In early October I had the opportunity to taste a set of wines spanning the last decade from the Médoc property Château Loudenne with General Manager Philippe de Poyferré. I’ve been particularly struck by the quality of the wines here in recent years at tastings in Bordeaux. This was a chance to look at the wines in detail, following significant investments in the estate over the last six years, after it came into new ownership in 2013. It’s a property I’m familiar with. A good friend of mine from university worked at Loudenne in the early 1990s. He shared bottles from the 1989 and 1990 vintages, which I remember showing plenty of extract and structure. More recently the Loudenne 2014 and 2015 vintages caught my eye during primeurs visits and this year again, with an exciting 2019.
Château Loudenne, in St Yzan-de-Médoc, has a colourful history that goes back 350 years. It is one of the oldest Cru Bourgeois estates in the Médoc. The heyday of the property was undoubtedly the period that coincided with the ownership of the British wine merchants Walter and Alfred Gilbey and the belle époque days in the late 19th century. Much more recently, after a change of ownership in 2000 [when drinks giant Diageo sold the property to the Lafragette family], Chinese spirits company Moutai purchased Loudenne in 2013 [now co-owned with Camus, the Cognac house since 2016]. I think it is fair to say that between the late 1990s and 2013 there had been very little investment in the property. Since the sale seven years ago, however, there has been steady investment in the vineyards and the improvement in the quality of the wines is marked. That said, the 2009, made under the old regime, is no slouch.
Of the 132 hectares that comprise the estate, 62 hectares are planted with vines, 48 hectares to reds [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% newly planted Petit Verdot] and 14 hectares to whites [75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Sémillon]. The property has an enviable position on two small hills beside the Gironde estuary, 6 km north of St Estèphe. “The terroir is a mixture of gravel and clay,” explains Philippe de Poyferré. “It is the same as in St Estèphe, not that dissimilar to the terroir of Château Montrose, or perhaps Château Sociando-Mallet.” Indeed, to my palate the reds at Château Loudenne have something of the style and quality of the Haut-Médoc properties nearby in St Seurin de Cadourne, like Château Charmail or even as de Poyferré suggests Château Sociando Mallet, or properties in northern St Estèphe itself, such as Château Le Boscq.
Over the next few years Philippe de Poyferré is looking to make improvements in the chais, further modernising the cellars to enable greater plot-by-plot vinifications. So far the investment has focused mainly on the vineyard, with a replanting programme replacing roughly 3 hectares a year, removing very old, dying vines. The property is also now in its second year of conversion to organic practices, with the 2022 vintage earmarked to be first certified organic. This work in the vineyard is paying off, and the reds show lots of structure, fruit and style and the wines are remarkably homogeneous across the vintages. While this consistency is mostly down to the terroir, and the proximity to the Gironde [Loudenne is on the river which is over 5 kilometres wide at this point], clearly more attention is being paid now in the vineyard and in the cellar under the new ownership.
Château Loudenne makes quite serious volumes of white wine. It was the first property in the Médoc to make white in the 1880s under the Gilbeys, well before they started making Bordeaux Blanc down at Château Margaux. Currently Loudenne produces 20,000-25,000 bottles a year. These are racy, lively whites with real salinity. The 2017 is very good.
Below are notes on the 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2009 red vintages, and 2017 and 2018 for the whites. They were all sent to the UK for tasting in October. I’ve also included my notes on the 2019s tasted in the summer. Hope you find them useful. Loudenne is certainly a property to seek out.
Château Loudenne, Bordeaux Blanc, 2019
Silver; green; fresh and attractive; salty tang; appetizing and zesty but with body and weight – textured palate but zesty finish. Lovely white Bordeaux Blanc. Tasted June 2020. Drink now-2024. 88-90+
Château Loudenne, Bordeaux Blanc, 2018
Silver gold; little deeper than the ’17 alongside; fuller; little wax; some spice; some melon but less citrus fruit than ’17; full bodied; round; less racy than the ’17 but more mouthfeel; broader overall but dips a fraction on the finish. Philippe de Poyferré reckons it needs another year in bottle to show its best. [85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Sémillon, 13% alc, pH 3.14m 75% barrique aged [33% new], 25% tank]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2022. 90
Château Loudenne, Bordeaux Blanc, 2017
Silver/gold; grapefruit; zest; full; apples; nice crisp feel to the aromatics; crisp and clean entry; has nice acidity and zip; salinity with grapefruit, some spice and lemon zest; nice life and has real zap on the palate. Good, crisp appetizing Bordeaux white. Vibrant. Has good tension and purpose. Lovely stuff. [75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon, 12.5% alc, pH 3.04, 75% barrique [25% new] and 25% vat.]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now – 2025. 92+
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2019
Super colour; deep and tight to rim; earthy purple at edge; glorious Médoc aromatics; super smart and polished; seam of concentrated fruit; inky blackcurrant notes; feels concentrated; creamy inky fruit with lots of extract and depth; good polish; some oak influence; impressive extract and ambition. Plenty of length and gusty and chewy extract on display. One of the best Loudenne’s I’ve had. Potensac has a rival! Evidently a Médoc property to watch now. Tasted June 2020. Drink 2024-2035. 90-91+
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2018
Earthy purple at the edge; deep; black fruits; sweet entry; lots of ripe fruit; fruitcake spices, plum; very St Estèphe like; plump and full; dark – even dried fruits; nice mouthful; plenty of extract and oomph; lots of puppy fat at present; some schist notes; real texture; opens up; spices. Full Médoc. Tannin to resolve but this is rich. [14% alc, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot, pH 3.69, 33% new oak]. Tasted Oct 2020. Drink 2022-2032. 90+
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2017
Mid depth; legs; red at edge; some blackcurrant and spice; clove; soft-ish and savoury; easy going; some olive; black fruit, wet rocks and savoury notes; has texture. Little taut in the middle; more elegantly styled. Later smoked meat and spicy notes opened up, emphasising the savoury edge. Little dry on the finish. [53% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% alc, 3.63pH, 40% new oak]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2025. 88
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2016
Lovely colour; deep and dark; colour tight to the rim; intense; blackcurrants; savoury and balanced; lovely palate; earthy; works really well; texture to the tannins and nice punctuation at the end. Has lots of depth and flesh. Lovely wine. Velvety tannins. Smooth as silk. Opens up super well. Needs a few years but this is excellent Médoc. [53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 14.2% alc, pH 3.64, 33% new oak]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2030. 92+
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2015
Mid depth; reddish purple; less deep than ’16; red fruits with developing tertiary notes; some earth; nice balance on the palate; slightly less concentrated than the ’16 but nicely done; has good texture on the finish with nice acidity. Some dark chocolate notes on the end. Starting to drink nicely. Has good grip and will age well. Lacks the intensity and definition of ’16 perhaps but still very good. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot, 13% alc, 3,63 pH, 33% new oak]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2028. 90
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2014
Mid depth; dark core; earthy red at edge; sweet ripe blackcurrant and plum aromatics; spices; some liquorice notes; very attractive; really opening up well; like this a lot – as good as ’15 in my book and possibly better; nice and full; very ripe and sweet fruit; has texture; lacks the ultimate class of ’16 but this works very well. Good stuff! Still needs a year or two – and feels less evolved than the ’15. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot, 13% alc, pH 3.65, 33% new oak]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2030. 90+
Château Loudenne, Médoc, 2009
Deep centre; colour tight to rim; some reddening brick at edge; quite classy; lifted blackcurrant notes; some ink and iodine; some tobacco; polished; creamy palate; ripe and full and fully developed; earthy tobacco notes; ripe fruit and soft tannins. Good length. Has plenty of extract and matter still. Drinking wonderfully but will happily last another 3-5 years I’d imagine [if you can resist drinking it now!]. [55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec, 14% alc, 3,65 pH]. Tasted October 2020. Drink now-2024. 90+
Tags: 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, bdx09, Bdx14, bdx15, Bdx16, Bdx17, Bdx18, Bdx19, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Château Loudenne, Médoc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Philippe de Poyferré, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, vin, wine