As often in the Bordeaux region, Chateau Léoville Las Cases has sisters/competitors : Léoville Poyferré and Léoville Barton . In this case, it was not easy to have clearly separate buildings after the inheritance/repartition, so two of them have their chais, technical buildings and majestic chateaus criss-crossed on both sides of the road . There were some attempts to work out an exchange that would have Léoville Las Cases regroup its buildings together, but it failed .
Chateau Léoville Las Cases is a second Cru Classé in the Saint Julien Appellation, the smallest Appellation in Medoc . It is actually in the Haut Medoc area .
Bruno Rolland, who is the chai master here, and the son of oenologist Michel Rolland, himself the former chai master ( homonym to the famous flying winemaker ), arrives on his mountain bike and leads us to the chai on the other side of the street . The estate has 98 hectares of vineyards : 65% Cabernet Sauvignon , 20% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot . The harvesters come each year from afar , from spain mostly . Mr Rolland shows us the pipe wich goes underground from the chai on one side of the street to the casks cellar on the other side, and through wich the wine is pumped once a year , in january, when it has completed its vat stage .
We enter the chai with beautiful tronconic-shaped wooden vats still in use . At harvest time, after weighing, and going through a de-stemmer and a crusher, the grapes go to the vats . Not only to these tronconic wooden vats , but also to stainless vats, the choice being made depending of the vineyard plots . The tronconic vats are 40 to 50 years old for the oldest, the youngest being 15 years old , and their capacity goes from 176 to 270 hectoliters .
They have enough space here, and enough of the different types and sizes of vats , he says , to work the wine comfortably plot by plot , if they need to . This is not the way they worked in the past, he adds . The press is a pneumatic one, soft and precise (a Sutter Fluxpilot EPC 25 ) . The second vathoust has 20 stainless vats ( Pierre Guerin ), with many sizes : 40 hectoliter to 216 hectoliter . Speaking about the 2004 millesime, he says it will be fined next december . Fining is very important, he says . On years with asperities in the wine, they adapt the numbers of eggs used for fining : 6, 7, 8, sometimes 10 . their carefully selected supplier ( who is in the Charentes region ) delivers loads of 360 eggs palets .
60% new casks for Léoville Las Cases wine , and 20% for second wine Clos Du Marquis . Filtration before bottling . Beautiful gleaming machine [ see picture on left ], made by Domnick Hunter ( Durham ) . Equally modern bottling line, with nitrogen-pulsed drying of the bottles . Also, filling level here is adapted to the temperature of the wine when it arrives at the bottling line . A little bit smaller volume in the bottles if its temperature is low . Sterilization of the whole line each evening, when in use . Also, a great plus : All the bottles have then the important data ( including bottling time ) about the wine discreetly engraved at the base of the bottles . Very secure traceability .
Tasting, now :
__1 Chapelle de Potensac 2004 . Fresh nose . Some tannins in the middle of the mouth . 6-7 Euro .
__2 Chateau de Potensac 2002 . Creamy nose . Nice mouth coming up .
__3 Chateau de Potensac 2000 . Fruity nose , more open . Tannins more present in length and on the palate .
__4 Clos Du Marquis 2004 . Nose : More delicate, thin . Speaking about the casks and wood quality , Mr Rolland displays wood samples and say that among the 4 different toasting scales ( light, medium, medium-plus and strong ), here they favor medium and medium-plus toasting . He says they work with 5 to 8 cooperages, and that the quality of their respective productions has increased markedly in the last years . Back to the wine : Very thin tannins, not really detectable . Glides and flows beautifully . JMQ says it improves each time he tastes this wine . Bruno Rolland says it will keep going up until bottling . Higher Merlot % in this wine .
__5 Chateau Léoville Las Cases 2004 . The nose appreciation is disturbed by a discussion about the way the glasses have been cleaned, some glasses apparently having remnants of cleaning chemical smells . The culprit is found, it seems to be very important to use aromatically neutral products to clean the glasses ( some disinfectants may have a very sticky smell that persists after rinsing ) . Problem solved . Very silky wine, from the start . The goal they have for 2004, wich may not be easy for the millesime, he says, will be to have both a powerful and an elegant wine .
__6 Clos du Marquis, Saint Julien 1999 . Beautiful blazing nose . JMQ says : This IS the Clos Du Marquis ! Roasted aromas . Coffee . Great successful reduction, he adds . Ultra aerated wines can't have these aromas . Very nice wine indeed . Goes up on final . Isabelle, a visitor like us , says : To drink now, it is superb .
__7 Grand Vin de Léoville Marquis de Las Cases, Saint Julien 1999 . Discreet nose, wich amplifies after a while . JMQ says it is one of the great 1999 Bordeaux wines . Elegance, fluid, glides smoothly . Mr Rolland says customers love this wine, wich sells briskly, but he adds the 2004 potential is even higher....