: Arriving in Puligny-Montrachet at La Maison d'Olivier Leflaive with Patrick Leflaive

Patrick Leflaive, the brother of Olivier Leflaive and President of Maison Oliver Leflaive, joined us for lunch.

This posting covers parts (1) and (2). Part (3) will be covered in a separate posting.

The Leflaive Family in Puligny Montrachet

Just after the First World War, Olivier’s grandfather, Joseph Leflaive, was faced with the failure of his steel factory in Saint-Etienne. His investments in Burgundy were all he had left and he decided to enlarge his wine estate. Burgundy had not yet recovered from the effect of the phylloxera epidemic, which meant that vineyards were for sale at a very low price. Joseph Leflaive was able to buy 25 hectares for his domaine.

In 1920, Joseph Leflaive started a program of replantation with better adapted root stock, and progressively started to sell wine under his own label rather than to négociants. It became a family-run operation covering some 35 hectares.

After the death of Joseph Leflaive in 1953, his son, Joseph Régis, the father of Olivier and Patrick Leflaive, was in insurance and along with his brother Vincent, decided to take over the rein of Domaine Leflaive. The estate soon began producing top-flight wines.

In 1973, Domaine Leflaive was given a company structure to avoid splitting it up with subsequent inheritance, with the family members becoming the shareholders. Joseph Régis had 5 children and Vincent Leflaive had 3 children. Joseph Régis and Vincent Leflaive continued to manage the company.

Pictures: Annette and Christian Schiller with Patrick Leflaive

Olivier Leflaive

Oliver Leflaive is one of the 5 children of Joseph Régis. Initially, he pursued a career in TV and radio for 10 years. In 1982, he joined his uncle Vincent Leflaive to co-manage Domaine Leflaive.

In 1984, Olivier Leflaive launched his own company Olivier Leflaive Frères, which we visited, with the help of his uncle Vincent and his brother Patrick. He quickly established his own reputation amongst Burgundy’s finest.

In 1990, Anne-Claude Leflaive replaced her father Vincent Leflaive in the management of Domaine Leflaive.

In 1994, the share holderss of Domaine Leflaive, i.e. the family Leflaive decided to give the management of Domaine Leflaive to Anne-Claude Leflaive. Olivier Leflaive left Domaine Leflaive and focused henceforth on his own company, Olivier Leflaive Frères, which he had already launched 10 years before.

Maison Olivier Leflaive Frères

Olivier Leflaive founded his own company Olivier Leflaive Frères, which we visited, with the help of his uncle Vincent and his brother Patrick, in In 1984. His brother Patrick invested in the business and became co-owner. His uncle Vincent also invested and acted in an advisory capacity, introducing him to winegrowers, and eventually to Jean-Marc Boillot who became his winemaker from 1984 to 1988.

Together, they brought this haute-couture business to life.

In 1988, Franck Grux took over as a winemaker and still holds this role today. Franck Grux was a young and talented winemaker who had been working at the Domaine Roulot in Meursault. He rapidly became Olivier’s right-hand man. Over the two past decades, he was able to establish a strong, long-term relationships with the best growers in the region.

Olivier Leflaive Frères is known today as a négociant (a wine buyer and seller) of high quality with a focus on the whites from the famous villages of Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault. Olivier Leflaive is continuously expanding and has acquired several vineyards that allow the Domaine to develop and build up its range of Domaines Wines alongside the négoce business.

In 1997, Olivier Leflaive Frères opened the Table d’Olivier Leflaive, Burgundy’s first table d’hôte enabling.

In 2001, Olivier Leflaive Frères extended its expertise to the Chablis AOC. In the same year, Olivier’s brother Patrick Leflaive, one of the initial investors, joined the company as President.

As numbers of diners grow, in 2006, Olivier Leflaive decided to open La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive, a 4 star hotel, to allow guests to stay longer in Puligny Montrachet.

2010, after several long years, Olivier and Patrick received their family legacy in the form of some fabulous terroirs:

– Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
– Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
– Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles
– Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières
– Meursault 1er Cru Blagny Sous le Dos d’Âne

In the same year, Oliver Leflaive retired from Olivier Leflaive Frères.

In the Vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet

We started our visit with a vineyard walk. We walked about a kilometer from La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive to the vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet.

Pictures: Vineyard Walk in Puligny Montrachet

Olivier Leflaive: Our daily mission is to produce top quality grapes. This involves a sustainable approach to working the vines, and also supporting our partner winegrowers in cultivating their plots using an organic or biodynamic approach. We have not any organic certification as we don’t hesitate to use chemical treatment if it’s really necessary.

The harvest is entirely manual and the grapes are picked with the utmost respect for the plant. Harvesting by machine is to be avoided at all costs as it damages the vines and can never match the skill and judgment of a human being.

In the Cellar of Olivier Leflaive

From the vineyards, we walked back to La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive and from there to the new production facility.

Pictures: In the Cellar of Olivier Leflaive in Puligny Montrachet

Olivier Leflaive: Although the quality of the harvest is key, vinification and ageing also play a major role in bringing out the essence of each appellation. Franck Grux and Philippe Grillet make it their daily task to ensure the quality of the wines and respect for the terroir. As such, the estate’s approach is to treat each cuvée individually.

Olivier Leflaive: We vinify and age the equivalent of 120 hectares of vines (including 17 of our own), the majority of which are white wines from the three prestigious Côte de Beaune villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault, as well as from Chablis and the Côte Chalonnaise.

Lunch and Wine Tasting at La Table de Olivier

From the production facility, we walked back to La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive, where we had lunch cum wine tasting with Patrick Leflaive joining us. The lunch will be covered in a separate posting.

Picture: Lunch at La Table d'Olivier (see separate Posting)

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