Beautifully Aged Bordeaux in a Sweet Spot Right Now

Today’s Story: Château Léoville Las Cases

Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate ranked as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. It is located in the appellation of Saint-Julien on the Left Bank. 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.

The estate today consists of 98 hectares (242 acres) of vineyards planted to roughly 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. The soil is classic Left Bank, made up of gravel over gravelly sand and gravelly clay subsoils. The heart of the property is the 55 hectare (136 acre) Grand Clos, where vines average an age of 52 years and farming is nearly 100% organic. The Grand Clos is walled-in and borders Château Latour to the north as well.

Winemaking is largely traditional at Léoville Las Cases, beginning with manual harvest and moving to fermentation in temperature-controlled wood, concrete, or stainless steel vats of varying size and age. Malolactic fermentation occurs in vat, and then the wines are blended before moving into French oak barrels for 18-20 months of aging. Come bottling, the wines are fined using egg whites and production of the Grand Vin is around 15,000 to 16,700 cases depending on vintage.

I previously wrote about the 1961, 1986, and 1990 (which I’ll be revisiting today) Château Leoville-Las Cases.

Today’s Wine: 1990 Château Leoville Las Cases

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot; 13.25% ABV

The 1990 Château Leoville-Las Cases is deep garnet in color. I decanted this for an hour, both for some mild sediment and per the winery’s recommended time. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the complex nose showcases notes of redcurrant, black cherry, cassis, graphite, cigar box, pencil shavings, smoked meat, forest floor, truffle, green bell pepper, underbrush, eucalyptus, and clove. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with an equally complex palate of black cherry, redcurrant, blueberry, cigar tobacco, leather, gravel, forest floor, earthy mushroom, charred green herbs, green peppercorn, and a touch of cinnamon. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but super fine-grained tannin, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Superb.

Price: $475 (we paid $340). The going market rate on this wine is tougher to discuss on a value perspective, though I think the price we paid is well worth it. I reviewed this same wine two years ago, with this bottle showing more complexity but equally great balance. For the depth, balance, and complexity of this wine at its age it is truly a memorable bottle.

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