Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Château Léoville-Poyferré, with Didier Cuvelier and Anne Cuvelier, France

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller at Château Léoville-Poyferré during the 2013 Bordeaux Wine Tour by ombiasy with Didier Cuvelier and Anne Cuvelier.

The 2013 Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy PR and WineTours included a tour, tasting and lunch at Château Léoville-Poyferré. Anne Cuvelier took us around and joined us for lunch, along with General Manager, Didier Cuvelier. Michel Rolland was at the estate during our visit and we had a chance to greet him.

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy

The Cuvelier Family in the North of France, in Bordeaux and in Argentina

Château Léoville-Poyferré is owned by the Cuvelier family. The story of the Cuvelier family begins in 1804 when Henri Cuvelier set out to share his great passion for fine wine with his friends of the grand bourgeoisie residing in the rich and dynamic towns of the North of France. To this aim, he created Maison de Négoce de Vins Henri Cuvelier in Haubourdin, a wine merchant company whose success continued to develop throughout the 19th century.

100 years later, at the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Cuvelier and his young brother Albert, decided to purchase top quality estates in the Bordeaux area. They bought Château Le Crock in 1903, then Château Camensac in 1912 (which was later sold) and finally the prestigious Château Léoville Poyferré as well as Chateau Moulin Riche in 1920. In 1947, Max Cuvelier opened a second Wine Merchant company in Bordeaux, moving nearer to the family properties.

Two of Max Cuvelier’s children have taken over the family’s activities in Bordeaux: Didier Cuvelier has been running Château Léoville Poyferré, Château Moulin-Riche and Château Le Crock since 1979 and Olivier Cuvelier has been managing the Wine Merchant company H. Cuvelier and Fils in Bordeaux since 1985.

Pictures: Starting the Tour

The Haubourdin wine merchant company was sold in 2002. The name has remained unchanged and it continues to distribute the Cuvelier estates wines.

In 1998, the Cuvelier family started to branch out to Argentina. Bertrand Cuvelier, the father of Anne Cuvelier, accompanied Michel Rolland in his great Argentine project, which was to become the “Clos de Los Siete” group. Three years later, Jean-Guy Cuvelier decided to join his cousin Bertrand in the joint aim of building a winery and producing fine wines worthy of the family tradition in Argentina.

Château Léoville-Poyferré

The Cuvelier family bought Château Léoville-Poyferré – one of the 3 Léoville estates that currently exist - in 1920. The 3 Léoville chateaux are the result of vast property broken up a long time ago. But up until the French Revolution, Léoville was the largest Médoc wine-growing property.

Pictures: In the Cellar

In the beginning, the Cuveliers did not operate their chateaux themselves. This changed in 1979 with the accession of Didier Cuvelier, who at 26 became the first member of his family to take charge of Léoville – Poyferré along with Moulin Riche and Le Crock. Didier Cuvelier put Léoville – Poyferré on the map of wine lovers all over the world. Didier Cuvelier trained as a chartered accountant before passing the DUAD (a university diploma in wine tasting) in 1976.

The Grand Vin is Château Léoville-Poyferré (20.000 cases). The second wine is Pavillon de Poyferré.

Château Le Crock

The first purchase made by the Cuvelier family was their property in St. Estephe, Chateau Le Crock in 1903. Today the vineyards of Château Le Crock cover a total of 32.5 hectares and touch two of the most prestigious châteaus of the appellation, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Montrose.

In the (annulled) 2003 Classification, Château Le Crock was a Cru Bourgeois Superieur. In the new system, in 2010, Château Le Crock qualified for the Cru Bourgeois Label.

Château Moulin Riche

Château Moulin Riche was bought in 1920 by the Cuvelier family. Château Moulin Riche has 49 acres of vines which are planted as follows: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc.

Château Léoville - Poyferré, Barton and Las-Cases

The Cuvelier family bought Château Léoville-Poyferré – one of the 3 Léoville estates that currently exist - in 1920.

The 3 Léoville chateaux are the result of vast property broken up a long time ago. But up until the French Revolution, Léoville was the largest Médoc wine-growing property.

Pictures: The New Sorting Machine of  Château Léoville-Poyferré

The story of the 3 Léoville estates go back to 1638. At the time, the estate was called Mont-Moytié, named after its founder, Jean de Moytié. Domaine Mont-Moytié remained in the family for almost 100 years. It is through the marriage of one of the Moytié women that the estate passed into the hands of Blaise Antoine Alexandre de Gascq, who was the seigneur of Léoville and a president of the Bordeaux parliament.

The groundwork for the split was laid in 1769, when Blaise Antoine Alexandre de Gascq died without an obvious heir. As a consequence the Léoville estate was inherited by four family members. One of them was the Marquis de Las-Cases-Beauvoir. One quarter was sold off by the four heirs. A number of years later, in 1826, this part of Léoville estate was purchased by Hugh Barton and became Château Léoville Barton.

The other three quarters remained in the family. This was the state of affairs when the Marquis was succeeded in 1815 by his son, Pierre-Jean and his daughter, Jeanne. Pierre-Jean inherited what is now Château Léoville Las Cases, whilst the portion that came to Jeanne was passed onto her daughter, who married Baron Jean-Marie de Poyferré; this is the part that is today Château Léoville-Poyferré.

Pictures: In the Cellar

Although the estate bears the name of the Poyferré family to this day, it was not in their ownership for a long time. But it was under the ownership of the Poyferré family when the estate was classified as a deuxième cru in 1855 (as were the Barton and Las-Cases estates).

In 1865 Château Léoville-Poyferré was purchased by Baron d'Erlanger and Armand Lalande, bankers and local courtiers. The Lalande family, and later through marriage also the Lawton family, were in charge of Château Léoville-Poyferré until after World War I had passed. The Cuvelier family bought Château Léoville-Poyferré in 1920.

While the vineyards were separated, the buildings remained connected, just as they are today.

For more information, Jeff Leve from The Wine Cellar Insider has an excellent write-up about Château Léoville-Poyferré on his website.

Tour of Château Léoville

We started the visit with a tour of the estate. Anne Cuvelier took us around.

Tasting the 12 Vintage

Following the tour, we sat down in the tasting room and tasted the 2012 vintage, Château Léoville-Poyferré and Château Le Crock, kind of en primeur tasting. I have included in parenthesis the current wine searcher average prices in US$ per bottle.

Pictures: Tasting Château Léoville-Poyferré 2012 and Château Le Crock 2012

Château Léoville-Poyferré 2012 (US$67)

This wine seemed primary and not totally filled out or complete. No doubt it will put on some weight given the significant Merlot content in the final blend. There is a certain firmness, stiffness and lack of intensity on the mid-palate, and some tannins kick in in the finish. Nevertheless, there is more to this wine than first meets the palate. It is medium to full-bodied with an opaque color, good ripeness and some attractive weight, but is closed and hard. It needs time to pull itself together, and it should turn out to be an excellent, possibly outstanding effort. Robert Parker - Wine Advocate - Apr 2013

Pictures: Tasting

Château Le Crock 2012 (US$21)

Dense colour, fine fragrance of Cabernet fruit on the nose and fine clarity and depth , a quite earthy Saint-Estephe with class. 16/20pts ( 86/100pts) Drink: 2017 - 2025 Taster: Steven Spurrier

Pictures: Previous Tasters - Robert Parker and Michel Rolland

Michel Rolland

While leaving the tasting room the run into Michel Rolland, who is a consultant at Château Léoville-Poyferré.

Pictures: Michel Rolland Greets us


We then moved over to the large banquet room where we had lunch. We were joined by Anne Cuvelier and Didier Cuvelier.

Pictures: Didier Cuvelier with Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller


Duck in puff pastry with foie gras, Jerusalem artichoke cream, wild arugula

Roasted saddle of lamb cutlet, risotto with lettuce cream, cabbage confit

Selection of cheeses

Red fruit with Champagne sabayon, cannel


The Wines

I have included in parenthesis the current wine searcher average prices in US$ per bottle.

Château Léoville-Poyferré 2007 (US$75)

90 points Wine Spectator - Offers subtle aromas of smoky wood, fresh herbs and dark fruits. Full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and soft, silky tannins. Very well-crafted and polished for the vintage. Much better than from barrel. Best after 2012. (3/ 2010)

Pictures: Lunch

Château Léoville-Poyferré 2000 (US$203)

97 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate - The plushest, most ostentatious and dramatic of all the Leovilles in 2000, this wine is already sumptuous, displaying some nuances in its huge nose of vanilla bean, black chocolate, jammy black cherries, cassis, and graphite in a flamboyant style. Opulent, savory, rich, and full-bodied, it is a head-turning, prodigious wine and a complete contrast to the extracted behemoth of Leoville Barton and the backward, classic Leoville Las Cases. The Poyferre’s low acidity, sweet tannin and an already gorgeous mouthfeel make it a wine to drink now as well as over the next 25 or more years. (6/ 2010)

Pictures: Lunch

Château Léoville-Poyferré 1996 (US$151)

Jancis Robinson - Deep crimson. Not much nose; still quite youthful. Big mouthful of round, supple fruit and some gunpowder undertow. Attractive balance and a quite meaty still. I don’t think this would disappoint any claret lover. 17.5/20 points. (9/ 2011)

Picture: Lunch

Château Le Crock 2005 (US$55)

Berry Bros and Rudd: Owned by the Cuvelier family of Léoville-Poyferré, Le Crock has produced an extremely appealing wine in 2005. There is far more balance and elegance here than we have ever seen before, along with some good earthy, St Estèphe minerality. Made from an interesting blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, this has concentrated dark cassis fruit mixed with black cherries and plums, all supported by firm, ripe tannins. A very good wine indeed from the Cuvelier team.

Picture: Thanks for a Very Good Service


Thanks Anne and Didier Cuvelier for an extraordinary tour, tasting and lunch.

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