Domaine Olivier Leflaive, a well-established wine estate in France’s Burgundy, has roots that go back almost 400 years in history. The Leflaive family has been producing wine in the commune of Puligny Montrachet in Côte de Beaune since 1635. Today, Olivier Leflaive and his daughter Julie Leflaive represent the eighteenth and the nineteenth generations of the family that has become part of the long history of winemaking in Burgundy.
In 1985, three years after taking over Domaine Leflaive from his father, Olivier founded a new company under its current name. The goal of Domaine Olivier Leflaive was to grow the winemaking portfolio of the house by expanding the production to a broader variety of white wines of Côte-d’Or.
We spoke to Olivier and Julie Leflaive about the key winemaking traditions of the house, the diversity of the wines produced under the estate’s name, and the unique visitor experience carefully crafted by the family to introduce tourists from around the world to the winemaking of Burgundy.
Creativity in diversity
Olivier’s motivation in establishing the new company under his name was connected to his passion for working with a variety of different grapes and experimenting with wines. He continued to buy new vineyards across Burgundy to increase the variety of wines produced under the name of his company and capture the full scope of the region’s rich terroirs. Currently, the company produces 600,000 bottles a year across 14 villages in Burgundy.
“Today, I make 82 different wines at 82 different vineyards. This means that I harvest grapes from 82 different vineyards every year and that I have 82 different wines to taste in my cellar,” – Olivier mentions.
He explains that the beauty of Burgundy and, specifically, Côte-d’Or, lies in the fact that “each plot of the vineyard gives a different taste”.
“It is my passion to be able to experience plenty of different tastes and smells, this is what I love about having such a diversity of wine.”
Recently, Olivier began to experiment with champagne, launching champagne Valentin Leflaive back in 2015. Olivier explains his decision, saying that this “was not an ambition, it was curiosity”. “85% of my production is Chardonnay, and it was interesting for me to apply my technique of making wine in the Côte-d’Or,” – he says.
Same as the business of winemaking, the love of art runs deep in the Leflaive family, making the production of wine exclusively a process of artistic creation. Both Olivier and Julie enjoy music and sometimes sing together in front of the guests.
Olivier says that, to him, winemaking can be compared to composing music: “You need an awareness of the rhythm to create good music, same as you need to be sensible of the weather and to understand the personality of each terroir to make wine.”
Centuries of artful winemaking
Family traditions and history are highly valued at the estate, inspiring winemaking at all levels of production.
Julie Leflaive says that the meaning of tradition also translates to the vineyards themselves: “The vineyards here took a long time to become what they are now. It took over 2,000 years for them to develop. And we really want to continue our tradition this way and to respect nature, time, and our secrets.”
“We are very traditional. It means we work to make the wine exactly like my father, grandfather, and grand grandfather. Nothing is new except for the materials (stainless steels tanks, bottling machine, air-conditioned) ,” – Olivier adds.
“We want wine with elegance, finesse, and complexity. Those are the three aims of our winery.”
The contemporary technology allows speeding certain processes at the winery, such as bottling the wine. In the past, according to Olivier, only 100 bottles were being bottled at the production line every hour, while today, thanks to technology, this number rose to 2,000 bottles per hour.
A visitor experience at Hotel Olivier Leflaive
Domaine Olivier Leflaive constantly receives multitudes of tourists from around the world wanting to explore the region of Burgundy and meet one of its legendary winemakers who happily receives them at the Hotel Olivier Leflaive.
Olivier takes an active part in showing the guests around the winery and cellars, saying that allows him to create a special relationship with his visitors and helps them feel more comfortable. “I love my visitors, and I am happy to see them from anywhere in the world, it is very interesting for me,” – he adds.
The family focuses on introducing their guests to the complexity of Burgundy and helping them fall in love with the region, just like Olivier himself.
“We are trying to do our best to welcome the guests and to share the best of Burgundy. When they come back to their home country and go to restaurants or wineries, we want them to have this great memory about their trip to France.”
Julie also mentions that it is important to show the visitors the family traditions at Olivier Leflaive. “The people who come to Burgundy want to see the family, want to see the tradition of the living. It is important for us to give them a real and full experience. They will know so much about the family that they can feel as if they are a little part of the family,” – she says.
She concludes by saying that there are three main experiences designed for the visitors to have the best time staying at the hotel – food, wine, and sightseeing. The guests are welcome to dine at the restaurant Klima, which is due to open soon. The family also invites the guests to visit the vineyard and the cellar with Olivier himself, who chooses the wines and is happy to tell the visitors all about them.
Another experience recently introduced at the winery is the “wine bike” – an electric car that rides around the vineyards and the villages. There are ten such bicycles at the vineyard that the guests can take to ride around the territory.