2011 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne 91 points
One of the best places in the world for Chardonnay is the Beaune in Burgundy and, for many years, one of the finest winemakers in the Beaune was Anne-Claude Leflaive. It is difficult to overstate how good her wines were; she had a certain magic about her. Sadly, in 2015, at only 59, she died of cancer.
Tasting the wines of Anne-Claude Leflaive is challenging. Domaine Leflaive (not to be confused with the wines of Oliver Leflaive, Anne-Claude’s cousin, a gifted wine producer in his own right) is one of the best producers in the region and the wines fetch prices based upon that reputation. Grand Cru Domaine Leflaive fetches hundred, or even thousands, of dollars for each bottle, quite outside my price range. Even when I am feeling reckless and wiling to buy a more pricey wine, Domaine Leflaive is usually too pricey. When I have tried them, they have been incredible wines but it has always been at large scale tastings where standing over the bottle with a scimitar fighting off other tasters would not be appropriate.
There are a few wines from the Domaine that are more affordable. By “affordable” I mean they will not require a mortgage to afford them. The more affordable wines range from several hundred dollars for the Premier Cru wines (still too much) to the $50-$100 wines from the Macon, Village Puligny Montrachet and the standard regional Bourgogne. Yes, these wines are still pricey, but they allow more regular wine drinkers the chance to sample the quality and skills available for wines from one of the best wine regions in the world, made by one of the best winemakers in the world.
I had the 2011 Bourgogne for Thanksgiving. Typically, regional Bourgogne wines are good but not that exciting. They lack complexity, may be a bit acidic and can be a tad one dimensional. But, at $10-$20 a bottle, they are not expected to be exceptional.
The Leflaive Bourgogne is much better than your typical regional Bourgogne. The fruit is riper and the wine is more complex, with white peach, honeydew melon, chamomile, lemon zest and a kiss of vanilla oak. The wine is starting to show its age, with a little marcona almond. The crisp acidity provides backbone and has allowed this wine to age nicely: its depth seems to have improved over the last few years and it has gained elegance and more apparent creaminess with time. At 12.5% alcohol, it will not weigh you down either. Is it worth the price? That depends. The chance to try the wines of Anne-Claude Leflaive is always worth it to me: to see what the Domaine does with a “generic” AOC wine compared to what others have done. It is also a chance to taste history, as her wines are becoming scarcer. Domaine Leflaive still makes great wines, but it is getting harder to taste wines with her direct influence. Wines of comparable quality from Burgundy, such as the Patrick Piuze Butteaux Premier Cru, are just as pricey. So, it really depends upon your price range and your willingness to spend more for a bit of history.