Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate rated as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Though the estate used to be much larger and is one of the oldest in the Médoc, it was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution and came into the Las Cases family as 3/5 the size of the original estate. Luckily for the family, however, their land made up the heart of the domain and therefore consists of the original terroir back to the 17th century.
Las Cases was managed by the same family through the 19th century, moving by inheritance through Pierre Jean, Adolphe, and Gabriel de Las Cases until Théophile Skawinski bought a stake in 1900 to become the manager. Today, Jean-Hubert Delon is the sole owner with the family coming in during the mid-20th century. I encourage you to take a look at the cool video on their website here, which shows the estate’s geographic location as well as a breakdown of the terroir at the domain.
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is also a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.
Similar to Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande was once part of a much larger estate. As ownership changed hands over the years, Pichon Lalande earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.
With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.
Today’s 1st Wine: 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases
66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4%Petit Verdot; 13.3% ABV
While I’d put the fill level on this bottle between top shoulder and into neck, a pull of the cork showed immediately that we were in for a beautiful, textbook Bordeaux. No need to decant this one, we just let it slow ox in the bottle and glass. In appearance this is still deep ruby with slight garnet rim variation. On the nose, I got aromas of crème de cassis, graphite, pencil shavings, tobacco leaf, and forest floor. Once in the mouth, this luxurious medium- to full-bodied wine shows notes of black and blue fruits, crushed stone, cigar box, and ground green herbs with a hint of black pepper. We get high acidity and medium dusty tannins into a long finish.
Price: $500. Another rare bottle that my generous friend shared (the ’86 Pichon was his too) so we could do this side-by-side tasting. If you can stomach paying the price, this wine is damn near perfect. Pair with steak with a peppercorn or mushroom sauce.
Today’s 2nd Wine: 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 12.5% ABV
This is my second bottle of 1986 Pichon Lalande, coincidentally consumed with my same friend who was there for the first bottle. While fill level and provenance of the bottle are good, this seems to be significantly more advanced than the first one (tasted April 2018). Color on this was more light ruby and borderline garnet. After slow ox in the bottle and a glass, the nose offered aromas of stale cranberry, red apple skins, graphite, eucalyptus, chocolate, and pyrazine that unfortunately didn’t want to blow off. Perhaps this needed more air time than we gave it, but regardless it was an overall solid nose save for the pyrazine. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases flavors of green herbs, cigar box, mushroom, black peppercorn, and forest floor. Due to this more advanced stage, the palate certainly showed better than the nose. Medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $250. If you can guarantee the provenance, this is well worth the price. As with any aged wine you take a risk, however to try old Bordeaux and such a classic example of it, the potential reward is there. Pair with steak.
Winner: 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases
The Léoville Las Cases drank with such elegance and class while being a textbook representation of what Bordeaux is and what it should be. I am already hoping and dreaming that I get a chance to taste it again.