This morning three leading St Julien wines have released. The first two are among the finest Fourth Growths and sited opposite one another, Beychevelle and Branaire-Ducru. The other is Second Growth Leoville Poyferre. Each provdes a very healthy discount to 2018 and to the average trading price of equivalent vintages. They are three of the best value wines of the campaign to date.
Starting at the top, both geographically and in terms of classification Leoville Poyferre have released today for £616 per case of 12, or £308 per case of six. This reflects a discount of £200 on the 2018 release price or a 25% discount. It is yet untasted by Vinous Media or The Wine Advocate, however, James Suckling has awarded it 96-97 points and describes it as having ‘Chocolate and walnuts to the blue fruit. It’s full-bodied. Plenty of fruit at the end. Excellent length.’ Indeed, as the table below demonstrates, the average trading prices of a vintage with 94 points or above is £902 and as such today’s release provides a discount of 31% to this average. The release today is a must for lovers of this wine, it provides the best price for a leading vintage and is not to be missed.
Leoville Poyferre was originally part of the ancient Leoville estate that took up a vast portion of St-Julien in the 17th and 18th Centuries. After the revolution, and with one quarter of the property already sold to Hugh Barton (of Leoville Barton), the decedents of the Marquis Las Cases sold a second quarter to the Baron de Poyferre-Ceres in 1840. In 1866 Armand Lalande and Baron d’Erlanger purchased the Chateau for one million Francs (£200,000) and ran it successfully until the 1890s when it was sold to Edouard Lawton. During the latter half of the 19th century Poyferre enjoyed a period as the highest priced Second Growth. After the First World War a family of Bordeaux based Negociants assumed ownership. The estate has remained in their control since and is currently presided over by Didier Cuvelier. Leoville Poyferre is located in the St. Julien appellation of the Medoc and winemaking is carried out with exacting standards.
Chateau Branaire Durcru has released for £348 per case of 12 of £174 per case of six, a 25% discount to last year. It has been awarded 95-96 points from James Suckling who describes it as having ‘Wood and walnut undertones now. Impressive.’ It is located on the Southern Border of St Julien across from Beychevelle (also a Fourth Growth). In fact, Branaire Ducru’s rich history dates back to the 1860s, when it was part of the large Beychevelle estate (Beychevelle scored 93 points in 2009).. At £29 a bottle and with 95-96 points, this offers one of the best value propositions of the campaign. Indeed, the average price for a vintage with 92 points or above is £500 a case and the 2019, one of its finest ever, has been released at a 30% discount to this.
The current owner of Branaire Ducru, is François-Xavier Maroteaux, who took over from his father Patrick in 2017. Patrick bought the Estate in 1988 and subsequently has invested heavily in technology and carried out extensive work in the vineyards and cellar. Branaire Ducru was the first left bank wine to start filling their tanks entirely by gravity, which minimises damage to grapes. The grapes are then fermented for three weeks in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once fermentation is complete they are transferred to age for 18-24 months in 65% new oak. As a result since 2000 Brainaire Durcu has entered the ranks of the leading St Julien wines offering exceptional quality. The terroir of the 60 hectare Estate is found on deep quaternary gravel soil rich in clay. The vineyard plantings are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, with 20% Merlot and balanced with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The average vine age is 35 years old and the vineyard is hand-harvested producing 15,000 cases a year.
Finally, we are delighted to release one of the most exciting wines of the campaign, the stunning Beychevelle.
Chateau Beychevelle has one of the richest histories in the Médoc, its roots can be traced back to the 14th Century when a feudal castle belonging to the Foix family occupied the site. The property passed to the husband of Marguerite de Foix-Candale, the Duc d’Epernon in 1587. The Duc was heavily involved in politics and was even in a coach next to Henri III when he was assassinated. He also became an Admiral of France which indirectly led to the name Beychevelle being used for the wine produced on the Estate. Due to the Duc’s position, ships passing on the Gironde close to the Estate were required to lower their sails as a salute, therefore, Beychevelle is a corruption of Baisse-Voile meaning lower sail.
Chateau Beychevelle’s reputation began to flourish under the innovative and respected Pierre-François Guestier, leading to Fifth Growth status in 1855 despite never being mentioned in any of the previous unofficial classifications of Bordeaux. After the death of Guestier in 1874 the property was sold to Armand Heine and upon the death of his wife passed to his son-in-law M. Achille-Fould. The Achille-Fould’s were prominent in French politics during the early 20th Century, however, after a period of neglect, the Estate was sold to the French pension fund, GMF in the 1980s who proceeded to sell 40% to a Japanese group. It was under this corporate ownership that much needed investment was made in the Estate and the wines of Beychevelle began to return to the glory years last seen in the 19th Century.
The Chateau at Beychevelle is one of the finest buildings in the Médoc, built during the 18th Century in the style of Louis XV, it commands stunning views of the vineyards and perfectly manicured flowerbeds. Beychevelle is situated in the south-east of St Julien near the village and is known for powerful wines with extreme concentrations of blackcurrant and cassis.