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Chardonnay debate: France vs California
By Hao Shen

IN recent months, the argument from Anne-Claude Leflaive, owner and now sole manager of Domaine Leflaive, has triggered considerable debate. She has claimed that the best Chardonnay outside Bourgogne comes from California.

Truly, Bourgogne today still produces the world's best Chardonnay, and Leflaive is regarded as one of its best producers.

Also I totally agree with two core, classic ideas mentioned by Anne-Claude: 1. "The wines we made are not Chardonnay, instead they are Puligny-Montrachet;" 2. The only character of the best Chardonnays are "pure nuts (cashew and hazelnut) and mineral."

However, isn't it better to give these words a second thought and ask, "Why is Anne-Claude so impressed with California's Chardonnay? Is she still greatly influenced by the 1976 competition?"

As we all know, for the 1976 California vs France tasting, the wines from Leflaive - Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru and Les Pucelles Premier Cru - were defeated by the Chateau Montelena. Montelena is renowned for its light and elegant style, always misleading during blind tasting. The recent vintage I tasted is '08 for Montelena. I've never felt nothing in this wine, it was good, but what a pity, not good enough to me.

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