1976 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien Bordeaux France Wine Tasting Note
The 98 hectare vineyard of Leoville Las Cases is planted to 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Interestingly, this shows an increase in the Merlot plantings over the past several years. The Leoville Las Cases vineyard underwent major replanting during the 1950's after the legendary frost. The vineyard has a terroir that is mostly gravel with gravelly sand and gravelly clay in their soils. Today the vines average more than 40 years of age. However, they have old vines. The oldest vines are some of their Cabernet Franc, which are close to 90 years of age. The vineyard is planted to a vine density of 8,600 vines per hectare.
The still, large 98 hectare vineyard of Leoville Las Cases does not have the size it did in its youth. But it remains a very large Bordeaux vineyard. It is the largest vineyard of all three Leoville estates. The heart of their St. Julien vineyard is known as the Grand Enclos. That walled in parcel is situated in the north of Saint Julien, bordering Pauillac. In fact, it is located next door to Chateau Latour on the north side. Only a very small stream, "The Juillac" separates the 2 vineyards. The Grand Enclos parcel is actually 2, small hills, which are close to the Gironde. These 2 small hills, with close to 50 hectares of vines reach 15 meters at their peak. Here, you find deep gravel soils placed on top of clay and sand with a south eastern exposure. On the hills, you find the Cabernet Sauvignon planted, with some Merlot growing at the bottom of the slopes. While the Cabernet vines faces southeast, to allow the Merlot ripen later, those vines have more of a north east exposure. In total, you can divide the vineyard of Leoville Las Cases into 7 main blocks with 125 separate parcels.
Chateau Leoville Las Cases Winemaking
At Leoville Las Cases, the wine making remains traditional. Grapes are fermented in a combination of temperature controlled wood, concrete, or stainless steel vats of varying size. They have 8, oak vats that also range in size from 176 hectoliters up to 290 hectoliters per vat. The oak vats also vary in age, with the oldest vats dating back close to 50 years! The oak tanks are always reserved for vinification for Chateau Leoville Las Cases. The cement vats are used to produce the all the other wines from the property. Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank.
The wine of Chateau Leoville Las Cases is aged in various percentages of new, French oak barrels. The exact percentage of new oak barrels used varies from year to year, depending on the style and character of the vintage. However, most recent vintages of Chateau Leoville Las Cases are aged in about 90% new, French oak barrels for an average of 18 months before bottling.
Starting in 1987, Leoville Las Cases began employing a state of the art, reverse osmosis machine to help extract excess water from the grape must. This technique is considered controversial by some people. However today, that technology is used by many of the top Bordeaux Chateaux. People questioning the technologies effect of wine need only to taste 1990, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and other top years. Those are all great vintages for Leoville Las Cases. Each of those vintages are also better than previous famous years like 1982. According to Jean Hubert Delon, reverse osmosis is only used in select vintages. Even though Leoville Las Cases is one of the most traditionally styled wines in the region, they have a long history of being among the first to try new technologies. For an early example, Leoville Las Cases was one of the first Bordeaux producers to begin rinsing their oak barrels with a sulfur solution, thus protecting their wine from spoiling during transport or aging.
The best vintages of Chateau Leoville Las Cases are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2000, 1996, 1990, 1986, 1985 and 1982. Very old vintages of Leoville Las Cases have not performed as well as I would have liked. Purchasing older vintages is a potentially risky endeavor.
Chateau Leoville Las Cases Character and Style
Leoville Las Cases produces a structured, firm, austere, powerful, classic style of Bordeaux wine. In the top vintages, buyers should be aware that Leoville Las Cases takes 15 to 20 or more years to develop and shed its tannic structure in the best vintages. At that point in time, Leoville Las Cases will display cedar, cassis, dark berries, truffle and tobacco notes in a style that often resembles a First Growth Pauillac. Yet, it is uniquely Chateau Leoville Las Cases. Leoville Las Cases is a traditional Bordeaux in many ways.
The cellar master, Bruno Rolland is the third generation of his family to work as the cellar master at the chateau. However, while they are you extremely traditional in most things, in one instance, Leoville Las Cases did not follow tradition. In 1988, the chateau withdrew from the Conseil des Grands Crus Classes and does not participate in any of their events or functions. They are the only Classified estate to do so. Because the 1855 Classification of the Medoc is a part of French law, they cannot withdraw from the classification, even if they desired.
Leoville Las Cases produces 3 additional wines. To set the record straight again, Clos du Marquis is not a second wine. Clos du Marquis is views as its own brand, because the vines used to produce that wine come from specific parcels in the large Leoville Las Cases vineyard. Those vines are further west than for example, their Grand Enclos parcel. However, starting with the 2009 vintage, there is an official second wine for Leoville Las Cases, Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases. Back to Clos du Marquis. Starting with the 2015 vintage, Clos du Marquis has its own second wine, La Petite Marquise. The production of each of these wines average between: 9,000 to 15,000 cases for Leoville Las Cases, 4,000 to 8,000 cases for Clos du Marquis and 4,000 to 8,000 cases for Le Petit Lion. The production can vary widely, depending on the character and quality of the vintage and the yields.
When to Drink Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Anticipated Maturity, Decanting Time
Chateau Leoville Las Cases is not a wine to drink on the young side. The wine is usually far too tannic, powerful and reserved during its youth. Young vintages can be decanted for an average of 3-6 hours, give or take. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment. Chateau Leoville Las Cases is usually better with at least 15 years of bottle age. Of course that can vary slightly, depending on the vintage character. Chateau Latour offers its best drinking and should reach peak maturity between 20-50 years of age after the vintage.
Serving Chateau Leoville Las Cases with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips
Leoville Las Cases is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Chateau Leoville Las Cases is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes. Chateau Leoville Las Cases is a perfect match with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, mushrooms and pasta as well as cheese.