For an estate that has changed hands more times than a Premier League football team, Château Lagrange of St. Julien has certainly maintained its quality and philosophy of producing powerful, fruity yet elegant wines, writes Harshal Shah of Sommelier India – The Wine Magazine.
In the photo: Bruno Eynard of Château Lagrange
Since the mid-1800s Lagrange has had no fewer than nine owners, the most recent being the Suntory Group from Japan which also owns Midori liqueur and Bowmore Single Malt whisky.
Despite having a few good wines made in the 1970s, the wines of Château Lagrange tended to be, on the whole, somewhat mediocre. This changed largely in 1983 when Suntory took over ownership and Marcel Ducasse the wine-making. Over the next five years Suntory invested close to $38 million to renovate and upgrade the property. In 1984 there were 14 employees working 140 acres of vines, making one wine with no guiding winemaking philosophy.
Ducasse improved the wine almost immediately by making a rigorous selection of grapes as well as finished wine for the estate’s top bottling and creating a ‘second’ label, Les Fiefs de Lagrange as a destination for less-than-optimal fruit. His philosophy was all about ‘balance’, and certainly, the three wines that were shown to the trade last week exuded this balance.
Currently, Lagrange has 290 acres under vine and 57 employees. With his protégé, Bruno Eynard (who is now a director of the company and took over the reins in 2007), Ducasse turned the wines into something rather respectable and something that was able to reiterate the Third Growth rating it had received in 1855.
Bruno Eynard extolled the virtues of his mentor on his visit to Delhi last week. He, however, has a slightly different attitude to wine-making. He wishes to see much more elegance in the wines. The wines of St. Julien are somewhere between the power of Pauillac and the perfume and elegance of Margaux. The wines we tried showed these traits wonderfully well and we look forward to coming vintages to see how Eynard’s wine-making philosophy will show itself in his wines.
The wines tasted were:
2004 Les Fiefs de Lagrange
An intense nose of leather, dark berries, fresh plums and some berry cake and black pepper. The fruitiness is perhaps indicative of the relatively high proportion of Petit Verdot that goes into these wines. Medium-bodied on the palate with berry-perfume and elegance. Fine tannins holding the slightly mineral/gravelly flavours together. Refreshing acidity that lifts the fruit characters on the palate and carries through to a long, chocolatey finish. 16/20. Drink now to 8 years.
2000 Château Lagrange
An intense nose of dark red cherries, blueberries and a hint of prune.raisin characters. A noticeable oak-smokiness along with some intense earthy characters and some nutmeg spice. A rather complex aroma. A medium-bodied wines with some red berries and coffee-bean characters and a velvety mouthfeel supported by fine tannins. Acidity and alcohol in balance with a medium-long finish. 15/20. Drink now to the next 8-15 years.
1995 Château Lagrange
A ripe nose with just a hint of developed red fruit and red fruit jam with a slight suggestion of vanilla. Some talcum-powder minerality on the nose also. Chalky tannins in the mouth with quite pronounced red fleshy fruit and some red and dark berries. Ripe tannins with a plush mid-palate gives this wine a very weighty mouthfeel. Still some fruit noticeable but also some gravelly minerality and an interesting chocolate character towards the finish. Acidity is still a little noticeable and well integrated with the tannins and the alcohol. Long, mineral-driven finish. 14.5/20. Drink now to 8 years.