Closing It Down At Lascombes (Again!)

by Chuck Hayward

Closing It Down At Lascombes (Again!)

Post by John Perry | April 5th, 2011

Lascombes vintages 1881 & 1892

Every year that I’ve been to Bordeaux, the weather has been completely unpredictable and variable.  Not this year though—seems we brought California with us! With warm, clear days, and cool,comfortable evenings, I couldn’t have asked for a better scene for our visit to Chateau Lascombes. We started out with a tour of the property, and as dry as technical details can be, it’s essential to understand how the rebirth of Lascombes has taken place over recent vintages.

Under its previous ownership by brewing company Bass Charrington, this 2nd Growth was considered by most to be an unqualified underachiever. Although some improvements were made, particularly towards the end of this era, the wines were pretty forgettable and certainly unheralded. Revitalization came in 2001 when Lascombes was purchased by Capital Colony and Yves Vatelot, who hired the super-talented team of Dr. Alain Reynaud and Michel Rolland to oversee the turnaround. Various improvements were made, including the construction of a gravity-fed winery, use of optical scanners on the sorting table, a new, innovative racking system for wines resting in barrel, and the replanting of twelve hectares of cabernet vines, which were ripped out and replaced with Merlot better suited to the soil (clay-limestone). The cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot were left to thrive in the gravelly sections of the vineyards. After decades of pretty 'meh' wine, they began to receive the attention of Robert Parker, who has awarded 90-plus scores in every vintage since 2000.

The changes at the property have been impressive, but after a long day of tasting early into our trip, what we’re all ready for is a little bit of fun. And like their wines, Lascombes truly delivered. Our evening began in full swing with a tasting of the 2010. What set this tasting apart from any other, is that we were provided samples of the individual cuvees—the three component pieces of the finished wine—before delving into the final blend. We started with the 100% petit verdot cuvee, then the 100% cabernet sauvignon, followed by the 100% merlot. Each outstanding and unique in their own right, it was fantastic to see what each variety brought to the finished wine. (Dominique Befve, the general manager of the property, joked that if any of us could create the exact same thing we had just tasted with the individual components, he would give us a barrel!)

Didn't everyone come out for Champagne?

Prior to dinner, we enjoyed the beautiful weather outside with some champagne (a running theme of our trip, and chateau dinners in general, is plenty of champagne!). Our group of four was joined by about 15-20 others – a diverse group of French, Spanish, one Russian, and a contingent from Texas. Bordeaux clearly attracts wine lovers from all over and it’s really a blast to get a room full of strangers together over a common bond for dinner. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ferran Falgueras, a wine retailer from Barcelona. And as never fails to surprise me in the small world category, we actually had some mutual acquaintances and spent quite a while discussing some of our favorite Spanish wines (Aalto, Artadi and Clog Mogador). His sister, Maritxell Falgueras, an accomplished sommelier and wine writer, had also come to the dinner and our crew really hit it off with the Spaniards. If you don’t see any offers from me later this summer, it’s because I scored an invite to join them in Ibiza!

As the evening came to a close, Dominique suggested that we adjourn to the sitting room for some Cognac, Armanagc and cigars. Who could say no? Given the awesome setting, the gracious hospitality of our hosts, and thoroughly engaging interactions with the company that evening, we were some of the last to leave. Funny, that—seems we're always the group to close down the party.