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 two wines from Léoville Las Cases, first the 1986 vintage in a side-by-side with a 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and then the 1990 vintage in early 2020.
Today’s Wine: 1961 Château Léoville Las Cases
Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend; I presume around 12-13% ABV
The 1961 Château Léoville Las Cases is medium garnet in color and not really showing any signs of bricking. We served this as a pop-and-pour, and it really only took 10 minutes or so in the glass to open up and show beautifully. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the gorgeous nose showcasing notes of dried cherry, dried cranberry, pencil shavings, dried violet, graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, eucalyptus, and a hint of cinnamon. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of baked black cherry, dried plum, prune, cigar tobacco, truffle, graphite, and charred green herbs. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light and fully matured tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. The wine is in remarkable shape given its age and quite honestly there seems to be a window of a few more years to drink this.
Price: $800. This is more of an experience wine than anything, as I’ve never had a 1961 Bordeaux and neither had my tasting companions. So while I don’t want to discuss “value” because it seems subjective for a wine like this, I will state the obvious that provenance is key here and this bottle was superb while making for an incredible tasting experience.