At Christmas I was one of the very few Canadians drinking Olivier Leflaive white burgundy. How do I know? You can’t get it in Canada. I felt very, very special. Hey: I’m now one of the “one per cent”!
We visited Leflaive a year or so ago for an exceptional degustation meal (the food pretty good, the wine over the top) and bought a case of wine which kept us company for our travels through France. Fortunately, some made it home. Leflaive would sell to Canada if not for the cumbersome, irritating, bureaucratic and ridiculous systems in place in BC and Ontario. This wine was good. Truthfully, it wasn’t the best wine we tasted (and bought) at the chateau, but it was still wonderful, really opened up with some air and as it warmed. A stunning buttery finish.
Here’s what I blogged following our visit: For lunch we drove west then south to Puligny Montrachet. Part of coming to Burgundy is to taste the best white wine in the world which is the home of the chardonnay grape. Since our interest isn’t to drop by each and every “cave” for tasting we decided to take a “degustation” menu at one of the premier producers, Olivier Leflaive. Puligny Montrachet is just off the beaten track, a charming little village with a couple of central squares and hugely appealing homes and “chateaux”.
Our lunch began with instructions: We were going to have four courses and samples of 14 wines, 11 white, three red, always lined up left to right, and were to sample each wine with each dish and report back. But before I go on let me say that there was a spittoon on the table! Our first three were an Aligote (a white grape which gives a basic dry wine of not too much interest), a Chablis and a special Bourgogne also from chardonnay grapes. While the Chablis was the most expensive, the Bourgogne was tastier. We enjoyed gurgling these with some cheese gougeres (puffs). Next a Rully and a Saint Romain. Rully is considered a “lesser” Burgundy but in fact sells in YVR at a reasonable price point and is nothing to be sneered at. We were served a terrine of tuna and parsley alongside smoked salmon with a herbed mayonnaise. Both of us agreed that the St Romaine was perfect with the tuna but, when our waiter was speaking French to some Germans nearby, and they agreed with us, he mockingly said “oh so you agree with the Canadians?” as if to imply we were daft. But it was in fun. We moved on to the heavy hitters: Chassagne-Montrachet, Merusault and Puligny-Montrachet. These are whites for the well-to-do, who think of nothing about dropping big bucks on vino.
It was about this time that Olivier’s brother Patrick Leflaive stopped by. He made an appearance at all the tables, speaking French with the Germans, Italian with the Italians, and English with the Kiwis and us. When he found out we were Canadian he rolled his eyes and moaned about the government bureaucracy that controls wine distribution in the provinces. In Ontario, for instance, they demand abundant free samples and a multitude of paperwork before even considering distribution. He told us they asked some very important questions relevant to the consumer such as, most recently, “What is the weight of your cork?” When we asked him what indeed was the weight of the Leflaive cork, and he couldn’t remember, it reminded me of the Orwellian system that for some reason sucks freely on the taxpayers’ teat back home. I told him it was virtually impossible to find Leflaive in BC, although I did once spot a St. Romain at an independent (retail $65, needless to say I didn’t buy it; which, btw, sells for 16 euros at the vineyard and I might add, our whole lunch, all in, was less than the single bottle would have been in YVR! Pave my roads on Saturna Mr Taxman!). We enjoyed our pricey, elegant wines with a chicken breast baked in puff pastry and a potato puree (aka soft and milky mashed potatoes). That would have been enough, that would have been more than enough, but out came the really big guns: First growth (or “premier cru”) Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. With these we had three soft cheeses. Now to be fair, even at the vineyard prices (47-49 Euros a bottle) I wouldn’t buy any. But that said, the PM was about as perfect as anything you can imagine; buttery and with a hint of oak, some nuttiness like hazelnuts, a touch of peach, essentially magic. Each wine was grown from vineyards within a five km stretch and yet each was unique. But although different each was very close to perfection. I guess this is how the top 400 Americans paying 16.6 per cent income tax live… After these came three reds, a table red, a Pommard and a Volnay, along with two strong semi-soft cheeses and one hard cheese. The reds are very respectable, Pommard and Volnay hold a lot of esteem in the wine world (the Italians skipped some of the whites demanding reds), but the reality is that the previous three whites are as if parents were presented with three of their children and asked to choose their favourite. The three reds were like asking those same parents which of their three children is tallest. The latter would be much easier to do. And, fortunately (or not) those reds went down the spittoon.
We moved on to a small but very dense Valrhona chocolate mousse, followed by coffee, then a very long walk!
Price: Don’t remember. The equivalent of $25? $40? Half what a Puligny or Chassagne Montrachet would be in BC anyway.
Market Liquidity: When I win the lottery I buy a place in Beaune…