Beautifully Mature Bordeaux

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.

Utterly Elegant, Aged Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château Léoville Las Cases

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.

Today’s Wine: 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot; 13.5% ABV

The 1990 LLC is opaque deep garnet/ruby in color, showing no sign of its age besides some sediment in the bottle. Though this sang right out of the bottle, the nose truly showcased its beauty after 30+ minutes in the glass with aromas of redcurrant, cassis, pencil shavings, graphite, cured meat, sous bois, tobacco, black pepper, and dried underbrush. Once in the mouth, this elegant wine shows notes of dusty blackberry, plum, redcurrant, charred earth, cigar box, leather, green herbs, and spice. This is medium-bodied with moderate acidity, fully integrated light tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $400. A special occasion bottle opened to celebrate my recent birthday. Pair this with steak, roasted lamb, veal, or pheasant. Mushroom sauce or truffle with the steak would be a well-rewarded plus.

For another interesting review…

I reviewed the 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases alongside a 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande back on October 28, 2019 in Bordeaux Battle. For some insight into another aged LLC, check it out! At the very least, you may be introduced to Pichon Lalande as well.

Bordeaux Battle

Today’s Stories:

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.