Marvelous tasting of Leoville las Cases last night

Last night, I attended a wonderful tasting of Leoville las Cases organized by my good friend Panos Kakaviatos and featuring Pierre Graffeuille of Leoville las Cases. The dinner was in the back room at Ripple and featured a fabulous meal prepared by their newish executive chef Ryan Ratino. He has been doing an unbelievable job since taking over as chef last year and I really loved all the food.

Pierre Graffeuille lovingly explained all the wines, etc., that we were tasting. He was really fun to listen to and I learned a lot. I should say that I have always loved the wines of Leoville las Cases. The only strike against them is they take forever to age, but when they are finally mature, I really like them. Probably my favorite non-first growths in Bordeaux are Leoville las Cases, Ducru and Palmer. So, this evening was a special treat tasting some legendary vintages of LLC and a fascinating wine unlike anything I have had before.

The first wines we tasted were Clos du Marquis 2005 and Petit Lion du Marquis de las Cases 2009. I am becoming a big fan of 2005 Bordeaux and I thought the Clos du Marquis was a fine example of one. It tasted a lot like a Leoville las Cases in style, but certainly without the weight, depth, length and complexity. Still, it was an excellent wine. The Petit Lion (the second wine of LLC) was interesting as it was about 71% Merlot). Rich and easy to drink, it had a lot of characteristics that one expects from 2009 - although hard to tell if the richness and softness was from the vintage or from the Merlot. Enjoyable and elegant, but I probably enjoyed the Clos du Marquis more.

Next we had a 2003 Potensac. I thought this was a beautiful wine, perfect for drinking now. I would have loved a bit more acidity in this wine, but for the vintage (not one of my favorite Bordeaux vintages), I thought this wine was impressively balanced.

We went on to a 2001 Nenin. Now, this is a vintage I like a good bit and the Nenin showed why. Longer finish and more complexity than any of the wines that came before it, this was a serious wine. Still, I kind of missed the LLC flavors of the earlier wines and, while this is probably a “better” wine than the Clos du Marquis, I might have subjectively enjoyed the Clos du Marquis more.

Now time for the big boys. The first flight of LLC that we had was a real wow flight. 1996, 1990, 1989. When hands went up, the 1990 was the group’s clear favorite, but it was probably my least favorite of the three. But not by much. These were great, great wines. The 1996 was the most elegant of the wines, although the most unready to drink - still I truly loved it. I called it at various times - a burgundy lover’s Bordeaux (I was afraid that this would get me kicked out, but somehow I was safe), a throwback to pre-1982 styled Bordeaux and, when compared to more recent vintages, most 2005 in style (others having compared 1990 to a 2009 and 1989 to a 2010). The 1990 was rich and hedonistic. And, the 1989 tasted like it was the 1990, with some 1996 thrown in - in other words, a wonderful blend of richness and complexity. We could have argued all night about which was the best, but we had other wines to go to.

And, frankly, as good as these wines were, we stopped talking about them as soon as we started drinking the 1986. I have had this wine a few times in recent years and this was the best it has tasted. An absolutely complete, legendary wine.

And to compare to the 1986, we had a real treat. A 100% Petit Verdot from LLC from 1986 that Mr. Graffeuille said had never been tasted outside the winery before. Certainly not as complete a wine as any of the LLCs, it was a fascinating glimpse of this single variety. I have only had one 100% PV wine before and it certainly was not 30 years old. I probably learned more from this wine last night than from any of the others - truly special.

Then, to cap off the LLC wines, we had a 1975 and a 1982. I have always really liked the 1975 and last night was no exception. A classic, mature wine, it was a joy to drink. But, on this night, it was just outclassed by the legendary vintages we tasted - 1986, 1989, 1990, 1996 and the wine to follow. Yes, we finished with a 1982 LLC. I had this wine when it was first released and thought it was fabulous. It was never that good again - it was always closed and too young. I feel like I have been waiting my entire life for this wine to open up. Well, it probably still is not mature, but it has opened up. And, my confidence has been restored that this is a truly legendary wine. This, for me, was the WOTN and clearly so, which is amazing when I think about what came before it.

My good friend Chris Bublitz brought two dessert wines to finish the evening - a very nice 2001 Haut Peraguay and a truly fabulous Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thenn VT 1994. Wow was this a fabulous wine and a wonderful way to cap off an extraordinarily special evening.

Thanks Panos for including me.

Great notes on what sounds like a great evening. I don’t get to drink it all that often, but I love LLC. And I have a few of the '96 stashed away, waiting for…well, you tell me: how long do you think it needs?

Sounds like the '86 is finally entering its drinking window as well…?

Great tasting! LLC is mostly an exercise in waiting, but 1990 was an exception. It has been really enjoyable for a long time.

Anyone had 2001 recently?

Howard, I’m quite jelly of you at the moment. Helluva line up and thanks for the write up. As annoying as the LLC wait is, wines that take forever end up special, I guess good things come to those who wait? :frowning:

Have you tried the 88 recently? It’s screamin right now, not my style and lacks some hedonism, but so good I don’t much care that it’s the opposite of my normal ‘like’


I have not had the 1988 in a very long time. With all the great vintages in the 1980s, I did not ever buy much 1983 or 1988.

Agreed that most 88s aren’t where the stars are, but I think they punched a hole through the vintage, just as Palmer did in 83… maybe to a lesser extent, but for the money it’s worth a retry. Cheers

Great notes as usual Howard. A truly fun evening. 1982 was perhaps my overall favorite as well, but the 1986 was so impressive, too. And the 1990 seductive, the 1989 more grip, the 1975 sheer cigar box mature class. Here my notes and photos from the evening:

Howard, I haven’t opened one of my 82s in many years for the reasons you mention. Good to hear it is finally opening up.

Thanks for the notes. I love the 82, but only out of halves right now :slight_smile:). A great wine but my favourite vintages right now are 75, 78 & 83 with 78 leading. Still remember fondly the Great Ripple night in 2014.

Thanks to Panos for putting together another great dinner. The food at Ripple was excellent as usual but the wines were the stars. As Howard mentioned the preliminary (non-LLC) wines were all good and interesting to try. The LLC wines were uniformly great. Opinion was split on whether the 1989 or 1990 is a better wine (I am in the 1990 camp), and how the 1996 compared to the older wines - but no one seemed to question the quality. Tasting the 1986 Grand Vin and the 1986 Petit Verdot together was fascinating. I could see the similarities and differences in the two wines - which were pronounced. Overall I thought the Petit Verdot was very good, but the value of blending was obvious - the 1986 LLC was probably my WOTN. The highlights for me, in addition to the 1986, were the 1982 and 1990. All were phenomenal and at least the equal of first growths of the same vintages that I have tasted. Thanks to Pierre Graffeuille for providing the wines and telling their stories. Looking forward to the next Panos extravaganza.

Loved that 1990. I had very different reactions from Howard on a lot of these. Here are my notes on the LLCs. Though I must say that the Nenin was also an eye-opener. May be the last bargain out there from the sweet spot in Pomerol. I will have to check out some more recent vintages.

1996 Château Léoville Las Cases
Pierre described this as one of the all-time great Las Cases that has only recently closed up. He said it was wide open for 15 years and then 5 years ago it started to need decanting. This got the requisite decant but I still found it very closed-up and unexpressive, with a fierce, drying structure. You could taste the red orchard fruit through it but not much else to see and certainly not the dazzling complexities of the older vintages. Unfortunately there was not enough to come back to this later in the night because one of our bottles was corked. But if I had this I would not be tempted to open it for a long time.

1990 Château Léoville Las Cases
Mmmmmmmmmm – smell that. A no-doubter from the very first whiff. You know this is going to be something special. The aromas are complete and mature and kaleidoscopic in their detail. Everything in this wine is here in crystal-clear high definition. With each sip the wine comes in waves. The first wave is an almost piercing fruit intensity, that comes across both sweet and savory, ripe fruit but evolved with bottle age. Then come the earthy notes, tree bark and exotic flavors I can’t call “spice” but can’t call anything else either so I’m just going to settle on the generic “seasonings.” It has a sticky grip to it that almost feels caramelly but the overall shape of the wine is slender and elegant. Maria analogized this to a perfect statuesque blonde but thought the '89 is the one you want to spend more time with and bring home. I disagree. This WAS a perfect statuesque blonde but I’d be happy to spend time with her all night long until she dumped me for somebody who could afford her.

1989 Château Léoville Las Cases
Like the 1990, this was ready to go. Pierre thinks it will age longer, though. That may be – it seems to have more stuffing. The aromatics are stronger and deeper here, although not as precisely defined. Here they’re more funky, almost a gamy scent to it. It’s smooth and rounded by bottle age on the palate, darker than the 1990 and black-fruited in complexion. Again it has an almost sticky grip – there is a glossy sheen to this but it feels more like the fattiness in a steak than just the gloss of ripe fruit. That’s also on account of the tannins being nicely melted away.

1986 Château Léoville Las Cases
A bigger wine and a more muscular and layered wine than either the 1989 or 1990 – much stronger family resemblance to the 1996. But like the 1996 I did not find this wine nearly ready to drink. The tannins are still very powerful and drying on the palate. It’s a red-fruited wine inflected with a bit of earth and wood that’s segued past the barrel or cedar stage into something more suggestive of antique furniture. But this is nowhere near as developed or ready to go as the '89 or '90 – probably a decade away for my tastes, which means the '96 might need 20.

1986 Château Léoville Las Cases Petit Verdot
Well here is something you don’t see every day. The estate has been bottling single-variety components of the LLC grand vin for years now to see how they age. Pierre said they are preparing to release a set of gift boxes with the four major varieties so you can play around with making your own blend, along with the corresponding vintage’s grand vin. I am pretty sure this is the only time I’ve ever had 100% petit verdot and it is definitely the only time I’ve ever had it with enough bottle age to be mature. It is, as you would expect, totally different from the regular 1986. It smells sweet and grapey, like blueberry jam. On the palate the fruit complexion is pitch black and the texture is slick like a black leather jacket. Whatever tannins are here are basically glossed over. With time to sit in the glass you’re able to penetrate through the fruit and there is a perfumed woodiness, like sandalwood scents, and it gets redder in tone with more cherry pit fruit. If this is playing any part in the orchestra of the '86 grand vin, it’s the tuba. No surprise this is just a blending grape, but it’s a fun novelty.

1975 Château Léoville Las Cases
Pierre described this as another era for the chateau. They don’t even know the blend. Yields were high at 55hl/ha and all the crop made it into the grand vin. It smells kind of autumnal as many 1970s clarets do, but the fruit is sweeter and more vibrant on the palate than you’d anticipate from the nose. Pretty red-fruited cassis flavors. Pleasant wine but easy to lose in the mix with all the superpower vintages around it.

1982 Château Léoville Las Cases
Not very expressive aromatically, but it makes an immediate impact on the palate with fresh ripe blue/black fruit, somehow younger tasting than the '86, '89, or '90 and with even more primary fruit flavors than the '96 – though the structure is obviously softer and more resolved. Panos found this to combine some qualities of the '89 and '90 and I can get on board with that. It had the slender, feminine figure of the '90 with the '89s deeper tones. But the fruit was also more monolithic than the '90 and for me it just couldn’t complete with the complexity and detail the '90 offered. Indeed, nothing did.

Come back to DC Rainer and we will do another tasting. That was a fun evening.

Thanks for the notes and impressions.
LLC is one wine where a lot of time you are just tasting potential rather than peak flavours. I realised one has to be be super patient. And after you think you have been patient enough, you realise that you may have to add another decade or two to the estimate.

I have a fair bit of LLC still in the cellars incl the '86 and '96 from your tasting. It will best to leave them them aside for longer and and try some “off vintages” first (i.e. '88, '98, '02 or even '04). '95 was also ultra austere last time i tried it.


Panos organized another top Borddeaux chateau dinner. This time it was Leoville Las Cases with Domaines Delon director Pierre Graffeuille. In the past, I had found the wines of Leoville Las Cases to age glacially, even slower than Chateau Latour. I also found the wines to be quite clean and singular. It was fascinating to taste the Chateau direct bottles. In the past, some of the Chateau direct bottles were not as fresh as the US bottles. However these wines showed perfectly, i.e. very youthful but also with generous fruit.

Chef Ryan Ratino did an excellent job creating the menu to complement the wines. The wine service was very good as well.

I was extremely impressed by the very detailed and thoughtful decanting instruction from Pierre.

First flight :
• Petit Lion du Marquis de las Cases 2009, Saint Julien : Double decantation 30 minutes before pooring
• Clos du Marquis 2005, Saint Julien : Double decantation 60 minutes before pooring

Second Flight :
• Château Potensac 2003 : Double decantation 15 minutes before pooring
• Château Nénin 2001, Pomerol : no decantation

Third Flight :
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1996 : Double decantation 180/240 minutes before pooring
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1990 : no decantation
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1989 : Double decantation 30 minutes before pooring

Forth Flight :
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1986 : Double décantation 60 minutes before pooring
• Vin Surprise : 100% Petit Verdot Las Cases 1986 : Double decantation 30 minutes before pooring

Fifth Flight:
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1982 : Double decantation 30 minutes before pooring
• Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de las Cases 1975 : no decantation

Flight 1

  • 2009 Le Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Fresh and slightly green. A bit surprising for a ’09. Medium to light concentration, a hint of tannins. (88 pts.)
  • 2005 Clos du Marquis - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Medium expressive harmonious nose displaying perfectly ripe red and black fruits, cassis, plum, cedar, light caramel and flowers. Very good concentration, nicely layered ripe fruit, good richness, nicely integrated tannins and a medium to long cassis and cedar driven finish. Not the most complex wine but quite rich and drinking beautifully. It has reach the youthful peak but will last for another two decades. (92 pts.)

Flight 2

  • 2003 Château Potensac - France, Bordeaux, Médoc
    Beautifully mature ripe nose displaying plum, shy cherry and cassis, licorice, lead pencil, cedar and earth. Fully integrated palate, sort and warm, ripe round red fruit driven palate impression, good acidity, nicely integrated tannins and a medium to long cedar driven finish. There is a hint of bitterness that I associate with the 03 vintage. It certainly is ripe but don’t exhibit obvious roasted fruit. Surprisingly enjoyable. (92 pts.)
  • 2001 Château Nenin - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Beautiful polished nose displaying abundant dark flowers, black currant, bitter chocolate, a hint of smoke and mineral. Medium concentration, beautifully layered, silky and polished, good acidy, strong mineral presence and a lovely long silky finish. I seem to love the wine a lot more than the other CTers, i.e. the second highest rating is 91pts. Most of the ratings seem to be in line with the Tanzer’s ratings. This is a classic Pomerol with beautiful floral nose and polished palate. (94 pts.)

Flight 3
I love the 96 and 90. Although very enjoyable, the 89 was a step below for my palate.

  • 1996 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very precise classic claret nose displaying intense cassis, blackberry jam, floral dust, cedar, a hint of vanilla and earth. Excellent concentration, beautifully layered, intense cassis driven palate impression, incredibly silky and polished, bright acidity, strong presence of mineral, still noticeable fine tannins and a long energetic finish with cassis and cedar at the end. This is an incredibly youthful classic claret with a long life ahead. The 96s are showing really well with the incredible energy and purity. Some thinks that it is tight. I am loving it, my WOTF by a slim margin, to the hedonistic and explosive 90. (97 pts.)
  • 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Explosive hedonistic nose displaying cassis, blueberry pie minus crust, black cherry, licorice, milk chocolate, floral dust, mint, eucalyptus, sweet spicies and earth. There is a hint of green bell pepper that gives freshness. Excellent concentration, beautifully layered opulent sweet black fruit, chewy yet silky and polished, noticeable sweet tannins and an incredibly long finish with cassis and licorice at the end. Certain the most ready and expressive wine of the flight. Excellent showing. I strangely prefer the classism of the 96, kinda weird. (96 pts.)
  • 1989 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Harmonious nose displaying subtle cassis, blueberry, plum, more red fruit than the 96 and 90, a hint of mint and eucalyptus, coffee and mineral. Very good concentration, chewy and rich, also quite silky, nicely integrated tannins and a long finish. Not quite up to the 96 and 90 for my palate. Nevertheless, this is a classic wine that is drinking nicely. (93 pts.)

Flight 4
It was fascinating to taste the single varietal cuvee. Thought it was good, the actual LLC showed more complexity and richness.

  • 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Incredibly youthful yet complex nose displaying intense cassis, ink, a hint of plum starts to develop, cigar, ash, cedar, caramel and lead pencil. Excellent concentration, beautifully layered, silky and polished, tobacco and cassis driven palate impression, bright acidity, nicely integrated tannins and a lovely long finish with cedar at the end. This is very similar to the 96 but I find this to be a big richer/oilier where the 96 is purer and more precise. Exceptional showing. It is finally reaching the first stage of the youthful peak. (96 pts.)
  • 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases Petit Verdot - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Expressive nose displaying blackberry jam, ink, mint, cedar, pepper as in syrah, and mineral. Very good concentration, silky, sensual, bright acidity, excellent mineral presence, nicely integrated tannins and a long inky finish. It is surprisingly rich and youthful. However a bit one dimensional and lacking nuance and harmony of the 86 LLC. Really fascinating. (93 pts.)

Flight 5
The 82 was exceptional. I was pleasantly surprised by how excellent the 75 showed.

  • 1982 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The 82 is the reason why I complain about the excruciatingly slow aging curve of Leoville Las Case. Beautiful harmonious nose displaying subtle cassis, crushed blackberry, crushed rose pedals, fine mineral dust, caramel, cedar and earth. Perfectly integrated yet youthful palate, layers upon layers of perfectly mature red currants and cassis, silky and polished, perfect amount of acidity and mineral, fully integrated tannins and a long sweet finish that resonates. It certainly exhibits a hint of ripe and warm 82 fruit without compromising the structure and freshness. Ben mentions how perfect this was for the first five years after release. It is finally delivering the earlier promise. For my palate, very complete and perfectly harmonious. It has finally reach the first stage of the youthful peak but can improve for another decade or two if not longer. Excellent showing. (98 pts.)
  • 1975 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The 75 tells me that the cellar of Leoville Las Cases is impeccable. Fully mature yet clean and energetic nose displaying a hint of cassis and plum, strong cedar, leather, tobacco, mint, caramel and lead pencil. Beautiful harmonious palate, nothing out of place, silky and sensual, bright acidity, good mineral presence and a long sweet finish that subtly resonates. This is a really complete classic claret. Best showing by far, still retaining good amount of sweet fruit. The reason why we love mature Bordeaux. The surprise of the night. (95 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

I don’t know how you guys can put together such precise tasting notes. I thought all of the Leoville Las Cases (1975, 1982, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1996) were great. Of course the 1990 was especially appealing but all of them were wonderful. I wasn’t surprised by the high quality of the 1975 LLC as I’ve drank a number of very impressive 1975 Bordeaux in recent years. It took a long time but the top 1975s are shining now.

Also really liked the 2001 Nenin. In general, I’m not a big fan of Petit Verdot but that 1986 LLC Petit Verdot was probably the best P.V. I have ever tasted.

As to the dessert wines, I think the Clos Haut-Peyraguey was flavorful but a little flat. On the other hand, I thought the 1994 Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thann VT was really singing.

I always liked the 1990 Las Cases. It´s probably not the most representative for the style of the Chateau because hedonistic is a description seldom connected to this wine. But its´delicious. I don´t know a better word for describing it. About 10 years ago I had a bottle of 1986 Las Cases that was amongst the best Bordeaux I ever had. I know this sounds strange because the wine is still very young as most 1986 Bordeaux and I never had the same experience with that wine again till now. But I think this 1986 Las Cases will be a legend sometimes and in the same league as Mouton Rothschild. The few 1982 Las Cases I had so far were all disappointing because the wine was always loaded but hard as nails. Good to know that it opens up finally. Unfortunately all Las Cases got very expensive recently. But that´s hardly news and true for almost any of the top wines.

Thanks for posting notes Kevin and Keith. I really did like the 1975 and found it surprising as Kevin did. Of course Chris has enjoyed it over more years, so … And as Chris wrote in general about LLC, too. On my website I basically categorized all of the LLCs we enjoyed as “nirvana” wines. They are so classic. The 1986 for example, or the 1996: positively statuesque and polished and seemingly timeless. A truly ooh-la-la impression with the 1990. It is that gorgeous. When I came back to the 1989 over time, over the dinner, I did notice more grip to the palate. Now, I do not think that the 1989-1990 debate with LLC comes close to the debate over the same vintages with regard to Montrose, which we had tried earlier this year, where the 1989 often indeed gives the 1990 Montrose more than a run for its money. As said, I think it would be most interesting to revisit both vintages 5 years down the road and again 10 years down the road, but for current drinking? The 1990 is the clear favorite in my book. Jürgen, indeed, the 1982 we had was fabulous. [cheers.gif]