Assessing 15 vintages of Léoville Poyferré

By Panos Kakaviatos for

24 January 2019

Over the last nine years, I have been organizing comprehensive verticals of top Bordeaux estates, sometimes several times in one year, and often in Washington D.C. 

The most recent, a Friday evening 18 January 2019 dinner at the French embassy in Washington D.C., featured Château Léoville Poyferré, with estate co-owner and recently named director Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier presiding. The cover photo is by David Zimmerman, who took many of the photos for this blog entry.

We assessed 15 vintages, all ex-château and reaching back (not too far) to the celebrated 1990. Chef Mark Courseille of the French Embassy restaurant Le Café Descartes again showed some magic to go with the wines.

This was the second time I had organized a dinner at the French embassy. Two months before, I had organized a dinner for Château La Conseillante, with 16 vintages, which was reviewed in several media, including Isaac James Baker in his influential wine blog and by participants like Kevin Shin in Cellar Tracker.

With restaurant director Max Jacquet, myself, director of Château Léoville Poyferré Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier, restaurant chef Mark Courseille and sommelier Laurant Lala (photo by David Zimmerman)

The great Léovilles

For the 32 wine geeks who attended, it was both useful and fun to taste relatively recent vintages of this famous second growth in the appellation of Saint Julien, to see how the wines are evolving at this point in time.

As most readers know, Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton and Léoville Las Cases were once part of a single, sprawling estate, only divided after the 18th century, as the French Revolution had destabilized many a château ownership. From the single estate, Château Léoville Barton was established in 1826. Las Cases was founded some 14 years later, in 1840. Not too many years later, Poyferré was established.

Fast forward to today, and you have Eric Boissenot who consults Léoville Las Cases and Léoville Barton, and Michel Rolland who consults Poyferré (since 1994).

Methods and styles vary among the three, which makes it great to compare and contrast.

I had already organized over the past few years tasting dinners with Léoville Las Cases and Léoville (and Langoa) Barton, both in Washington D.C., so it was fun to finally organize one in Washington D.C. with Léoville Poyferré. As celebrated wine author Jane Anson wrote in 2017, “the Léoville trio is among the surest bets in the world of fine wine”. Read More

1 Comment

Off to Philly to taste Bordeaux 2016

By Panos Kakaviatos for

18 January 2019

Dear Readers,

I am off to Philly this coming Sunday 20 January to taste many Bordeaux 2016 from bottle.

In October and December last year, I already had the chance to taste many Bordeaux 2016 from bottle, so this visit will fill in some gaps, such as Château Haut Bailly, which I did not taste late last year, among others.

As you can see in the video below, I think that Pomerol and the northern Médoc were quite bright stars based on tastings last year, but you can find excellent wines throughout Bordeaux, as I hope to confirm when I visit the gorgeous Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, where the tasting is to take place.

Participants at the Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Philadelphia will get a chance to not only enjoy an unparalleled Bordeaux tasting from more than 70 French châteaux across 12 appellations, but also to meet the owners or their representatives.

In case anyone is interested and can go, you should consult this webpage:

So stay tuned for my update on Bordeaux 2016 from bottle, coming next week, and if you can, please do consider a donation to my website of at least $30 per year, as it would help me to finance a revamping of this site. I also plan to organize high-end Bordeaux wine tours in the near future, which has been my intention for many years, but I just have not found the time to organize one yet. But that will be happening!






Leave a Comment

Ringing in 2019 with good vintages (not “great”)

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

11 January 2019

After an annual holiday dinner with wine loving pals – this year at the French embassy in Washington D.C. – the overriding theme was “good” vintages.

Neither “off” nor “great”, but vintages that sometimes get overlooked by critics seeking to obtain fame with 100 point scores.

And to some extent, lesser known wines that official critics did not see coming.

Before I broke bread (and popped corks) with Ken Brown, Howard Cooper, Ken Barr, Chris Bublitz, David Zimmerman, Scot Hasselman, Charles Stewart, Paul Marquardt and Karl Kellar, I cracked open a wine with a highly regarded pedigree to be sure: Château Ducru Beaucaillou. I had tasted the wine along with Grand Puy Lacoste together, before the two brothers parted ways (Francois Xavier Borie exclusively owns Grand Puy Lacoste while Bruno Borie exclusively owns Ducru). That was back in 2003, just before the official release of the 2001 vintage.

It was $50 on release. Back when highly rated Bordeaux was more affordable.

Coming on the heels of the fabled 2000 vintage, dubbed a “wine of the century” (several others followed within the next decade), some derided 2001 as a “restaurant wine”. But I really loved the floral elegance of the Ducru 2001 and hesitated not one second before purchasing six bottles en primeur for about $50 a bottle.

Fast forward to January 2019 and those “restaurant vintage” naysayers remain oh so wrong. 2001 in Bordeaux can be fabulous and even beat 2000 in some cases, especially on the Right Bank and in the Graves region. The 2000 vintage is better in Saint Julien and in the Médoc in general, but this Ducru is excellent as it combines true elegance with refined texture. It exudes some tertiary aromatics and flavors but there’s much ripe fruit as the wine is still in a youthful phase. Call it late adolescence. I have two more bottles left from a six pack that I had purchased upon release and, really, there is no rush to drink this. But if you do open one, you will not be sorry. In terms of points? It easily gets a 93 and maybe deserves more.

After an annual holiday dinner with dear wine loving pals – this year at the French embassy – the overriding theme was “good” vintages. Neither off nor great, vintages that sometimes get overlooked by official critics seeking to obtain fame with 100 point scores. And to some extent, lesser known wines that official critics did not see coming.

So, read on 😉 … Read More


Splendid cheese ceremony

For the Bucket List 

By Panos Kakaviatos  8 December 2018 If you ever find yourself near Basel, Switzerland, do yourself a favor and reserve an evening of the “Cérémonie des Fromages” at the famous Antony Eleveur de Fromages. The sheer talent of owners Bernard and son Jean-François (never – ever say “pasteurized”), shines bright over an all-cheese dinner. I am not a cheese specialist, but the quality and purity of flavor from the cheeses aged here is undeniable. Indeed, the owners seek only the very best producers of cheese across France and from other parts of the world and then proceed to carefully age the selected cheeses.
Jean-François Antony: Please never pronounce the words ‘pasteurized cheese’
From an 18-month aged Comté, by way of Reblochon, Laguiole (yes, the same place where they make the famous knives) and Brillat Savarin, to Brie de Meaux, the classic Alsace Munster and Fourme d’Ambert … among many others … some 20 cheeses are served over a five-course cheese ceremony. After each serving, Jean-François explains a bit about each cheese while relating his father’s story to found the business – and you can read about that in my report from a few years ago. Indeed, the dining room is chock full of famous celebrities who have visited the establishment, such is the quality of the cheese here.
The cost is 75 euros, but for 130 euros, you could have the five courses of cheese with selected wines. And for 150 euros, better wines. As serious wine and food fans, our group went for the gold and paid 150 per person. As you can see in the pictured menu, we were not disappointed. ? Read More
Leave a Comment

Montecucco charm and quality

Or why I should have visited Tuscan vineyards earlier

30 November 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles

This is Part I of a three-part article on the Montecucco DOC of Tuscany 

A three-day, deftly packed visit of wineries earlier this autumn, with comprehensive tastings of Montecucco in Tuscany, proved one of the best wine tours ever. And it revealed Sangiovese-based wines of remarkably fine consistency, at competitive prices. Not to mention some other excellent wines from both white and red grapes.

2018 marks 20 years of the recognition of Designation of Origin of Montecucco Wines so it was great to have been invited and met friends both old and new to mark the occasion.

We were joined on several occasions throughout the visit by Claudio Carmelo Tipa, president of the Consortium for the Protection of Montecucco Wines, at his Colle Massari Tenuta di Montecucco estate starting on Thursday 20 September for visits and tastings.

A quick history

To briefly recap the history of this niche region, it was only at the end of the 1990s that the the DOC Montecucco began, thanks to some young winemakers and their Sangiovese, which comes to life where the Maremma Toscana gives way to the slopes of the Monte Amiata, just in the middle of the Brunello di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano’s DOCGs. Read More

Leave a Comment