Château Léoville-Las-Cases: Tasting & Drinking

In the Léoville order, to my mind Château Léoville-Las-Cases is the most impressive of the three estates, the pre-eminent estate in all St Julien, the first and most tangible challenger to the first growths and the prime example of a ‘super-second’, those châteaux that would pretend to the crown of premier cru. As recently as 2008, a Cornell University study suggested that it should be promoted to first growth status, an opinion based on ratings of the wine over 35 vintages, from 1970 to 2005.

Essentially this domaine is what remains of the original Léoville estate, it being the larger part, mere portions having been carved off in the creation of the Château Léoville-Barton and Château Léoville-Poyferré vineyards. And whereas the latter two estates have been owned by a number of different families, Château Léoville-Las-Cases remained, for a long time, in the ownership of the descendants of the Marquis de Las Cases, and throughout the 20th century they retained a minority share, long after control was ceded to the Delon family.

If history and nobility isn’t quite sufficient, one has simply to look at the wines. Encountering a Château Léoville-Barton or a Château Léoville-Poyferré in a blind tasting is a fine experience; these are, after all, great wines, and in recent vintages they seem to have only improved, especially the latter. But Château Léoville-Las-Cases, in my experience, is more likely to stop a taster in his or her tracks, forcing them to return to their tasting sheet to double-check the tasting line-up, because you were sure there weren’t any first growths on the list when you first checked.

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