1990 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien Wine Tasting Note

  1. 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases (St. Julien)

    1. Blown away by how good this wine is showing. Bought on release and stored in my nice cold cellar, it's been a few years since popping my last cork. Decanted 3 hours, this is a stunner. Powerful, concentrated and dense, the fruit is ripe, rich and deep. The wine really hits all the right spots and coats your palate, teeth and gums with flavor. There is freshness and layers of cassis, cigar box, tobacco and cedar. The tannins are powerful, but they are round, giving you structure and backbone, energy and length. The wine kept improving for another 3 hours. This is the vintage to buy, if you want to see what LLC offers with age. It's 27 years old, and this will be better in 5, 10 or may 20 more years. But it's a treat today, and well worth the cost for a wine at this level.

      98 points - Tasted
    2. We're talking fabulous aromas of Cuban tobacco interspersed with cassis, chocolate, Allspice and coffee in this Bordeaux. This wine is huge. Stunningly concentrated. Meaty but refined. Powerful, muscular and flawlessly sophisticated. Still tannic, but the tannins are very elegant. This is First Growth in quality! Still young, well stored bottles will easily last for 50 years!

      97 points - Tasted
    3. This is a perplexing wine. Some bottles are tight, holding its obvious charms in reserve. Other bottles are starting to open, becoming expressive. This particular bottle needed more time. Smoke, tobacco, cigar box, grave, cedar chest and cassis scents led to a full bodied, powerful, tannic wine that clearly has more to offer as it develops.

      95 points - Tasted
    4. Decanted for 90 minutes, the wine offered scents of tobacco, cassis, truffle, black cherry, smoke, menthol, stone and leather. Full bodied and concentrated with ripe, pure, refined, Cabernet Sauvignon, this is really starting to open up. The long, pure, velvet in an iron glove finish leaves a lasting impression. Most of the tannin has melted away. While the wine should continue to improve, there is no reason to delay popping a bottle if you have more than a few in your cellar. I've tasted this wine a lot over the years. Some bottles have displayed a longer, deeper finish. This was a good, but probably not a perfect bottle. Such is life. I'm looking forward to the next one.

      96 points - Tasted
    5. 1990 Leoville Las Cases makes itself known with aromatics of Asian spice, earth, fresh blackberry, caramel, cigar box, tobacco and cassis. This powerful, full bodied, rich, intense wine is polished, sophisticated and intense. It fills your mouth with strong, ripe tannins and round textures. The long, pure, concentrated finish could be mistaken for a top First Growth from a great year. Still young, this can be enjoyed today, but it’s only going to get better with time. This is probably my favorite vintage of Leovlle Las Cases at the moment.

      97 points - Tasted
    6. With its olive, cassis, cedar and black fruit nose, smells young. The fruit is polished, ripe and pure. There is good intensity and purity to the flavor and the finish is polished

      96 points - Tasted
    7. Smoky cassis, cigar ash, truffles, soil, licorice and a mélange of spice are all easy to find. Powerful, yet not demanding, this intense, regal, Cabernet wine is still tannin. But the ripeness of the tannins offers great textures. This structured, full-bodied wine ends with a juicy mouthful of ripe, dark berries, cassis, fennel and earthy flavors. Still young, this has 20-30 more years of life to enjoy.

      97 points - Tasted
    8. Huge, massive wine features complex aromas of cassis, wet earth and black fruit. Huge, dense, plush mouth feel makes a seemingly endless finish. Perfect balance. This remains amazingly youthful.

      96 points - Tasted
Leoville Las Cases Wine Tasting Notes, Ratings

Chateau Leoville Las Cases Vineyard, Terroir, Grapes, Wine making

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 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 Bordea, 2014, 2015, 2016 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, 2012, 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 top 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 of any of those wines cann 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.