How did you begin working with the Delon Family?
I have a technical background with a degree of Engineer-Oenologist from the University of Bordeaux. This gave me the opportunity to do various internships in the area.
After this training I mainly wanted to broaden my horizon, so I went to Australia, New Zealand, Burgundy, the Rhône, ... which taught me different skills, new insights. I had always planned to return to Bordeaux when the time was right. In 2004 I came back with a lot of technical background. Somewhat unexpectedly (but certainly fortunately) I immediately found work with a wine broker of Grand Crus.
It is at that moment , already 15 years ago now, that I met Mr. Jean-Hubert Delon, Our first contact was by telephone. During our conversation he asked me a ton of questions, until at one point, he invited me for a lunch at Léoville Las Cases in 2005. I had never met him before in person, but I knew him from his good reputation.
When I arrived in the dining room, I only saw 2 places at the table and 15 wine glasses for me. Mr. Delon then made me taste everything blind. We had a wonderful afternoon together, and I (atypical for a lunch) only left at 6 o'clock. My taxi had already left without me. Just to give you an idea how great this encounter was and what a big impression he has left on me.
After my experience with the wine broker, I started working as an Export Director for a wine merchant. I maintained an outstanding relationship with Mr. Delon throughout this period.
It is in 2011 that Mr. Delon asked me to join his team, where I started as Commercial Director. This was one of his functions before I started working at the wine domain. I have fulfilled this position up until now, but I have just been asked to take on the responsibility of Managing Director.
Mr. Delon recently gave you this Management position; is he still active?
Yes, he still is very active and is present every day at Léoville Las Cases, even during the summer months. In fact, he might even be more present than me, since I take on the various foreign assignments. Just to mention, he does not miss any tastings of his wine domains. In brief, he certainly is still present on the domain.
You manage four different wine domains, each with a different terroir. Can you explain the difference between these domains?
One is a real outsider since it is situated on the Right Bank, Château Nénin in Pomerol is much smaller than the other two. Currently, this domain has 30 hectares in production, which, in itself is great for the Pomerol region since the average size of a domain in Pomerol is around hectares. Another difference is the grapes that are used. Here we mainly have Merlot grapes (70%), although we have been adding more and more Cabernet Franc lately. It is also the most recent acquisition of the Delon domains, since they bought this domain in 1997. Léoville Las Cases has been in the family since the end of the 19th century and Potensac has been even longer in the family. This last one was handed down generation by generation to the oldest daughter of the family, so Jean-Hubert Delon inherited this domain from his mother-in-law.
In the Médoc we have Léoville Las Cases, where we produce the great wine (Grand Vin) of course, but we also make Clos du Marquis here, which we have to regard as a different wine than Léoville Las Cases. We actually say that two superior wines are produced at the domain and one second wine (Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases).
The grapes for Clos du Marquis come from a different soil, which is 200 meters away from Léoville Las Cases. The subsoil has less clay, has a different kind of gravel in the soil, less complexity, less richness and is situated further away from the Gironde River than the Grand Vin. Le Petit Lion is mainly derived from the grapes that have not been selected for the Grand Vin, so we can consider this wine as a real second wine of the domain.
Approximately 80% Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in both vineyards, with the difference that the Léoville las Cases contains a bit more Cabernet Franc and the Clos du Marquis more Merlot.
If you would have to choose between Left or Right Bank, which would you choose?
That is the million-dollar question, and it is therefore always hard to answer.
But if I really have to, I admit that I prefer wines based on the Cabernet grape. Which is of course a purely personal choice, because every individual has a different taste. In the Cabernets, I look for those that have higher acidity, more peps; tensions that are slightly less present in the Merlot grape which is somewhat rounder. But again this really is a personal choice.
You have several Léovilles as neighbors, Léoville Poyferré and Léoville Barton, each of which is a Second Grand Cru Classé according to the 1855 classification, which you have abandoned. What makes Las Cases different from the other domains?
Previously there was a domain called Domaine de Léoville. This was the oldest domain of the Médoc. It has been shredded apart during the French Revolution in 1789. It was then divided into three in the period from 1810 to 1840. Later, each of these became a Second Grand Cru classé in 1855. Léoville las Cases owns 60% of the original domain; the heart of this former domain is still part of our domain. You can recognize this today by the well-known clos around the vineyard with the Lion gate that is on our labels. This vineyard is located near the river and slopes towards Pauillac and Château Latour. Although both wines are different, I would like to point out the quality of our location and the differences with the other two Léovilles.
Can you give me a description of each of your wine domains and what makes them so special?
Let's start with Léoville Las Cases:
What I like about this wine is the fact that it is adjacent to Pauillac and therefore is a mix of styles (Pauillac/St. Julien) compared to the other Saint-Juliens; I dare say that it has the complexity and refinement of a Saint-Julien with the power of a Pauillac.
This has been confirmed regularly by people who come and visit us and who say that they can recognize our wine in blind tastings, thanks to this big difference and its typicity.
Clos du Marquis, is situated a bit further from the Gironde, and has a different soil. Here I would say that this is a real sophisticated, complex, typical Saint-Julien with slightly less strength compared to Léoville Las Cases.
At Potensac we are in the North of the Médoc, just above Saint-Estephe.
This was the only Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel from the Médoc appellation, when this classification was still in effect. Here we have a sandy surface of clay and limestone and a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet. The wine is a typical Médoc.
And finally, Château Nénin in Pomerol, whose prestige has increased enormously lately: Here we try, just as for all our other domains, to make a wine that reflects the character of the appellation, with uttermost respect for the subsoil and the nature that surrounds it. This has become a really great, typical Pomerol.
Click here for an overview of all the wines of the Delon Family.