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The Grand Cru Chevalier Montrachet sits high on the hillside overlooking Le Montrachet, Bâtard Montrachet and the village of Puligny Montrachet far below.
As a leader of biodynamic viticulture, Domaine Leflaive is renowned for the attention to detail and care that goes in to nourishing each vine from ground to bottle. This organic method of cultivation enriches the soil with plant-based compounds, thus sparing the vines of harmful herbicides and allowing the wine to exude the particularities of the Puligny-Montrachet terroir.
Their Grand Cru wines have consistently scored highly with Wine Advocate, Neal Martin describes them as “wines with audacity and ambition.” Le Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Bienvenue Batard Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet dominate Wine Advocate’s top scorers from this domaine, all of which are produced in tiny quantities. It is also worth noting that Neal Martin flags up Domaine Leflaive’s ability to “transcend the limitations of the growing season” – so even in less than favourable vintages their wines are worthy of consideration.
For those looking for an accessible opportunity to taste the top quality white Burgundy produced by this domaine, their Bourgogne Blanc and Mâcon Verzé provide just that.
Domaine Leflaive’s wines age excellently. Allen Meadows has previously noted that one particular vintage of Le Montrachet “even at almost 20 years of age… is still cruising along like it was only 10 as the freshness of the aromas is uncanny.” To help judge when the wines are ready to drink, Domaine Leflaive’s website provides an excellent database of recommendations by wine and by vintage.
Sol argilo-calcaire: 3 parcels in the Chevalier-Montrachet appellation.
Chevalier du bas sud: 6.5 ouvrées (0.69 acre) planted in 1957 and 1958.
Chevalier du bas nord: 21 ouvrées (2.22 acres) planted in 1955, 1964 and 1980.
Chevalier du haut: 19 ouvrées (2.01 acres) planted in 1974.
Surface: 1ha 99a (4.92 acres).
Method of culture: Long, gentle pneumatic pressing, decanting over 24 hours, then racking and running into cask of the must.
Alcoholic fermentation in oak casks, 25% new (maxi 1/3 Vosges, mini 2/3 Allier).
Maturing: after 12 months in cask, the wine is aged 6 months in tank where it is prepared for bottling.
Homeopathic fining and very light filtering if necessary.
Biodynamic: Manual harvesting with grape sorting and optimisation of choice of date through parcel-by-parcel ripeness monitoring.
After a mild beginning, winter took a nose-dive during three days in mid-January before becoming majestic. The first 15 days of February were icy-cold, between -15ºC and -4ºC (-5ºF to 25ºF). Then winter yielded its place to spring; it was thus that the month of March, dry and mild, saw in its appointed time the first budbreak. We thought, therefore, that once again it would be a precocious vintage, based on our recent experiences of the 2011 and 2007 vintages. This did not take into account the cold rains of April which would arrest the new growth. In the month of May, growth of the vines resumed, recovering a bit more normal cycle, but always advanced.
Flowering began during the last days of May, full flowering on June 5, but dragged on until after June 20. The fragile flowers, having to face wretched climatic conditions, offered us berries of mixed size (millerandage) affected by shatter (coulure). At the end of June, a sudden rise in temperatures brought on thunderstorms and then hail on June 30. The month of July was along the same lines but with added humidity.
The vineyards were once again hit by hail on August 1, further reducing an already diminished crop. Then the sun blazed and allowed the grapes to reach good phenolic maturity with a level of sugar that was less elevated than in the last few years.
We began the harvest on September 14: The musts were well-balanced and showed a very good level of acidity. We followed the wines during their aging (élevage), and they have maintained lovely acidity and show in advance an extraordinary minerality. Despite the fact that global production of the domaine was diminished by one-half, the wines manifest numerous qualities: minerality, balance, finesse, precision, tension, energy…a very grand vintage.
The 2012 vintage can be appreciated at the earliest as follows:
Bourgogne Blanc from the end of 2014 forward
Puligny-Montrachet and the Premiers Crus from the end of 2016 forward
The Grands Crus from the end of 2017 forward
Montrachet from the end of 2020 forward
2012 was beset by unusual weather that didn’t spare the vines! A mild winter, spring-like March, cool spring with frosts, summer-like May, cooler, wetter June, a variable summer with heatwaves, hail and storms… Because of the cold damp spring, some of the vine flowers didn’t set and form fruit, there was millerandage (where the flowers aren’t fully fertilised and give small berries) and high pressure from mildew and odium. Temperatures went right up during the short periods, over-heating and scorching the berries. This weather caused a significant fall in yields, without, however, impacting on the quality of the grapes, as well spread out bunches with small berries guarantee concentration and intensity.
All in all, the grapes achieved good ripeness in aromas and good sugar to acidity balance. The white wines are characterised by their finesse and concentration. The reds set themselves apart with their lovely colours, ripe and silky tannins and their harmonious mouthfeel