The Grand Vin is the product of exceptional terroirs from the former Léoville estate. These terroirs are located mainly in the Clos Léoville Las Cases, which you pass as you leave Saint- Julien village for Pauillac. They extend over nearly 60ha producing Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs with a complex, polished expression and characteristics which are totally unique to the Grand Vin of Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases and have been widely recognized for years.
Château Léoville Las Cases is one of the largest and oldest classified growths in the Médoc known since 1707. The wine produced here was classified as one of fifteen Second Growths in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.
Today’s Léoville Las Cases was once part of a much larger estate until the time of the French Revolution when a portion of this estate was separated into what is today Château Léoville-Barton. In 1840, the estate was again divided and land that would eventually become Château Léoville-Poyferré was split off. When the 1855 Classification was completed, all three properties from the original Léoville estate were classed as Second Growths. Since the mid 20th century the Delon family have been owners of this estate.
The soil of St Julien is ideal for vines, due to its geographic situation and its climate; every element is present to produce wines of exceptional quality and elegance. Léoville Las Cases' 97 hectares of vineyards are superbly sited on gravelly-clay soils with the largest plot being surrounded by a stone wall and stretching between the village of St-Julien and Château Latour.
The hottest wine in Bordeaux
History has shown that every wine district tends to have producers whose ideology or production methods diverge from the norm in the area. One of the most classic wine regions, however, Médoc in Bordeaux, is unusual in this respect. With the exception of one, the area’s producers have toed the line and conformed to the 1855 Bordeaux classification and their position in the rankings. Mouton-Rothschild, led by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, was upgraded from a second to a first growth thanks to vigorous lobbying by the baron, but otherwise there have been few major changes. However, in recent years an estate has gained publicity and market interest by deciding to challenge the historic classification and to do things differently. Château Léoville-Las-Cases, located in the commune of Saint-Julien, is currently the hottest Bordeaux estate among wine collectors and investors.
Located next to Château Latour, Léoville-Las-Cases, one of the largest vineyards in Bordeaux, has perhaps the best location in St.-Julien, right by Pauillac. All in all, the estate has 97 hectares of land around the commune, but the best plots are situated, surrounded by walls, on a gentle slope next to Latour. The fifty-hectare parcel produces strong, very Pauillac-like wines for which the centuries-old château is famous.
This is one of the estates with the longest histories in Bordeaux. It reaches all the way to the seventeenth century, when the estate was owned by the royal family of Las Cases. The estate was passed down through the generations, finally to Alexandre de Gascq, who had married into the family. He bought more lands for the estate, making it the largest in Bordeaux. In 1840 the estate was split into three; one parts was retained in the Las Cases family and began operating under the name Léoville-Las-Cases. Another went with a daughter into the Poyferré family and was named Léoville-Poyferré. The third section was auctioned off to the wine merchant Hugh Barton. The Las Cases ownership was eventually divided into many portions through inheritance, and some of the children decided to sell their shares. The vineyard director Théophile Skanwinski expressed his interest and bought the shares in tranches. From Skanwinski, the estate was inherited through his daughter by André Delon, whose family has since then retained ownership. Significant qualitative changes have taken place at the estate in the last thirty years.
André’s grandson Michel Delon, who took over the estate in 1976, held it under strict control for nearly 25 years, with the aim of producing nothing less than top-quality wines. Although many of his neighbours considered Michel Delon a profiteer who raised his wines’ prices by releasing them to the market only a small batch at a time, he did take actions previously unseen in Médoc to improve the quality of his wines.
In the 1980s he launched the green harvest method for improving grape quality during the growing season, and used it systematically on his vineyards. Even in the high-quality harvest years of 1986 and 1990, Delon cut his crop – by half in 1986 and by up to two thirds in 1990 – in order to ensure superior quality. In his cellars, he had the floors made of marble. In wine production he used vats of different materials – oak, concrete and steel – to give the wines a nuanced character. He was also one of the first in Bordeaux to conduct reverse osmosis experiments to improve concentration.
This pioneer and trailblazer passed away of a heart attack in 2000, after which the estate has been led by his son, Jean-Hubert Delon. Jean-Hubert has laudably continued to invest in the wines’ quality, which has also led to growing demand. In addition to developing the estate’s grand vin, Jean-Hubert has been committed to improving the quality of the second wine, Clos du Marquis, launched in 1902. Due to more careful selection of grapes for the number two wine, a third label, Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases, was released in 2007 to use up the grapes from the vineyards’ youngest vines. Only a few first growth estates have a similar procedure.
The Delons’ decades-long insistence on the estate’s right to a first-growth classification was in 2008 supported and justified by a study conducted at Cornell University. The reasons given in the study were both the wines’ quality and the prices paid for them. As their base data, the researchers used average scores given by the most esteemed wine critics in the previous 35 years, and the prices paid for Léoville-Las-Cases wines, which have been three times that of other second growths.
Even though the estate’s wines are significantly pricier than others in their category, they are still more affordable than those from first growth estates. Therefore one could be justified in saying that Léoville-Las-Cases offers one of the best price-to-quality ratios of all Bordeaux wines.