In Parker’s Retrospective on Bordeaux ” Bordeaux – A Comprehensive Guide to the Wines Produced Between 1961 – 1997″ Parker writes this of St Julien:
If Pauillac is famous for having the Medoc’s largest number of first-growths and Margaux for being the most widely known appellation, St-Julien is the Medoc’s most underrated commune. The winemaking…is consistently brilliant.
Since Parker made this glowing praise of St.-Julien in his Bordeaux retrospective in the late nineties, continued investment and modern winemaking techniques have continued to elevate the quality of the wines of St.-Julien. The art of winemaking is highly regarded throughout the appellation, and is reflected in the broad range of quality wines that are found in St.-Julien. Beyond the the well-known classified growths Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Barton, Leoville las Cases, Gruaud-Larose and Talbot, there remains an impressive list of solid performing chateau.
In my own experience, many of the wines from Saint-Julien tend to be approachable early, but also reward with patience. Chateau Gloria and Langoa Barton are two relatively affordable wines that consistently follow this model.
St.-Julien, is well-represented in my store. Below is a list of the wines we currently available in our inventory:
Leoville las Cases
2003 The solidly made 2003 Leoville Las-Cases (13.2% alcohol) is a blend of 70.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.2% Merlot, and 12.6% Cabernet Franc. In this incredibly hot vintage, the alcohol is slightly lower than achieved in 2002, a cool-climate year. While not a profound example of Las-Cases, the 2003 is muscular, deep, and full-bodied with an impressive ruby/purple color, a tight but juicy bouquet of vanilla, black cherries, crushed rocks, and flowers, a sweet attack, and moderately high tannin. Backward and fresh, displaying impeccable delineation and purity, it can be enjoyed between 2012-2023.
1997 – This wine is just hitting its stride in 2012. A blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, and 3.5% Petit Verdot this wine is medium to full-bodied with silky tannin and layers of concentration. If you are looking for a wine that has had some time to develop, this is the one for you. Parker scored it 93 Points.
2005 A deep ruby/purple hue is accompanied by a sweet perfume of roasted herbs, black cherries, and even blacker fruits. The wine is medium to full-bodied with sweet tannin, good acidity, and a fruitcake-like spiciness and earthiness. Pure and long with a tannic clout that is neither intrusive nor excessive, this elegant, powerful effort should be at its finest between 2017-2030. 90 Points
Branaire Ducru – This is a wine that is on my list to take home when the occasion merits it. Chocolatey, spicy, with aromas of oak and vanilla, by all accounts, it is considered an exotic wine by Bordeaux standards.
2005 – As usual, the 2005 Branaire-Ducru is one of the more distinctive wines of St.-Julien. Proprietor Patrick Maroteaux has turned out another classic. While not as opulent or fleshy as the 2003, and it remains to be seen if it will eclipse the 2000, the 2005 is a big, structured, intensely rich effort with raspberry, blueberry, and spring flower garden characteristics, stunning purity, full-bodied power, and good underlying acidity as well as harmony. The hard tannins suggest 8-9 years of cellaring will be beneficial; it should last for three decades. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2030+. 95 Points
2006 – By no means comparable to their sensational 2005 or 2003, but still an outstanding wine, this singular St.-Julien always possesses notes of spring flowers, boysenberries, black currants, and graphite. The complex aromatics are followed by a medium-bodied, classic Bordeaux displaying a deep ruby/purple color as well as moderately high tannin. It needs 3-5 years of bottle age, and should last for two decades or more. Drink 2011-2032 90 Points
I tasted the 2006 on 10-26-12, Great potential, the wine is medium-bodied and still has some tannins that will require 3-5 years to resolve. With a little time, this should evolve into a elegant, exotic wine with a long life ahead of it.
Leoville Barton is the third of the Leoville estates in Saint-Julien. It is interesting to note that there is no Chateau at Leoville Barton. The wine is made at Langoa. The wine is Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, with a small percentage of Merlot. Merlot accounts for about 20% of the plantings on the estate.
Not surprisingly, this wine is closed, masculine, but super-rich, with a denser, more complete and full-bodied style than its sibling, Langoa Barton. Some toasty vanillin is apparent in the black currant aromas intermixed with tobacco leaf, cedar, and spice box. The wine is full-bodied and has a boatload of tannin, not unusual for this estate, as well as an impressively pure, long finish. Everything is here, but this wine, made with uncompromising vision, is meant to be cellared for an exceptionally long period of time. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2035. 91 Points
Leoville Poyferre has a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, at times approaching 70%. With this in mind, this wine ften oneeds some time to unwind.
2005 the 2005 Leoville Poyferre is a gorgeously opulent, approachable wine that is far less massive and austere than its two siblings. The most seductive, approachable, and charming of the three Leovilles, it exhibits a dense purple color as well as a sweet bouquet of mocha, black chocolate, creme de cassis, licorice, and toasty oak. Full-bodied with gorgeous upfront fruit in addition to impressive levels of melted, well-integrated tannin, it should be at its finest between 2015-2035. 93 Points
2006 Dense ruby/purple, with sweet blackberry and black currant fruit with hints of smoke, espresso roast, and new saddle leather, this is another impressively endowed but tannic, backward style of wine. The concentration, brightness, and depth are all present, but I can’t see it being even approachable in less than 5-7 years. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2028 91 Points
2005 Tasted on three separate occasions, this cuvee exhibits a dark ruby color (with much less saturation than many wines of the vintage) as well as a distinctive, herbal, meaty, horsey nose, medium to full body, good depth, power, and richness, and soft tannins. The wine’s rustic aromas and earthy style are intriguing and provocative. While an excellent effort, the 2005 Gruaud Larose is not one of the stars of the vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2022 89? Points Robert Parker
Langoa Barton is known for big, ripe and spicy wines. Both Langoa and Leoville have a distinctive Pauillac character and personality. The vineyard is planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot.
2006 This tastes more like a Pauillac than a St.-Julien with its big, beefy, tannic overlay and aromas and flavors of black currants, asphalt, leather, and damp earth. Tannic, full-bodied but almost impenetrably closed and broodingly backward, this is a long-term prospect for those with patience. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2030+. 90 Points
Hortevie is made at the Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. Recently, “Chateau” was dropped from the name. Thus, it is now know simply as “Hortevie”. This seemingly modern attitude suits the wine which is as close to a “fruit bomb” as any Right Bank Bordeaux at this level. It is an early, easy drinking wine that is great for newbies to Bordeaux.
2009 – A modern-styled Bordeaux Supple, rich, and approachable. Loads of fruit, low acidity, and soft tannins. Don’t over analyze, this is a wine to drink tonight – If you are seeking classic Bordeaux, this is probably not the wine for you; however, this is a great transitional wine for recent new-world converts.
Chateau Gloria After quickly selling through the 2004 vintage, I acquired an allocation of 2008. The 2008 Gloria is classic Saint-Julien supple and very enjoyable today, but will reward those who wish to lay this wine down for a while. I would say the upside on the 2008 is at least 15 years. I highly reccommend this wine. At just under $60, this is one to stockpile while it is available. 91 Points RP. RFG!!!