The Cuvelier Portfolio, 2021
The past few years have been a time of transition at Château Léoville-Poyferré, Château Moulin Riche and Château Le Crock, all domaines owned and run by the Cuvelier family. After close to four decades at the helm, proprietor Didier Cuvelier, who deserves credit for the revitalisation of Château Léoville-Poyferré, decided it was time to retire, handing the reins of responsibility over to another member of the family, Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier. In recent years I have enjoyed meeting both Didier and now Sara, and I was delighted recently to be able to taste some very recent vintages from their three properties in St Julien and St Estèphe.
The contribution made by Didier Cuvelier to the current standing of Château Léoville-Poyferré cannot be underestimated. The property was acquired by the Cuvelier family in 1920, purchased from the Lawton family. Successful négociants, the new owners installed two brothers, Paul and Albert Cuvelier, to take over the running of this new acquisition. They eventually handed it over to the next generation, Max Cuvelier, who left much of the work to a régisseur, Roger Delon. By all accounts the wines were subpar, one of a number of illustrious but under-performing properties on the left bank. Nevertheless the passing of time, not to mention Roger’s ill-health, meant that in 1979 the baton was passed to Max’s son Didier Cuvelier (pictured below), the third generation of the family to take over.
This was the beginning of the renaissance for Château Léoville-Poyferré and Château Moulin Riche, which the family had also acquired from the Lawtons. This latter property had for many years been used as a second label of Château Léoville-Poyferré, not an unusual practice during the mid-20th century. Quality improved during the 1980s, although to my palate it was really in the mid-1990s – especially with the 1996 vintage – that I thought Château Léoville-Poyferré was back on track. In 1990 Didier also began an extensive programme of restructuring and replanting at Château Moulin Riche, and in 2009 the two properties were separated, Château Moulin Riche regaining its independent status.