Five Generations of Burgundy

Today’s Story: Albert Bichot

Domaines Albert Bichot traces its roots back to 1831 when Bernard Bichot started a wine trading business. Hippolyte, Bernard’s son, succeeded him and was the first family member to purchase vines in Volnay due to his belief that upstream control of the product is vital to his success as a merchant. This expansion of sorts prompted Albert Bichot, Hippolyte’s son and the first to bear the name, to set home base in Beaune in 1912.

As the family endeavor grew exponentially, the second Albert Bichot (born 1900) set an emphasis on international trade and travelled constantly throughout the world to introduce the family’s wines. During the second half of the 20th century, Albert’s sons Albert, Bernard, Bénigne, and Jean-Marc helped expand the domaine with this same mentality. For instance, they constructed a large cellar, bottling center, and winery to produce wine for distribution to every inhabited continent.

Still a family brand today, Albéric Bichot joined in the early 1990s and took over management responsibilities in 1996. Albéric’s main challenges thus far have been converting to organic viticulture in the Côte-d’Or vineyards, adhering and changing with global tastes, laws, and market trends, and increasing the world’s knowledge and respect for Burgundy wine. He dramatically expanded Albert Bichot’s vinification capacity again in 2010 and the company’s vineyards now total 6 estates throughout Burgundy.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Chassagne-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

I’ve had several wines, both white and red, from Albert Bichot and the quality to price ratio is always quite good. This easy-drinking Chassagne-Montrachet is pale yellow/straw in color with water white variation near the edges of the glass. On the nose are aromas of pear, peach, stone fruit, lemon citrus, cream, and white florals. Once in the mouth, flavors of pear, melon, pineapple, lemon zest, and white pepper abound. Full-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity, the wine finishes well-rounded with buttery notes.

Price: $55, great QPR for this wine. Pair this with chicken, fish, or crab.

Burgundian Beauty

Today’s Story: Domaine Leflaive

Domaine Leflaive is a very highly regarded winery located in Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy. While origins of the estate come as early as 1717 with Claude Leflaive, the winery as it is today seems to begin with Joseph Leflaive (1870-1953). Initially working as a naval engineer who helped develop the first French submarine, Joseph cared for his family’s vines in Puligny-Montrachet following his marriage. Thanks to phylloxera, many of the vines needed dramatic replanting and many of the produce at the time sold to wine merchants. Thus, in the 1920s, Joseph replanted the parcels of his estate and started selling wines under his own label.

When Joseph died in 1953, Domaine Leflaive came under the control of his four children (Jo, Vincent, Anne, and Jeanne) and the family desired to maintain the winery at the peak of excellence. Jo, an insurance underwriter by trade, took over the administrative and financial management of Domaine Leflaive while Vincent, an engineer who studied management and business, covered the vineyard, wines, and commercial side of the business. Over time, Domaine Leflaive produced some of the greatest white Burgundy wines and continues to be a family endeavor. In 1990, Vincent’s daughter Anne Claude became joint manager with Jo’s son Olivier and the two learned from Vincent until his death in 1993 and Anne Claude was named manager.

Much changed at the estate from the 1990s, though it is still run by the family. Today’s steward is Brice de La Morandiere, Anne Claude’s nephew and great-grandson of Joseph Leflaive. Brice’s largest contributions so far include the updating of historic buildings on the estate and enhancements to the winemaking process that include new corks to allow for prolonged aging of the Domaine’s wines.

Lastly, as a common thread, I will leave you with a brief conversation on the farming and winemaking practices of Domaine Leflaive. Leflaive practices biodynamic farming in an effort to understand and appreciate all natural phenomena that ultimately strengthen the immunity of their vines. They tend to their soil with the use of products made from vegetable, animal and mineral matter at certain points during the annual cycle, while working the land by tilling and scraping. Further, Leflaive practices organic cultivation of the vines. You can read more in-depth on their practices at https://www.leflaive.fr/en/the-spirit.

Today’s Wine: 1995 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

This was a “fingers crossed” type of bottle for a couple reasons. First, the cork on this bottle was slightly depressed (only 1-2mm or so) and was nearly soaked. I’ve seen this with wine before, so I gingerly used my Ah So wine opener to get the cork out and thankfully it was one solid piece and the seal seemed intact. Secondly, white Burgundy from the 1990s, particularly starting with the 1995 vintage, has a somewhat significant problem with premox (premature oxidation) which can ruin a relatively young wine. The wine can give off aromas and flavors like a Sherry, or worse, and become undrinkable while showing darker than expected or brown colors. Fortunately, this bottle had no premox and the slight depression of the cork turned out okay.

With that good news, our wine today shows a vibrant gold color. Once this opened in the glass, beautiful aromas of ripe pear, honeysuckle, cream, white florals, nuts, and white truffle leap outward. I could smell this wine all day. In the mouth, flavors of lemon citrus, golden apple skins, white pepper, spice, and minerality mingle in perfect balance. The wine is full-bodied with lip-smacking high acidity and a finish that goes on for easily 40 seconds. This bottle was truly a pleasant surprise, and for anyone who has one left I’d advise you to start drinking.

Price: $530. This is one of those bottles I drink very rarely, with the vintage coincidentally being my birth year. Pair with stone crab, mild fish, or a small plate of pear and mild cheeses.