1996 Château Léoville Poyferré, St Julien, Bordeaux
Neal Martin - 28/10/2016
(Jancis Robinson - Bordeaux '96s Today - jancisrobinson.com - 21-Sept-2011)
About this WINE
Chateau Leoville Poyferre
Château Léoville Poyferré was the Léoville that got left in the starting blocks in terms of reputation and in the quality of its wines.
Léoville Poyferré has been owned by the Cuvelier family (who also own Château Le Crock) since 1921, yet it was not until the 1970s, when Didier Cuvelier took control at the château, that quality began to improve. In the last 20 years, Didier, with the assistance of Michel Rolland since 1995, has turned Léoville-Poyferré into one of St-Julien's finest estates.
Léoville Poyferré has 80 hectares of vineyards planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (25%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Cabernet Franc (2%).
Léoville Poyferré traditionally produced the softest and most supple wine of the 3 Léovilles, yet in the last decade the wines have definitely put on weight and body. This is largely due to the grapes being harvested riper and later and because of the increased exposure to new oak in the maturation process.
Now up with the best of the St-Juliens but still selling at non-scary prices. Léoville Poyferré is classified as a 2ème Cru Classé.
St Julien is the smallest of the "Big Four" Médoc communes. Although, without any First Growths, St Julien is recognised to be the most consistent of the main communes, with several châteaux turning out impressive wines year after year.
St Julien itself is much more of a village than Pauillac and almost all of the notable properties lie to its south. Its most northerly château is Ch. Léoville Las Cases (whose vineyards actually adjoin those of Latour in Pauillac) but, further south, suitable vineyard land gives way to arable farming and livestock until the Margaux appellation is reached.
The soil is gravelly and finer than that of Pauillac, and without the iron content which gives Pauillac its stature. The homogeneous soils in the vineyards (which extend over a relatively small area of just over 700 hectares) give the commune a unified character.
The wines can be assessed as much by texture as flavour, and there is a sleek, wholesome character to the best. Elegance, harmony and perfect balance and weight, with hints of cassis and cedar, are what epitomise classic St Julien wines. At their very best they combine Margaux’s elegance and refinement with Pauillac’s power and substance.
Ch. Léoville Las Cases produces arguably the most sought-after St Julien, and in any reassessment of the 1855 Classification it would almost certainly warrant being elevated to First Growth status.
Recommended Châteaux: Ch. Léoville Las Cases, Ch.Léoville Barton, Ch Léoville Poyferré, Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, Ch Langoa Barton, Ch Gruaud Larose, Ch. Branaire-Ducru, Ch. Beychevelle
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
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For a long time this estate was the poor relation of the Léoville clan, however, improvements in quality have been noticeable since the early 1990s and 1996 was a real success for Poyferré. The château traditionally produced the softest and most supple wine of the three Léovilles, yet the wines have definitely put on weight and body. This is largely due to the grapes being harvested riper and later, and because of the increased exposure to new oak in the maturation process. The wines are now up with the best of the St Juliens, but still selling at non-scary prices.
The nose sings with notes of oak, forest fruits, truffles and tobacco leaves while the palate reveals impressive fruit concentration, a fleshy full-bodied structure and a harmonious integration of fruit and tannins.
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