Sunday, August 2, 2020

Leoville Las Cases Clos du Marquis 1999

Leoville Las Cases Clos du Marquis 1999

A year ago this week we were touring St Julien Bordeaux where we visited Chateau Leoville Las Cases which was one of the highlights of our trip there. So it was fitting that for a casual grilled steak dinner with baked potatoes and sweet corn, I pulled from the cellar this Clos du Marquis label from the Domaines Delon estate.

As I wrote at the time in our chronicle of the trip, Clos du Marquis is a label from Domaine Leoville St Julien, a perfect expression of the Saint-Julien features based on structure, harmony, distinction, complexity and ageing potential.

Clos du Marquis was created at the beginning of the 20th century when the vineyard was planted,  inspired by the Petit Clos adjacent to the Château de Léoville, residence of the Marquis de Las Cases.

Clos du Marquis is a historic brand by the Domaines Delon, a separate vineyard that is across the road from Leoville Las Cases, whose first vintage was released in 1902. The creation of this brand was to allow a clear identification of two completely distinct terroirs of the two estate vineyards.

We hold many vintages of the Clos du Marquis and in error always thought it was a second label of Las Cases rather than a distinctive label in its own right. Upon our return home, we opened a 1989 vintage of Clos du Marquis in tribute to visit there and it was excellent.  

Clos du Marquis is located on some of the finest vineyards with their distinctive terroirs of the Saint Julien appellation, near the Las Cases property and the nearby surrounding prestigious Classified Growths such as Léoville Poyferré and Léoville Barton, and Pichon Lalande across the appellation boundary in Pauillac.

The Clos du Marquis vineyard is a separate cuvée – and not a 'Second Wine', with grapes grown in the Petit Clos (Clos meaning an enclosed garden or field) which is surrounded on all sides by other Second Growths. The Petit Clos vineyard is to the south of the Leoville Las Cases Grand Clos vines and covers 12 acres. It is planted with 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Its name comes from a small walled parcel of land, in French a “clos,” located near the residence of the Marquis de Las-Cases. Clos du Marquis was produced and sold by Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases starting in the late 19th century, which makes it one of the very earliest of the so-called second wines now produced by many Bordeaux estates. The wines are generally made from the fruit of younger vines which are not considered mature enough to produce fruit for the estates’ signature wines. However, they often represent an excellent value and Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that Clos du Marquis in the last 20 years “has been close to the quality of a third or fourth growth.”

Over time it became a wine in its own right and since 1989 has been produced from separate parcels which lie outside Léoville Las Cases' main vineyards. The Clos du Marquis comes from the great terroirs of the Saint-Julien appellation that were not part of the former Léoville estate. These terroirs are located further west and surrounded by prestigious Crus Classés (Classified Growths) including Second Growths from the Saint- Julien and Pauillac appellations: Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. The Clos du Marquis thus displays typical Saint-Julien characteristics: structure, complexity, balance, distinction and great ageing potential. Clos du Marquis has the ability to challenge many other châteaux of the Medoc. Indeed, it is the equal of most 3rd, 4th and 5th Growths and has been an outstanding performer for many years.

Leoville Las Cases Clos du Marquis St Julien Bordeaux 1999

The 1999 vintage will undoubtedly be a bridesmaid, overshadowed by the much heralded 2000 vintage. Like the 1998 Napa to the much heralded '97, it provides pleasurable drinking at a fraction of the cost of the grand vin for great QPR. As all boats rise with the tide, in great vintages, even the second wines provide superior drinking on par with the grand vins. The 1999 vintage fell short of greatness, when, as so frequently happens in Bordeaux, September rains dashed hopes of a spectacular end to the millennium. Nevertheless 1999 was a respectable vintage, generally ahead of 1991, 1992 and 1993, in some instances surpassing 1994 and 1997 (Right Bank) and 1998 (Left Bank).

Reviewer notes: "A classic Bordeaux with a huge personality. Full color development shows. In the nose showing some smoked wood supported by lovely ripe fruit. Hints of spices, chocolate and some leather tip to detect. The scent is very sophisticated. In the mouth a beautiful entrance. Lots of flavor: fruit, spices, nicely integrated wood, great elegance but still some tannin and this gives the wine firm structure. The wine has a good grip and concentration in the mouth. Although wine is now mature, it can still ripen a while. A classic Bordeaux with a stamp."

This label was awarded:
90 points - James Suckling, Wine Spectator,
89 points - James Suckling, Wine Spectator - March 31, 2002,
86 points - Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #140 - April 2002,
88-90 points - Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #134- April 2001,
90 points - Neal Martin, Wine Journal - July 2011,
90-91 points - Neal Martin, Wine Journal - July 2002, and
88 points - Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar - May/June 2006.

This is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.

Bright garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright forward pronounced blackberry and tangy black currant fruits are accented by notes of tea, tobacco, hints of cassis and cedar on the firm, structured but approachable lingering tannins on the finish. At 21 years, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever, likely at the apex of its drinkability.

RM 89 points.