The lion of Las Cases
Author: Tom Cave
Winding north through the Médoc, along D2 – the route des vins – it’s hard to miss the majestic lion perched atop an aristocratic stone gateway. This iconic landmark is the entrance to Léoville-Las Cases’ L’Enclos – one of the greatest vineyards in St Julien, and perhaps Bordeaux. The vines undulate on the finest gravel and slope gently down to a modest-looking brook (more a ditch really), on the other side of which rise the vineyards of imperious Ch. Latour. We are, here, at the northernmost part of St Julien and there is more than a hint of Pauillac’s punch in the wines of Las Cases.
St Julien – the smallest of the four great Médoc appellations – sometimes seems neglected. With no First Growths, it lacks perhaps the prestige of Pauillac, St Estèphe and Margaux; but it’s easy to forget this quietly confident commune also has no Fifth Growths. It has always been the subregion with the highest standards – a consistent level of quality that is all too often under-valued. For me, a true St Julien is not as severe as St Estèphe, as restrained or pencil-sharp as Pauillac, less exotic than Margaux. The wines, at their best, display immense charm and age and improve as well as any; they are, in short, the epitome of graceful, satisfying Claret.
I often turn to the wines of St Julien; particularly when among serious wine folk. At a “BYO” affair, those with deeper cellars than me can effortless unveil more glamorous names – First Growths and such; yet the wonder of mature St Julien – an affable, deeply satisfying Léoville Barton, a lithe and polished Léoville Poyferré or authoritative and classy Léoville-Las Cases (even better in magnum) never fails to stand up to the competition.
It is the mighty Ch. Léoville-Las Cases (or to award it its full name, Le Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases) that stands proudly at the top of the St Julien family tree – the original and largest of the triumvirate of St Julien Second Growths that share the Léoville name. It – rather like the lion at the gate – rests easily, guarding the region’s reputation with almost effortless class.
Ch. Léoville-Las Cases has made the latest vintage of our own-label St Julien; for a taste of the team’s winemaking talents – and a benchmark example of St Julien’s style – it is hard to beat. Find out more about the wine on bbr.com.
If you would like to learn more about St Julien, we’re running a tasting on 12th November; find out more here.