An hour’s drive from Bordeaux’s center is St. Julien – where you will see Châteaux, some directly across the street or next door to one another with vines as far as the naked eye can see. We hit the mother load. We took photos where we could (see Facebook album here.) and even found a cafe tucked behind Château Lynch Bages where I had my first hamburger in two weeks (this trip also included over a week in Paris).
Château Leoville Poyferre
2nd Grand Cru Classé, Saint-Julien. Léoville is situated in St Julien in the heart of the Médoc. The origin of the domain goes back to the French Revolution, when Léoville was the largest estate in the Médoc. (Appointment courtesy Planet Bordeaux)
Our host, Morgan, explained that St. Julien is a small region of Bordeaux – there are a total of 8,000 Château in Bordeaux! The Medoc area has 200 acres with 23 Château in St. Julien with 19 owners.
They make three wines, the first has the “Château” name on the label, the second is called “Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre” and made with the youngest wines, and the third is named “Château Moulin Riche” from the area the grapes come from.
The winery makes wine from four grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
The soil is made up of sand, rock and clay. It is very deep and the rocks heat up during the day and “gives back (the heat) at night.”
No one waters the soil.
2009 was a very good vintage as it was good weather for Cabernet that does well in colder weather. (Warmer weather is needed for Merlot.) Robert Parker gave the vintage a 100. 2009 was also a good year, Parker gave it a 98. The 11s and 12s are “classic.”
Petit Verdot leaves have three parts to them while Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc have five distinct sections.
New meets the old as the visitor’s center is across the courtyard from the original Château.
The Leoville name is attached to three separate Châteaux that were once all the same family, and are now owned by three families since 1840: Le Cases, Barton and Poyferre. Each own between 150 to 200 acres. “An imaginary line separates the estates…and they are friends and not foes.”
The winery has unique temperature-regulated concave stainless steel vats that allow more color and extraction. The vats are different sizes allowing for different varietal yields, no blending is done with the vats.
After de-stemming and two hand sorts the grapes are sorted by a machine that pulls out green and too-small berries that “don’t suit them.” The state-of-the-art computer program photographs the grapes to determine which won’t make the cut. Similar machines are used to sort tomatoes so that only the perfect sized ones are sold in supermarkets.
Wines leave the vats to spend 6 months in oak barrels, then they are blended, and put back into 80% new oak barrels for 12 months. Barrels are only used 1-2 times. They cost 800 Euros new and are usually only worth 50 Euros when they are sold to others for use.
Egg whites, 5 to 6 of them per barrel, are used to clarify the wines and reduce impurities.
They are currently blending the 14s and bottling the 13s. The 13s will remain in bottle for 6 months before sold.
It is the law to allow 3 years from the time of harvest before selling finished bottles. It is also the law that no wine exceeds 15% alcohol.
We saw a kosher vat, the first we’ve ever seen, and most of the kosher wine is exported to New York.
Most wines are sold to English-speaking countries.
The vintages currently thought to be good years are from 2000, 03, 05, 09 and 10.
The Cuvelier family has owned the winery since 1920, their personal cellar collection goes back to 1920 as well.
2011 Pavillon that had bright red fruit, black peppery, young but can be drunk now. 91 Eve points. A 2009 Moulin Riche was considered “the best vintage here” and it was my fave of the three with lush black fruit, smoke, blackberry jam, raisins and good tannins. 94 Eve points. Finally the 08 Château Leoville Poyferre made me think, whoa, was there a fire near the vineyard? GREAT smoke followed by dark plum and even darker chocolate. I’d give it a little age…but you don’t have to! 95 Eve pts.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com