Château Léoville-Las-Cases looks impressive in 2013. It is one of the wines of the vintage on the left bank. Pure, almost opulent, it is a pretty bold statement. Clos du Marquis looks very promising too and this St Julien offers good value for the quality. The talk at the Domaines Delon group that owns Las-Cases, and also Château Potensac in the Médoc and Château Nénin in Pomerol, is that the 2013 vintage in St Julien perhaps resembles 2004 and 2008 for them.
Overall the watchword at Léoville-Las-Cases was anticipation. The very wet and cool weather at the beginning of the growing season affected flowering and delayed the growing season as it did elsewhere. It meant a late harvest was on the cards and they needed to prepare. Vegetal cover was maintained [grasses] between the vines and ploughing was limited in order to minimize the affects of rainfall. At the same time, immediately after flowering, de-leafing and lateral shoot removal on the vines allowed for airing of the grapes and rapid drying of the bunches from grape set to harvest. The dry and sunny weather in July [especially] and August actually meant that the colour change [veraison] and start of the grape ripening process occurred in pretty favourable conditions. Despite the return of rain and humidity from mid-September onwards the fruit was, therefore, in pretty good shape and attained good tannin maturity.
This combination of expertise, laborious vineyard work and excellent terroir, along with a degree of luck [less rain fell at harvest in St Julien than in other Haut-Médoc appellations such as Margaux, for example] has allowed Château Léoville-Las-Cases to make what must class as a formidable effort in the vintage context. There is a lot of material and tannin in the wine, but, as ever here, even in its youth Las-Cases remains harmonious and refined. It is Bentley-like in its power and sophistication. There’s a fair whack of Cabernet Franc in the blend this year [14%] from an 80 year-old parcel. Léoville-Las-Cases doesn’t come cheap in 2013 [£860/$1400 per 12] but it is impressive. A cursory look at the market suggests that it is currently the cheapest recent Las-Cases about.
If you are looking for value then Clos du Marquis does look interesting. This has been particularly impressive in the last couple of [tricky] vintages, 2012 especially. Not to be confused with Las-Cases’ second wine [Le Petit Lion], Clos du Marquis was created in 1902 and consists of terroirs that are not part of the former Léoville estate, but which lie slightly to the west and more inland. Given that these vineyards neighbour Château Léoville Poyferré, Château Léoville Barton and Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande [in next door Pauillac] the quality of Clos du Marquis should not really come as a surprise. There is a certain plushness to the wine in 2013, which, alongside vibrant, creamy blackcurrant aromatics, adds up to something very good indeed. It has been released at around £300/$500] a case of 12.
The following were tasted at Château Léoville-Las-Cases on Monday, March 31, 2014.
Château Léoville-Las-Cases, Cru Classé, St Julien
Deep and dark looking; saturated but has life and vibrancy at edge; blackcurrant purity on the nose; cool with some smoke and graphite; layers and almost a certain opulence; very pure; creamy blackcurrant flavours on the palate, opulent and full in the middle – really full of fruit. Lots of material and tannin here but fruit to back it up. Nothing wrong with this at all. One of the best wines tasted on the left bank. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, TA 3.76, pH 3.69, IPT 63, 31hl/ha, 9.5% press win, 85% new oak]. Drink 2020-2035. 91-93+
Clos du Marquis, St Julien
Deep and serious looking; tighter to the edge; vibrant; creamy blackcurrant aromatics, cassis & feels deep; very nice aromatics; little oak at the edge but plushness to the fruit; density and depth but not over-extracted; tannins ripe and fresh finish with good length. Great effort. [73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 13% alc, TA 3.57, pH 3.77, IPT 61, 50% new oak, 6% press wine, 31hl/ha]. Drink 2020-2030. 89-91+
Le Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases, St Julien
Deep at core; vibrant edge; fresh looking; spicy blackcurrant tones; nice lift; plums; attractive and some depth aromatically; good fruit on the palate with focus; quite full and attractive; soft and approachable at present. Settled. Rounder and more generous than expected. [53% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, TA 3.62, pH 3.73 IPT 58, 20% new oak, 9.5% press wine]. Drink 2017-2028. 86-88