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WineSpeed | Domaine Leflaive

Weekly insights from veteran wine writer Karen MacNeil.

BY Karen Macneil | Life | Jan 8, 2018
Photo by Steven Autry/Getty

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE | Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru “Clavoillon” 2013

(Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France) $139

What must it have been like to be a vigneron in the little village of Puligny-Montrachet in, say, 1980, watching as winemakers everywhere from Monterey, Calif., to Margaret River, Australia, began planting chardonnay as fast as they could. I bet they weren’t worrying. Because the winemakers of Puligny-Montrachet aren’t in the chardonnay business; they are in the Puligny-Montrachet business. This exquisite Leflaive tells the story best. Its vivid bolts of fresh acidity infuse the wine with an “aliveness” that’s electrifying. Meanwhile, the wine’s nutty/earthy richness is mind bending. Alas, chardonnay does not do this; Puligny-Montrachet does this. (13.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Calvert Woodley

How does a “Burgundy barrel” compare to a “Bordeaux barrel?”

A. Burgundy barrels are slightly smaller than Bordeaux barrels.

B.  Burgundy barrels and Bordeaux barrels are the same; but each is known in its own region by that region’s name.

C. Burgundy barrels are generally less toasted than Bordeaux barrels.

D. Burgundy barrels are slightly more round than Bordeaux barrels.

Scroll down for the answer!

Tension

Last week on the Karen MacNeil Facebook page, Edward S. asked what is meant by “tension” in a wine. Here goes: Tension is the sense in a wine that there are two opposing forces that create a kind of dynamic energy. For example, when those entities are fruit and acid, you might have a wine that walks a tightrope between richness (fruit) and freshness (acid). Tension can give wine a kind of “aliveness.”

Less Isn’t Always More

So, you’ve heard the idea that the lower the yield of grapes, the higher the quality of the wine. The rationale goes like this: The fewer grapes you grow on any one acre of land, the more concentrated those grapes will be and therefore the more flavorful the wine will be. It sounds reasonable. Except it isn’t exactly true. Alas, there is no absolute linear correlation between yield and quality. In the Napa Valley, for example, fantastic cabernet sauvignons are made from vineyards that yield two tons per acre—and from vineyards that yield double that. We do know that each vine has a “balance point”—a finely-tuned level of crop at which the grapes grow optimally. But where that balance point is isn’t as simple as tons per acre.

 “I’m playing the best basketball of my life, and I’m drinking some wine pretty much every day.”

—LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, speaking to NBC Sports, California. On a recent trip to Napa Valley to taste wines, James practiced at the St. Helena High School gym. 

My blog last week, Beyond the Wine Glass—A New Glass Ceiling?, got dozens of comments from WineSpeed readers.  Here were a few:  

 Becky Wasserman wrote:
“A fine article, and thank you so much. At age 81, I attempted to live by what you offer as a blueprint, and until recently our company, Le Serbet, was principally all woman.”

Maureen Downey, DWS, CWE, wrote:
“This is an excellent piece! I particularly love the fact that successful women in wine receive an inordinate amount of ire… And I cannot more strongly agree with the sentiment that language can marginalize: using terms like “chick,” “bitch,” “diva” and “doll” does not inspire competency nor convey professionalism.”

Jane Kettlewell wrote:
“I so enjoyed reading and re-reading your thoughts and observations on Women in the Wine Industry and have shared your article with a number of friends. There is much to be done! As I recall, this year’s Wine Enthusiast Star Award winners were all, to a man—a man! Photos in Market Watch of attendees at this year’s Impact Beverage Industry Seminar (a who’s who in terms of distributors and trade) featured page after page after page of—men. What a long way we have to go!”

Anastasia Tavare wrote:
“What a great article encouraging professional women to keep pursuing success and to not be apologetic for it once they get it…. The concept applies to women in almost any industry.”

D. A Burgundy barrel is low and squat, and has a deeper, rounder bilge than a Bordeaux barrel. The deeper bilge is designed to allow the spent yeasts (known as lees) to settle easily. This shape is especially helpful in making white Burgundy (chardonnay) where extended lees contact leads to wines that have a sense of creaminess (important given the high acidity of the wines). A Burgundy barrel is 228 liters in capacity. A Bordeaux barrel is higher and longer than a Burgundy barrel. It is 225 liters in capacity. 

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