Jean-Hubert Delon owns four Bordeaux estates, with the Jewel in the crown being second growth Léoville-Las-Cases in Saint-Julien. In addition, he owns Nénin in Pomerol, Clos du Marquis in Saint-Julien, and Potensac in the northern Médoc. I recently attended a masterclass where we were introduced to each of these estates, and tasted through a few wines.
Château Léoville-Las-Cas is a descendent of one of the most ancient left bank estates, and in its time was one of the largest. Originally planted in 1604, it went on to become Domaine de Léoville, covering almost the whole appellation of St Julien. In the French Revolution, the owner, the Lord of Léoville, was forced to flee to Britain and the domain was broken up. A fifth was given to revolutionaries. And Hugh Barton bought a number of plots in 1915, creating Leoville Barton. Some more plots were joined to form Léoville-Poyferre. But the original 55 hectare plot of Las Cases remains. It is separated by a small stream from Latour in Pauillac.
Château Léoville Las Cases 2003 Saint Julien Bordeaux, France
Great concentration and refinement here, despite the heat of the vintage. Has fresh berry and blackcurrant fruit, with grainy, chalky, slightly gravelly structure. Has a supple personality and nice concentration. Plenty of structure, supporting sweet fruit with a warm, generous mid-palate and a long finish. Drink now or over the next five years: showing some development, and while it’s delicious now it might dry a bit. 94/100
Château Léoville Las Cases 1998 Saint Julien Bordeaux, France
This is beautiful: showing some lovely development with sleek, elegant red and black fruits, with a lovely seamless structure. The tannins have melded beautifully, and there are some appealing sappy notes under the fruit. Really luscious and harmonious, drinking fabulously but there’s no need to drink this up. Amazing purity, freshness and precision. 96/100
Château Léoville Las Cases 1989 Saint Julien Bordeaux, France
This is quite mature now, with some herb and earth hints as well as hints of treacle and tar. This is well past its best: is it just a bad bottle? [In which case, why was it being poured at a masterclass?] Dry with notes of iodine, herb and leather. Tastes like old wine. 87/100
Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases 2009 Saint Julien Bordeaux, France
Second wine, with lots of Merlot in it (71%) and younger Cabernet Sauvignons and Franc. This is ripe and sweetly fruited, but also well structured, with some grip under the grainy, chalky blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. There’s a fresh, supple, restrained feel to this wine, which has nice weight and drinkability. Finishes harmonious but also structured. Very stylish with some potential for future development. Not too ripe or weighty, and drinking very well. 93/100
Clos du Marquis is often mistakenly thought of as the second wine of Las Cases, but it’s not. Planted in 1884 by a member of the Delon family, it’s a separate 43 hectare property on very different soils.
Clos du Marquis 2008 Saint Julien, Bordeaux, France
Taut and compact with supple berry fruits and good structure. Some gravel and pencil shaving notes with structured blackcurrant on the palate. Bright and nicely structured with lovely purity and focus. Very fine. 93/100
Clos du Marquis 2003 Saint Julien, Bordeaux, France
This is compact and quite nicely structured, with a core of sweet berry fruits, some cherry notes and good structure. Ripe and harmonious, but still retains freshness. This has elegance and purity, with nice mid-palate richness. Drinking well, despite the heat of the vintage. 93/100
Nénin is the second largest property in the Pomerol appellation with 32 hectares (the average in Pomerol is just 1.5 ha). This is on the clay/gravel plateau of Pomerol, and there’s also one block separate to the main vineyard, called Fugue de Nenin. The winery is new: the property was brought by Delon from his cousins in 1997 and has been modernised. The vineyards have also been restructured and many parts replanted. There are lots of soil and subsoil combinations here.
Château Nénin 2009 Pomerol, Bordeaux
35% new oak, 14-16 months in barrel. This is supple and elegant with ripeness but also finesse and balance. There’s some sweetness to the fruit, with an ease to it. It’s ripe (14.5% alcohol) – atypically so because of the vintage – with some harmonious, slightly Port-like fruit generosity. This is drinking beautifully now. 94/100
Potensac is an 84 hectare vineyard planted in a high spot in the northern Médoc that has been in the Delon family for many generations. The hilly mounds that make up most of the vineyard are clay/gravel over a limestone base.
Château Potensac 2014 Médoc, Bordeaux
Located at a high point in the northern Médoc. 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Franc and a touch of Petit Verdot. This is lovely: it’s fresh, supple and structured with bright blackcurrant and raspberry fruit, with good acidity and grainy, grippy structure. It’s really fresh and well defined with bright acidity. Lovely balance here with some fine sappy notes. Classic, structured, yet has flesh. 94/100