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A Class of its Own Leoville Las Cases




"I was born in the barrel, with a glass of wine in one hand and the Code Civil in the other. I joined Leoville Las Cases in September 1994. My first solo vintage was the 2000 vintage because my father (Michel DELON) had passed away in July of that year," Jean-Hubert DELON. Prior to joining his family-owned estate, DELON was practising law in Bordeaux.


Story & Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

There is some confusion about Clos du Marquis being the second wine of Super Second Growth Chateau Leoville Las Cases. The two are distinct separate entities. In fact, Clos du Marquis was never part of the orginal Chateau or Domaine Leoville before it was spilt up into Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Barton and Leoville Poyferre.

Chateau Leoville Las Cases did not have a second wine until the 2007 vintage when Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases was launched.

(The name of the second wine – Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases – may continue to cause further confusion since 'du Marquis' is on the label rather than 'Leoville').

The vineyards of Chateau Leoville Las Cases are at the northerly tip of the village of Saint-Julien (no First Growth here, but five – out of 14 – Second Growths, tying with Margaux for the most number of Second Growths in a commune).

Neighbouring vines of Leoville Las Cases are those of Pauillac's First Growth Chateau Latour.

BACKGROUND

At the end of the 19th Century, Theophile SKAWINSKI bought a share into the company that owned Chateau Leoville Las Cases for which he was also general manager. SKAWINSKI later passed his share of the estate to his son-in-law Andre DELON. With time, the DELON family acquired bigger proportions of the shares until they became majority owners of the estate.

SKAWINSKI was the great, great-grandfather of present owners Jean-Hubert DELON and his sister Genevieve D'ALTON.

Theophile SKAWINSKI's father was Charles SKAWINSKI who, when only 23 years old, was hired by Herman CRUSE to take charge of Chateau Pontet-Canet when the Cruse family bought it in 1865. Charles was the son of Pierre SKAWINSKI, a Polish aristocrat and noted agronomist (there is a statue of him in Paris).

Earlier, in 1845, Chateau Giscours was purchased by the banker Count de PESCATORE who, in 1847, had hired Pierre SKAWINSKI to manage his estate. The Pole proved to be one of the great agriculturalists of the Médoc in the 19th Century.

Highly innovative he invented a special plough in 1860 (which bears his name), and was also a pioneer in the fight against mildew. Thanks to him, Giscours became one of the most well regarded Third Growths.

Pierre SKAWINSKI managed Giscours for 50 years, including when the Cruse family acquired it.

TRAINED LAWYER

A trained, and once practising, lawyer, Jean-Hubert DELON is hardly seen without his signature cigarette. Very low profile, he is completely dedicated to Leoville Las Cases.

The prices DELON asks – and gets – for Leoville Las Cases is higher than those for other Second Growths. In that sense, there is a perceptible gap between the First Growths and the other Second Growths, with Leoville Las Cases commanding this enviable slot.

Apart from Chateau Leoville Las Cases and Clos du Marquis, Domaines Delon is also proprietor of Chateau Pontensac.

Chateau Potensac Haut-Medoc was classified as a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel under the 2003 reclassification of the Crus Bourgeois. Of 490 chateaux which applied under the 2003 Classification, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce only approved 247 properties: Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (9 chateaux), Superieur (87) and Cru Bourgeois (151). The 2003 reclassification was however annulled in 2007 because of objections from chateaux that were unhappy they were excluded from the classification or because they were less highly classified. Charges of conflict of interests were also leveled against some members of the committee who were also chateau owners themselves.

In September 2010, the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Medoc announced 290 chateaux as Crus Bourgeois based on the 2008 vintage. Under the new system there is no more distinction between 'Cru Bourgeois', 'Cru Bourgeois Superieur' or 'Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel'.

Instead, every chateau whose wine is found to be acceptable is just 'Cru Bourgeois'. And the wines will be tasted on a yearly basis to determine if it remains a Cru Bourgeois. (For the full list of Crus Bourgeois based on the 2008 vintage, see http://www.crus-bourgeois.com/documents/selection_officielle_2008.pdf).

The new 2010 Classification resulted in a spilt from six of the nine top chateaux that were classified as Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels under the 2003 Classification. These chateaux went on to form their own grouping called 'Les Exceptionnels'. They are Chateau Potensac, Chateau Chasse Spleen, Chateau Les Ormes de Pez, Chateau de Pez, Chateau Poujeaux and Chateau Siran.

Apart from owning Potensac, in 1997, just before the harvest, Jean-Hubert DELON and his sister Genevieve D'ALTON acquired Chateau Nenin in Pomerol from their cousins, the DESPUJOL family, owners since the 19th Century. Apart from the grand vin Chateau Nenin, a second wine named Fugue de Nenin is also produced.

PHILOSOPHY

Whichever the estate and regardless of their level, we have the same philosophy. This is to produce wines that are representative of their terroir.

"Take, for example, Clos du Marquis. It is a perfect expression of Saint-Julien, its structure, harmony, distinction, complexity and potential to age. In fact, the terroir of Clos du Marquis is surrounded by several Second Growths of the appellation, and Pauillac," DELON opines.

Another important philosophy Jean-Hubert adheres to for all his wines is their enjoyability.

"The wines are made to be consumed during meals, to be shared and enjoyed with family and friends. They are made in such a way that they preserve their fresh ripe fruit flavours throughout their life. Special attention is paid to the balance of acidity, a key element for ageing and the thirst-quenching role of the wine."

"The aromas given by maturation in new oak barrels must not dominate the grape aromas but should blend together to offer a refined nose."

Jean-Hubert DELON is very mindful all his wines must be as consistent as possible. In order to ensure this, the wines are first blended before going into barrel. And then re-blended after ageing before bottling.

"The DELON family considers that each bottle of each wine produced is an ambassador to all consumers who taste them."



TASTING NOTES

CLOS DU MARQUIS 2007
Rating: to
The colour is youthful – mid-red/rubyish/bluish rim. Fragrant oak, smoky blue fruits and silky tannins. Round freshness. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon; 22.6% Merlot; 6.8% Petit Verdot; and, 2.6% Cabernet Franc.

Jean-Hubert DELON: The Cabernet Sauvignons were 13% natural alcohol. When you have that, you have a great wine. Clos du Marquis is not the second wine of Leoville Las Cases.

CLOS DU MARQUIS 2000
Rating:
Mid-brick with a hint of orange at the rim. Black fruits with a spiced element. Both the fruit and tannins are richer than the 2007. Great freshness on the finish. 60.3% Cabernet Sauvignon; 32.8% Merlot; and, 6.9% Petit Verdot.

CLOS DU MARQUIS 1996
Rating:
The complexion is about the same as the 2000. Whiff of leather and the smells of autumn. Lovely balance.

Jean-Hubert DELON: The Petit Verdot is quite powerful when a wine is young. But it does not age as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Merlot.

CHATEAU LEOVILLE LAS CASES 2007
Rating:
Mid-red with a bluish rim. Scented, cedary fruit with lots of freshness. Very elegant. A charmer.

CHATEAU LEOVILLE LAS CASES 2000
Rating:
Firm brick. Ripe, rich – including curranty – fruit and ripe, rich tannins. Firm and structured. Incredible freshness. Still very youthful. Length. 76.8% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.4% Cabernet Franc; and, 8.8% Merlot.

CHATEAU LEOVILLE LAS CASES 1996
Rating: to
Ripe, fresh fruit with a hint of liquorice. Elegant. Good length. 70.6 % Cabernet Sauvignon; 15.7% Cabernet Franc; and, 13.7% Merlot.

WINDOWS FOR DRINKING
JEAN-HUBERT DELON:
"The above wines we tasted are young wines. I prefer mature wines. I drink 1993 and 1994 which don't need decanting. 1983 and 1985 are ready. But 1982, 1988, 1989 and 1990 are still too young."



CHINESE BORDEAUX GUIDE, CHINESE CUISINE & WINE & WINE REVIEW RATING SYSTEM
Outstanding
       Excellent
             Good
                    Average
                          Acceptable
                         Half Star








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