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Léoville Las Cases: The Importance
One of the leading estates in all of Bordeaux, Château Léoville Las Cases in St Julien is one of the largest and oldest classified growths in the Médoc. Along with Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, it is widely considered to be one of the best estates in St Julien.
Ranked as a deuxième cru classé in the 1855 classification, Léoville Las Cases is often mentioned as a candidate for promotion to first growth status. The Oxford Companion to Wine describes this estate as “the flagship wine of St-Julien and one run as though it were a First Growth…perhaps the most obvious candidate as a super second.”
Highly regarded by critics such as Robert Parker, some of the Château’s best vintages have been 1986, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2015, with Léoville Las Cases performing well even in the most difficult of vintages. Praising the 2009 vintage, Stephen Tanzer wrote that “this endless, subtle wine is at first growth level.”
Léoville Las Cases: The Insight
Léoville Las Cases is located at the northern tip of the St Julien appellation, with the Grand Vin’s vineyards bordering those of Château Latour and running alongside the boundary of Pauillac. The Grand Vin shares some characteristics of its neighbours; Julia Harding MW considers it to have “something of a Pauillac about it”.
The Grand Vin is typically deep and rich, with aromas that Antonio Galloni describes as “blackberry jam, charcoal, smoke, licorice and asphalt.” Notably, it requires considerable cellaring before showing its true potential, with Julia Harding MW writing after a tasting of Léoville Las Cases, that it showed “how long these wines need before they are broached, but also how well they last.”
The second wine of the Grand Vin produced at this estate is called Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases, which uses the product of the younger vines at the estate and had its first release in 2007. Antonio Galloni described the 2015 vintage as “racy, opulent and inviting… [hitting] all the right notes,” with notes of “crème de cassis, blackberry, spice, leather and menthol.”
This estate also produces another important wine, the Clos du Marquis, which began production in 1902, and which the estate stresses is not a second wine. The fruit comes from a different source than the Grand Vin, although occasionally some of the Grand Vin is declassified and put into the blend of Clos du Marquis. It is lighter in style than the Grand Vin, and, as Harding writes, “a good deal more charming in youth.” Typically, this wine has as Robert Parker writes of the 2015 vintage, “a pure and harmonious bouquet with blackberry, sous-bois and subtle tobacco aromas that gently unfold in the glass.” In 2015, a new second wine for Clos du Marquis was released called La Petite Marquise, described by Tim Atkin as “easy drinking, fruit forward St. Julien showing aromatic red fruits, a touch of oak and succulent tannins.”
A typical St Julien blend, the vineyard is planted to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (65%) with the rest being made up of Merlot (19%), Cabernet Franc (13%) and Petit Verdot (3%).
Léoville Las Cases: The Background
The history of the domaine goes back to the 17th century, with the vast estate of Léoville being split up into three parts following the death of the Marquis de Las Cases in the 19th Century. The largest third went to his son Jean-Pierre and this is now Léoville Las Cases, with another third going to his daughter Jeanne, what is now Léoville Poyferré, and the last third being auctioned off to Hugh Barton and becoming Léoville Barton. From 1900, the estate was run by Théophile Swawinski, a well-known viticulturist who also ran Château Pontet-Canet, who passed the estate to his son-in-law André Delon. The estate has stayed with this family ever since, and they acquired majority ownership in 1930 and bought out the remaining shareholders in 1994, and the estate is now entirely owned by the Delon family, with Bruno Rolland running the cellar, the third generation of his family to hold that position. The Delon family also own Château Potensac in the Médoc and Château Nenin in Pomerol.
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