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Bordeaux 2000: Château Léoville Las Cases

A second-growth aims for the top

Per-Henrik Mansson
Posted: April 8, 2003

Jean-Hubert Delon, proprietor of the second-growth St.-Julien, which lays strong claim to first-growth status.
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Score: 100 | Price: $170

Like his father before him, Jean-Hubert Delon has pushed relentlessly to earn a place in the exclusive group of Bordeaux first-growths for his family's second-growth Château Léoville Las Cases.

With the 2000 vintage, Las Cases (100, $170) has helped its case. Thanks to its perfect score, the St.-Julien estate joins first-growths Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour as the best of the vintage.

The strength of Las Cases lies in its terroir, which constitutes the heart of the historic estate, created in 1722 when an aristocrat named de Léoville married Jeanne de Moytie, who owned choice vineyards in St.-Julien. Succeeding generations divided the property; Léoville Barton and Léoville Poyferré (also second-growths) are other remnants.

Léoville Las Cases includes a prized walled vineyard bordered by the Gironde River. Known as the grand clos of Las Cases and pictured on the label, this vineyard supplies the backbone of the wine. It is planted predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon (Merlot, Cabernet France and Petit Verdot make up the balance), but the 2000 Las Cases, 95 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, mirrors the greatness of that variety that year.

Delon says he's identified 30 different terroirs inside the 138-acre clos. Soils ranging from Pauillac-like gravel to the sort of clay found at Château Pétrus add complexity to the grand vin. The clos' northern side borders Pauillac and some of the best vineyard parcels of Château Latour. "Las Cases is sometimes a St.-Julien, sometimes a Pauillac, and sometimes just Las Cases," says Delon.

Wine that doesn't qualify for Las Cases usually makes up about 15 percent of the estate's other wine, Clos du Marquis. But Clos du Marquis isn't a second wine per se, because most of it comes from a 110-acre walled vineyard situated about 900 feet from Las Cases' enclosed vineyard. The full-bodied Clos du Marquis 2000 (94, $30) shows loads of plum, spice and meat aromas and hints of licorice.

Delon and his sister Geneviève d'Alton now own Las Cases. Following in the footsteps of his father, Michel (who died in 2000), Delon runs a tight ship, helped by estate manager Jacques Depoizier. Jean-Hubert has inherited the erudite ways of his father and a dour expression that borders on a frown, although he might allow a wry smile while indulging in the passion -- also passed on to him by his father -- of smoking a fine Havana cigar.

Delon chooses his lunch selections at the château dining room from an up-to-date wine list of hundreds of bottles from around the world that age in his cellar. "I was born drinking wines from everywhere," he says, picking two rare white Burgundies -- the 1986 Bonneau de Martray Corton-Charlemagne and the 1985 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet -- as aperitifs. "The surest way to make great wine is to drink a lot of it."

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