On October 26th, we hosted what might be the most fascinating wine dinner that I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. Joined by Antoine Gimbert from Léoville Las Cases, we were treated to an array of back vintages of Las Cases as well a fine pair of wines from Châteaux Nenin and Potensac, all under the same ownership of the Delon family.
I’m thrilled today therefore, to offer an unbelievable array of these wines with absolutely perfect provenance, coming straight to us from Bordeaux. If Bordeaux’s 1855 classification was redone today, Las Cases would be one of a tiny handful (probably three, alongside Palmer and La Mission Haut Brion) that would have a legitimate claim to first growth ranking alongside Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux and Haut Brion. These are some of the greatest wines made anywhere in the world.
The evening was centred around an extraordinary opportunity to taste bottlings of each individual component variety that made up the blend of one of the most legendary of all Las Cases vintages, 1986. A wine given the elusive 100 points from Robert Parker, and described by Michel Delon and Neal Martin as “the summit of the 1980s”. So, we tried an intense and spicy Petit Verdot, a hauntingly charming Cabernet Franc, a remarkably complete and smooth Merlot, and a pure Cabernet Sauvignon, which not surprisingly had many of the characteristics one would expect in serious and great old Bordeaux.
Seeing these individual parts, it became no surprise that the vintage has the reputation that it does, as the complexity on show was pretty staggering. However, despite the beauty of the constituents, the final blend still impressively managed to be even better than the sum of its parts. I, like Robert Parker and Neal Martin, believe this to be one of the greatest wines made in Bordeaux. Of course, it does not come cheap, but given that this sells for up to $800 per bottle, our special price of $515 for bottles coming to us straight from Bordeaux, is compelling.
We also tasted 2012, 2003, 1994, and 1989. The magnificent 1989, which I believe to be an excellent buy due to it’s low Wine Advocate score, to me this was only a step or a half below the 1986, and thus is not far from Bordeaux perfection. It hasn’t been rated since 2011, and I believe it is due for a serious upgrade.
The 1994 for me is at a perfect point of maturity and particularly sung with food. Of the younger wines on show, personally I have a preference for the younger and less highly rated 2012, but the 2003 is a wine that many people particularly love, coming from perhaps the warmest vintage in the history of Bordeaux and imbued with the ripeness that one would expect as a result.
Not to be missed, an excellent 2006 Pomerol from Nenin, and what for me is an extremely easy buy, 2005 Potensac. Many of you will know that I believe Potensac is one of the great values available anywhere in Bordeaux, and in a vintage like 2005, the wine is elevated from “smart buy” to simply “brilliant”. A fabulous wine that would be impressive pretty much regardless of the price, it is an obvious case buy.
Léoville Las Cases 1986
The late Michel Delon always thought that this was the greatest vintage he had produced. We often tasted it side by side with the 1982, because I always preferred the latter vintage. Of course, the two vintages are quite different in style, with the 1986 a monument to classicism, with great tannin, extraordinary delineation, and a huge, full-bodied nose of sweet, ripe cassis fruit intermixed with vanilla, melon, fruitcake, and a multitude of spices. The wine has always been phenomenally concentrated, yet wonderfully fresh and vigorous. The wine still seems young, yet it is hard to believe it is not close to full maturity. It is a great example of Leoville Las Cases, and another compelling reason to take a serious look at the top Cabernet Sauvignon-based Medocs of 1986. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2035. 100 pts., Robert Parker, 2002
Léoville Las Cases 1989
This is a little disappointing on the nose, rather muffled compared to other vintages and certainly lacking the vigour and vivacity of the 1990. There are subtle touches of mulberry, sloe, graphite and saddle leather. The palate is medium-bodied with good balance, certainly at its plateau with leather, graphite and smoke. The finish has a touch of spice and again, a slight saline element at the back of the mouth. It is certainly well crafted but just lacking the joie-de-vivre or the profundity of its peers. Tasted February 2011. 90 pts., Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate, 2011
Léoville Las Cases 1994
One of Delon’s great successes is the under-the-radar ’94. Here it has a vibrant blackberry, cedar and mocha-tinged nose, mint developing with time with a cheeky hint of menthol. Wonderful focus and delineation here. The palate is medium-bodied with firm, obdurate tannins, typically masculine and foursquare, but you cannot ignore the thrust and power of this Las-Cases with impressive weight and grip towards the finish. Excellent. 93 pts., Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Léoville Las Cases 2003
An incredibly fresh, lively 2003 (the pH is only 3.6 and the alcohol is 13.1%), this wine offers a dense ruby/purple color along with full body and a remarkable nose of black currants, kirsch, lead pencil shavings and vanilla. Opulent, full-bodied and close to full maturity, it is a seamless classic that will age for 15-20 more years. Kudos to the Delon family for such a brilliant achievement in a tricky vintage. 96 pts., Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, 2014
Léoville Las Cases 2012
The 2012 Leoville Las Cases has gorgeous minerality, plenty of blueberry and blackcurrant fruit that is super-pure, an opaque ruby/purple color, medium body and firm structured, slightly austere personality. This wine is built for the long-term. A blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc, it attained 13.5% alcohol, which is substantial for a 2012 Médoc. It has depth and richness, but also a boatload of tannin. Forget it for 8-10 years and drink over the following 15-20. 93+ pts., Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, 2015
Château Nenin 2006
The 2006 Nenin is actually exactly the same blend as the 2005, but I prefer this vintage. There is more freshness on the nose with redcurrant, cranberry, cedar and sous-bois aromas, dried herbs in the background. The palate is fresh on the entry with fine, supple tannin. There is good grip in the mouth, pencil shavings tincturing the black fruit with a satisfying, graphite-tinged finish. This is one of the few wines where the 2006 is clearly superior to the 2005 and it comes recommended. 91 pts., Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate, 2016.
Château Potensac 2005
The Château Potensac 2005 sports a clear garnet colour. The nose is modest at first, but nicely defined with blackberry and raspberry fruit, candied orange peel emerging from the background hand in hand with cedar scents. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannin and quite noticable acidity. Backward and a liytle surly on the finish, this needs another three or four years to come around. 90 pts., Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate