'MADEMOISELLE L' OF LA LAGUNE
Caroline FREY, former equestrian champion and an accomplished pianist, also topped her Class of 2003 in oenology at the University of Bordeaux. Apart from Chateau La Lagune, her family also owns Maison Jaboulet in the Rhone Valley, and is a substantial but not majority shareholder in the highly regarded Champagne Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.
Chateau La Lagune is the first Cru Classe one encounters along the famous D2 along the Route du Medoc. The Frey family, proprietors since 2000, is determined to produce a wine of the highest order worthy of this honour.
When you drive north from the City of Bordeaux to the Medoc, Chateau La Lagune is the first Cru Classe you will come across along the D2.
Classified as a Third Growth Haut-Medoc in the 1855 Classification, La Lagune is in the village of Ludon before, with its huge shopping complex, Le Pian. You see the vineyard before the (renovated) chateau and its buildings, including a new state-of-the-art winery. Seeing the vines first, in a sense, is reassuring since without them, no wine can possibly be produced.
"The 80 hectares are all in one contiguous block," Caroline FREY informed, adding, "and planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. The average age of the vines is 35 years."
That figure would be even higher were it not for the fact that La Lagune has been pulling out their Cabernet Franc vines all seven hectares of them and replanting with Petit Verdot. In time, this varietal will form around 20% of the vineyard. The replanting is accomplished through a selection massale, meaning cuttings for new vines are taken from the healthiest and best vines in the vineyard.
At the current 10% of the vineyard, this is already a very high percentage of Petit Verdot for a Bordeaux estate.
Demanding to work with, Caroline Frey however feels that the combination of the site and sandy/gravelly soils of La Lagune is very suited to the varietal. Certainly, when Petit Verdot is successful, the wine is delicious and complex as the varietal gives colour; natural alcohol; a certain perfume and exotic fruit; and, a firmness and smoothness in the same glove. But the window of opportunity is relatively small because if Petit Verdot over-ripens (and it is a late ripener to start with), it becomes rather bland. To catch the varietal at its best, this has to be done in a relatively short time. Assuming it ripens properly in the first place.
When the younger Petit Verdot vines at Chateau La Lagune come of age to form 20% of the vineyards, the Third Growth will almost certainly have the highest percentage of this historic varietal in the whole of the Medoc.
Since the 2004 vintage, Chateau La Lagune has added another wine to its portfolio, namely Mademoiselle L. This is a tilt to Caroline Frey, the new lady in charge, whose family acquired the estate in 2000. Actually, Frey follows the footsteps of two predecessors who were also ladies: Jeanne BOYRIE and her daughter Caroline DESVERGNES. The Frey purchase in 2000 had included Champagne Ayala because the previous proprietors, the Chayoux family, had also owned the bubbly.
The Frey family then sold Champagne Ayala to the House of Bollinger, and acquired Maison Jaboulet in the Rhone. The Freys are also a substantial but not majority shareholder of Champagne Billecart-Salmon, the highly respected producer in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.
Caroline Frey has been the winemaker, officially, at La Lagune since 2004. She is overall in charge of the estate and, also in 2004, asked her former professor, Denis DUBOURDIEU, to join as consultant. Frey had graduated top of her class in oenology from the University of Bordeaux in 2003.
Great care is taken in the vineyard and the winery to ensure that only healthy and ripe grapes are converted into wine. A total of three sortings are done of the fruit, including on a vibrating table. Following a gentle pressing, the fruit is gravity-fed into temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats for the start of maceration and fermentation.
The introduction of Mademoiselle L in 2004 has meant a more rigorous selection for the grand and second vins, Chateau La Lagune and Mouline La Lagune respectively. (Presently, about half of the production is the Grand Vin).
"This was my father's idea. I would also like, in the future, to put a touch of Petit Verdot in Mouline La Lagune. Presently, it has a high percentage of Merlot although Cabernet Sauvignon is still predominant."
Caroline Frey is to be congratulated for reducing the percentage of new oak in the ageing of Chateau La Lagune. This was previously as high as 100%. Today, depending on the vintage, only about half of the barrels are new. Time in barrel for Chateau La Lagune is about 18 months, whereas second wine Mouline La Lagune is around 12 months, about 30% of the barrels being new.
A new era has begun at Chateau La Lagune with the Frey family. Their determination and goal is to produce a top wine worthy of being the first great chateau one encounters on going up the Route du Medoc.