Carved from the great St Julien Léoville estate in 1840, Chateau Léoville-Poyferré has a reputation in certain vintages for being one of the appellations great wines, but despite being in the ownership of the same family since 1920, until the last decade or so the wine was not as consistent nor operating at quite at the level of its counterparts Léoville-Las-Cases and Léoville-Barton. This period of improvement has culminated in the extraordinary wine made here in 2009, undoubtedly amongst the very best in the Médoc in this great vintage. Tasting the 2009 again, it has put on more weight and polish, and seems even more impressive than I originally thought.
In its infancy the 2010 also looks very good here already. Pre-malolactic two samples of Cabernet Sauvignon that I was allowed to taste in the cellar showed great colour, fruit, concentration and material. The property is comparing the 2010 vintage to a modern day version of the 1975, itself a drought year which produced concentrated wine with thick skins and correspondingly high tannins. The comparison is both interesting and pretty exciting. Though seen as a great vintage at the time, even the best 1975s never managed to shed their cloak of tannins before the fruit faded. Now, however, some thirty-five years on, with more sophisticated analysis of grape phenolics and chemistry, enabling later harvesting of grapes with riper tannins, and more subtler and gentler methods of extraction in the cellar, 2010 should yield ultimately more satisfying and rounded wine than 1975 ever did. At Poyferré there is even the suggestion that 2010 may eclipse the quality produced here in 2009. Roll on those April primeur tastings eh?
So what is the style of Chateau Léoville-Poyferré today? For me it is one of power and concentration and real ripeness of fruit and tannin. It feels more harmonious and sweeter than Anthony Barton’s Léoville-Barton, itself a wonderful wine but more traditionally styled and I imagine usually a little earlier picked than Léoville-Poyferré, hence the more noticeable structure and tannin. They are both excellent wines, just different in style, though there is the sense that Poyferré’s star is now in the ascendant.
Poyferré is also increasingly forward thinking, whether it be waste water treatment or the introduction of solar panels, programmes that don’t have a direct bearing on the wines but certainly have a positive impact on the environment. The only blip on the horizon here is the soaring price. I managed to pick up the 2008 Léoville-Poyferré for £320 [$500] a case which, in the context of a first tranche price of £1080 [$1600] for the 2009, now seems like a complete bargain. The price may be justified given the price hikes elsewhere and the quality of the wine in 2009, but it looks like Poyferre increasingly will be a wine out of my reach [and for a great many others surely]. I’ll be very interested to see how they pitch things for the 2010 here, particularly if the quality is at all comparable to 2009. Some UK wine merchants have already predicted that the prices we saw in 2009 will become the new benchmarks for the ‘super seconds’ and Poyferré is most certainly in that company now.
On the subject of price – again, I know I’m banging here on about price, but surely it’s an increasingly important issue in buying fine Bordeaux – I was impressed with Chateau La Moulin Riche in 2009, not to be confused as the second wine here, which is Pavillon de Poyferré. La Moulin Riche is a separate St Julien estate entirely. There is lots of richness to this wine in this last vintage and I’d expect good things here again in 2010. What’s more it’s a fraction of the price of Chateau Léoville-Poyferré itself. Then there is Cuvelier’s Chateau Le Crock. The St Estèphe was actually the family’s first chateau purchase in 1903. This wine has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. I’ve had Le Crock’s very impressive 2005 and their 2009 does do justice to this excellent vintage in St Estèphe. For the price it is great quality.
The following wines were tasted at Chateau Léoville-Poyferré on Tuesday 9th November 2010:
Chateau Le Crock 2009
Lots of legs, lots of minerals, rocks and red fruits; very pure, feels powerful and fresh; some coffee and mocha notes too; lots of extract and chew and material, extract and tannin; some chew and depth; strong wine with lots of meat, extract and tannin. Chewy, deep and concentrated. 90/100
Chateau Le Moulin Riche 2009
Deep and saturated; legs; silky note on the nose; very supple and lots of layers; minerals but real creamy richness; very attractive and quite seductive but also has real density; layered palate, dense, minerals and earth, tannin at the back, firming up; real extract and richness. Chew and extract. This is very good 90-92/100
Chateau Léoville-Poyferré 2009
Saturated and tight to the edge; legs; arterial; graphite and cassis and lots of intensity; layers and ripeness; minerality and density but also lush layers here; real ripeness; almost a marzipan lift; real extract and intensity on the palate, sweet entry, layers and density again here with supple tannin but loads of it. This is a concentrated red with a lot of strength and power – and lots of length here too. This has definitely put on further weight and grandeur since the primeur tastings. 96-98+/100
Chateau Léoville-Poyferré 2001
Mid red, some earthy development; tobacco, golden Virginia and undergrowth notes, spices and meaty quality, savoury; similar tones dominate the palate; good acid and balance; plenty of extract; sweetness here and lots of chew and extract – savour. Good length at the back. Nice wine. 91/100
Tags: 1975, 2009, 2010, Anne Cuvelier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Le Crock, Chateau Léoville Barton, Chateau Léoville Las Cases, Chateau Léoville Poyferré, Didier Cuvelier, Isabelle Davin, malolatic, Michel Rolland, St Estèphe, St Julien