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BORDEAUX 2018: LAS CASES THREATENS TO GO NUCLEAR

After a quiet end to last week due to French public holidays, St Julien’s leading estate Léoville Las Cases has kicked off the week’s proceedings in dramatic style with its “atomic bomb” of a wine but punchy price leaving buyers with a bit of a Cold War era choice – make the call or not?

There’s no doubt this morning’s release is pretty punchy at €180 per bottle ex-négoce (up 25% on the 2017 opening price), meaning it’s being offered at £2,172 per case.

There was a little bit of variance on the scores from the key critics. Antonio Galloni for example gave it a 95-98 range though, despite a slightly conservative lower end to his bracket, said it was “one of the unquestioned stars of the vintage”.

Others were more gung-ho in their scores, both James Suckling and The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW giving it a potential 100-points and Purple Pages’ Julia Harding MW a ringing 18.5. US critics Jeff Leve and James Molesworth also had 100-point potential in their brackets.

All spoke of its “energy” and profusion of black fruit and freshness.

“OMG”, wrote Suckling, while Perrotti-Bown warned it was an “atomic bomb waiting to go off in your mouth”.

Price-wise one’s sense of ‘fair value’ will depend on the critical voice one trusts. As Liv-ex pointed out, at this price Suckling and Perrotti-Brown’s scores make it look ‘fair’, Galloni’s not so much – but scores can also change.

Sitting at a discount to the current market price of the 2016 – one of the highest rated Las Cases – it’s more than the 2005, 2009 or 2010 are available for.

Yet volumes are also very limited for what is potentially a world class wine. Make the call? Push the button? What to do?

Farr Vintners’ Stephen Browett offered: “On one hand, [it] looks expensive at above the current market prices of the 2009 and 2010 but, on the other hand, the scores are outstanding and this is certainly a potential 100 pointer.”

Over at BI, Giles Cooper added that Las Cases doesn’t have a “great track record of making massive gains on the secondary market” – most of its back vintages from the last decade are below £1,500 a case – but you can’t argue with the fact that the 2018 is, “a stunning wine from a nigh-on unique vintage and customers are just looking at the price vis-à-vis the other wines they drink and thinking ‘I want that in my cellar’ – and understandably so.”

Ultimately, thought Wine Lister, “with four potential 100-point scores from other critics, it is perhaps one of the few 2018s that can get away with such an ambitious release price.”

Reports from several UK merchants this morning seem to indicate that sales are going well.

It appears to have been a feature of the campaign so far that some wines have gone gangbusters for varying reasons while others have turned up if not much else.

Will Hargrove at Corney & Barrow reported it had been a bit “hit and miss” though overall “better than last year” so far – though that isn’t hard.

Cooper said that despite some “ambitious” pricing things had been ticking along well though Browett said that big sellers had been “the exception rather than the rule” and too many estates were releasing close to current prices for their 2016 and 2015 wines.

Still, thought Hargrove, with many big Right Bank names such as Cheval Blanc and Ausone and Left Bank heavyweights such as Montrose, Pichon Baron and all the first growths still to come, there was “still much to play for”.

 

THE 2013 BORDEAUX BARRELS DIARY

Domaines Delon (Château Léoville Las Cases) Michael Georges, 40, is the technical director for both Châteaus Léoville Las Cases and Nenin and has worked with the Jean-Hubert Delon properties since 1998. "On the Right Bank we are lucky to have some Cabernet Franc, because the Merlot was so hurt by the flowering," said Georges in regard to the Delon-owned Château Nenin in Pomerol. "The Cab Franc brought some finesse to the tannins and helped the blend. And back on the Left Bank, Cabernet Sauvignon on gravel were the favored spots, but Cab Franc on the clay did well too." "But things were difficult in 2013 because of the amount of work and the timing. We did de-leafing as flowering was ending, which is earlier than usual," said Georges. "There was also more leaf removal than usual, as well as more lateral shoot removal. This was preventative against gray rot, which I had never seen that early before. The key to the vintage was to anticipate, rather than wait. We did green harvesting during veraison, for example, rather than waiting until the end. The goal was to increase the phenolic ripeness as much as possible, seeing that it was going to be a short season."

The Château Nenin Pomerol Fugue de Nenin 2013 blends Merlot with 5 percent Cabernet Franc. It's charming as it shows light cherry and floral notes, gentle finish with a lightly dusty feel. The Château Nenin Pomerol 2013 is two-thirds Merlot, with the rest Cabernet Franc, a noticeable percentage of the latter. It has a good core of cherry and red currant, with a lightly sappy edge, which is unusual for the vintage. The fresh, racy finish picks up a nice floral edge and overall it's focused and pure. "We normally work for low extraction across all the estates, so we didn't change much for 2013 in that regard. Slightly lower temperature and less remontage, but not much. We were most careful at the last part of the alcoholic fermentation, to avoid extracting the dry or green tannins," said Georges. At Delon's Médoc property, the yield came in at a surprising 2.9 tons per acre, though the Château Potensac Médoc Chapelle de Potensac 2013 was slightly chaptalized to boost it's alcohol. It comes off in a nice, bright, tangy style, with good plum pit, Campari and floral notes and lively acidity.

The Château Potensac Médoc 2013 has a nice taut feel, with the flesh to match, as lightly sinewy tannins carry red currant and brisk plum fruit through a bright finish. At the flagship estate, yields were 2.3 tons per acre. The Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien Le Petit Lion 2013 is open and juicy, with nice flesh to the plum and blackberry notes. It has light vanilla and graphite hints through the finish, and no green notes at all. It's a nice surprise. From vineyards across the road and on slightly different black sand and gravel soils, the Clos du Marquis St.-Julien 2013 is sourced from 30-year-old vines. It's being aged in 50 percent new oak, actually an increase from 30 percent since the 2010 vintage. It has solid red licorice, damson plum and cherry pit notes, with good focus and a pleasantly taut feel through the finish. Overall it has good length and energy.

The Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien 2013 is being aged in 85 percent new oak, up from 75 since the 2010 vintage. The 74/14/12 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend is sourced from the famed l'Enclos vineyard that borders Château Latour, featuring various soil types ranging from clay to gravel, plus older vines that average 50 years old and range up to 80. It's surprisingly sappy, with delicious kirsch, crushed plum and raspberry coulis flavors lined with charcoal, sweet spice and singed apple wood notes. There's lots of stuffing here, on a level with Haut-Brion in terms of depth, but with a sleek, longer feel to boot. It's showing some wood today, but the fruit density is there, and this wine always tends to build slowly in the cellar anyway. This wine keeps quietly checking in at the elite level of the region and 2013 looks to be no exception. "Cabernet Franc is really the marker of Las Cases," said Georges. "It's relatively rare in the Médoc and 14 percent in the blend is a high percentage. It's the bridge between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It gives some finesse to the Cabernet Sauvignon and adds depth to the Merlot. But it's tricky to grow, and the yield has to be lower than either Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Luckily in '13, that was the case."

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History

One of the oldest Medoc estates, Domaine de Léoville belonged to some of the wealthiest and most influential noble French families before it was acquired by the Las Cases family. The estate was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution. (Expropriation of emigrants’ property and constitution of egalitarian redistribution). Château Léoville Las Cases was created, thanks to a kind of birthright, from 3/5 of the original estate and the heart of the domain.

 

The Grand Vin’s current terroir has therefore been at the historic heart of the original terroir since the 17th century. Pierre Jean, Adolphe and Gabriel de Las Cases were successive heirs to the property until 1900, when Théophile Skawinski purchased a share in the estate and became its manager. Léoville Las Cases has now been managed by the same family since the late 19th century and is today represented by Jean-Hubert Delon, sole owner of the Château and proprietor of Château Potensac in the Medoc and Château Nénin in Pomerol.

 

 

 

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Vineyards

The Clos encases a terroir of very great complexity. It is mainly composed of Quaternary gravel ("graves") over gravellysand and gravelly clay subsoils. We also fi nd clays which are variably deep and compact, but which sometimes break through to the surface. The proximity of the Gironde River has created the wide diversity of soils, formed over various geological periods by successive superimpositions. The estate covers 98 hectares in St-Julien. The average age of vines is 40 years and their planting density is 8,600 vines per hectare.

 

The river also creates a special microclimate that enables very early ripening of the grapes and protects the vineyards from frost. This cameo of geological combinations infl uences the growth of the vine and the composition of the grapes: regular but restricted water supply and a very low intake of nutrients bring out the best in the great Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs which usually achieve their full potential whatever the vintage. The incomparable terroir gives this great wine its unique personality.

 

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Winemaking

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.

 

Wines representative of their Terroir

Consequently, the Clos du Marquis is a perfect expression of the Saint-Julien features based on structure, harmony, distinction, complexity and ageing potential. In fact, its terroir is surrounded by several Second Classified Growths of the Appellation. The same applies for the Château Potensac, a wine of steady colour, dense and consistent texture with a strict yet noble nose combining mellowness and balance, an authentic reflection of the Médoc style, quite similar to that of Saint-Estèphe. Nénin off ers the richness and elegance of great Pomerol wines destined for ageing.

 

The wines are made to be consumed during meals.
They can be shared and enjoyed with family or friends. The wines are produced in such a way that they preserve their fresh ripe fruit fl avours throughout their life. Special attention is paid to the balance of acidity, a key element for ageing and the thirst-quenching role of the wine. The empyreumatic aromas given by maturation in new oak barrels must not dominate the grape aromas, but should blend together to offer a refined nose.

 

They must have good ageing potential and be able to improve with age. 
Precise ripening level of the grapes, balance in the blend and adapted maturation according to the wine's potential, all contribute in obtaining the oenological features which play a part in the wine's ageing capacity. A wine with ageing potential, if composed harmoniously, will overcome with ease certain inconveniences encountered during transport and conservation, which can lead to premature ageing.

 

A continual and incontestable search for excellence

For each vintage and terroir, the capricious sides of nature need to be understood in order to provide healthy and ripe grapes at harvesting, which are then vinifi ed and blended to make fine or great wines.

Not only is the soil worked traditionally using the age-old knowledge of the terroir but also our integrated agricultural methods show true respect of the surrounding environment. Carefully selecting grafts from our own best plants, mastering the plants' vigour, limiting the number of treatments and introducing hedgerows to encourage biodiversity are all decisions that contribute to our goal: bringing out the best in each terroir for each vintage off ered by Mother Nature. After strict selection, only the most representative batches of each product are chosen for the final blend. The Delon family and its team ensure that the wines are as consistent as possible, by a first blend before barrelling and by re-blending them after ageing. The Delon family considers that each bottle of each wine produced is an ambassador for all consumers who taste them.

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Inside information

"If a single wine estate in Bordeaux today were to be promoted to the rank of Premier Cru Classé, Léoville las Cases would be the choice of most claret connoisseurs. The 98 hectare estate is in the appellation of Saint-Julien on the border of Pauillac and abuts some of the best vineyards of its lofty neighbour Château Latour. Perhaps this is why the structured and racy wines of Las Cases so often resemble those of Latour." James Suckling

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3 different wines with 85 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  41 wines 

Montrachet, 2002 Domaine Des Comtes Lafon.
Montrachet, please notice. No Le, as the plot is on the Chassagne side. Here was a wine which took its time to come out of the glass. At first I was a little underwhelmed, but after ten minutes or so, the richness, concentration, and indeed a succulence almost like a red wine, began to appear. We have something which is quite oaky, still quite youthful, full bodied and very classy indeed: the depth unmistakably of a grand cru. Quite splendid!

2m 11d ago

 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  29 wines 

Penfolds G3 / The very first release of this new, somewhat iconoclastic and yet intrinsically delicious concept, this NV G3 is a blend of Grange 2008, 2012 and 2014, although fans of Grange should not expect it to taste like any of these; G3 possesses a style all its own. Very deep garnet-black colored, it has a full-throttle, up-front nose of incense, fruit cake, chocolate-covered cherries and preserved plums with touches of cinnamon stick, cloves, cigar box and Chinese five spice, plus a waft of potpourri. Full-bodied, velvety, rich and oh-so-decadent, this is true hedonist’s wine, with a very, very long spice-layered finish. To quote Homer Simpson, “Sacrilicious!” It is actually open for business and drinking deliciously right now, though should cellar for a good 20+ years. Only 1,200 bottles were made. 97 points

2m 22d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  19 wines 

The tasting organized by Crus et Domaines de France featured another seires of excellent red wines, which I have not tasted yet. The tasting was very well organized with over 170 samples available, presented in excellent conditions and respecting.

6m 18d ago

 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  7 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  25 wines 

Château Suduiraut 2019 /Composed of 94% Semillon and 6% Sauvignon Blanc harvested from the 17th of September to the 30th of October (three selective pickings in total), the 2019 Suduiraut is aging for 16-20 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. The alcohol came in at 14.1% with 130 grams per liter of residual sugar. Pale to medium lemon-gold colored, the nose is oh-so-tantalizing with intense notes of candied ginger, beeswax, fenugreek and crystalized citrus peel over a core of pineapple upside-down cake, honey coated almonds, pink grapefruit and peach preserves with a waft of musk perfume. The rich, concentrated palate explodes with spicy fireworks in the mouth, complementing the the exotic fruit and peach preserves layers, with a racy line to lend just enough lift, finishing with epic length and depth. 94-96 points

6m 24d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  20 wines 

I participated in very interesting tasting in Copenhagen, February 2020, of mainly wines from 1970 vintage, but also some flights “face to face” in vintages 1975 and 1983. Wines were tasted semi-blind, meaning that we had the list with names, but didn’t know two “ringers” which were included in the tasting. We didn’t know either the order of wines served in each flight. Some great bottles showed up confirming indeed their splendid provenance. I simply don’t understand how several well-established wine-critics rate Pichon Comtesse, Mouton Rothschild and Montrose from 1970 that low? We absolutely didn’t complain about wines served that cold Friday evening in February 2020. It was awesome experience!

9m 6d ago

 Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  25 wines 

The 1961 Palmer is a wine that tends to deliver upon its gargantuan reputation and we were rewarded with an exemplary bottle here. It has a clear colour with modest bricking on the rim. The bouquet is difficult to encapsulate into words – utterly ethereal. Heavenly definition, almost Burgundy-like in purity with traces of pencil box and pressed violets. It grows in stature with each swirl of the glass and leaves you transfixed. The palate is bestowed beguiling balanced, almost symmetrical, framed by filigree tannin and pitch perfect acidity. Like the aromatics it coheres with aeration, the fruit undiminished by time even if it is no blockbuster. Quite the opposite – this 1961 Palmer is the apotheosis of finesse with just a hint of balsamic on the aftertaste. This Margaux can bring you to tears of joy. Tasted at the 1961 dinner Chairman Miaow’s in Hong Kong.

10m 2d ago

 Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  27 wines 

The 1985 Léoville Las Cases is not just one of the finest vintages from this Second Growth, but one of the high points for the entirety of Bordeaux in this decade. Here it eclipses the 1985 Lafite-Rothschild with ease. It has an exquisitely defined bouquet of red berry fruit infused with crushed stone and pressed rose petals, just like before. Ethereal. The palate is medium-bodied, a perfect marriage of structure and a degree of elegance that maybe the property has not matched before or since. It’s so, so harmonious on the finish. An absolute beauty. Tasted at Hameau de Barbaron in Burgundy.

1y 1m ago

 Stuart Pigott, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Château Haut Brion 2009 / Extravagant and exotic, but still lively, this is a super-concentrated and elegant wine that's already breathtaking, yet has enormous aging potential. Plenty of wet earth and mushroom character alongside the cassis and blackberry aromas. Super-long, perfectly balanced finish. Drink or hold. (Horizontal Tasting, London, 2019) 100 points

1y 1m ago

 Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Bordeaux has been on a hot roll lately. Think about it. 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018 and who knows, even though it is early, 2019 is also looking good!
Each vintage has its own mark, its individual sense of identity and uniqueness of character. 2016 Bordeaux is such a great vintage!  Consider this. Out of all those above-named vintages, there are 2016 wines better than you find in any of those years. And that is really saying something!
In 2016, like in all great years, every appellation produced beautiful wines, and each has its own stars. You can find fabulous wines on both banks and in all price ranges. The Petit Chateaux are superb. Right Bank wines are gorgeous and some of the best wines from the Medoc are potentially the best-ever from their respective vineyards.
2016 has it all. The wines combine concentration of flavor, purity of fruit, zesty acidity, ripe tannins, power, elegance, refinement and richness. The aromatics are complex, and the length and mouthfeel go on and on. The best wines offer the ability to age and evolve for decades!
2016 is the most recent bottled vintage in Bordeaux. The wines are currently available to consumers. If you are seeking to enjoy the best of the best, this article is for you.
During both tasting trips to Bordeaux this year, I tasted close to 500 recently bottled 2016 wines. These are the top 25 wines of the vintage.

1y 1m ago

 Antonio Galloni, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Léoville-Las Cases . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Screaming Eagle 2007 / "As impossible as it might seem, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon takes things to another level. An exquisite, celestial bouquet melds into endless layers of fruit as this rich, voluptuous wine blossoms on the palate. Full-bodied and seductive, the 2007 conquers all of the senses with its head spinning, beautiful personality. As always, Screaming Eagle is a bit more restrained next to Napa Valley's other heavy hitters, yet the pedigree of this opulent vintage comes through in spades. A kaleidoscope of aromas and flavors flows through to the creamy, textured finish. I have tasted the 2007 several times recently and it has always been magnificent. The 2007 appears to be shutting down just a touch, but that is probably a good thing for the future. 

1y 2m ago

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