Château Léoville Poyferré 2000-2017

France, Bordeaux, Saint-Julien

Château Léoville Poyferré 2000-2017

The styles of the three Leovilles have become more and more defined, partly down better management of the very different vineyard signatures but also because of the strong personalities of the families behind the distinct Léoville labels—the Bartons, the Delons, and the Cuveliers.

The Enticingly Flamboyant Sibling

As many wine nerds know, today’s three faces of the former Léoville estate were formed after the French Revolution, following the confiscation and redistribution of grand landholdings previously owned by nobility or the church. Once the property of namesake Alexandre de Gasq, the Lord of Léoville, this sprawling section of Saint-Julien eventually became a trio of widely dispersed vineyards.

First, Léoville Barton was cleaved-off and established in 1826 by Hugh Barton of Irish descent. Then the remainder of the original Léoville vineyard was split in 1840 by Las Cases siblings Pierre-Jean and Jeanne, forming Léoville-Las Cases and Poyferré, respectively. Thus, all three estates were well-established by the time of the 1855 Classification, and all were ranked equally as deuxième crus or second growths.

Bought by the Cuvelier family in 1920, the style of Léoville Poyferré today was primarily molded by Didier Cuvelier, who took over management of the estate in 1979. In his mid-twenties at the time, Didier swiftly put into place an ambitious plan to raise the quality bar for the grand vin while more clearly revealing its unique identity. Soon after taking over, he gave the winery a complete overhaul. (In fact, he updated the facilities several times during his tenure, most recently in 2014.) Michel Rolland was taken on in 1994 as the long-standing consultant. And Didier commissioned soil maps of the entire vineyard to better understand the terroir before embarking on a nearly twenty-year replanting project and establishing new plantings. Most impressively, he grew the estate’s area under vine from 48 hectares to 80, dramatically increasing the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and introducing Petit Verdot to the blend.

Compared to the other two more serious, strait-laced Léovilles, Poyferré is the out-of-the-gate gorgeous, enticingly flamboyant sibling.

The many plots of Léoville Poyferré’s vineyard are spread throughout the commune of Saint-Julien and are therefore incredibly varied. This is contrasted by the mainly contiguous vineyard of Las Cases, this grand vin featuring their famed L’Enclos parcel next to Latour’s, and the Bartons’ smaller holding of somewhat less varied vineyard sections. While the wide variations of soils at Poyferré potentially contribute greater opportunities for layering complexity in the grand vin, precisely managing such a vineyard for optimal ripening is equally complex and downright challenging. Yet it is the current management of all this variation as well as the continuation of the slightly higher percentage of Merlot in the wines that contribute to its opulent signature today.

During Primeurs in April this year, I caught up with Sara Lecompte Cuvelier. She took over from her cousin, Didier Cuvelier, as managing director of Château Léoville Poyferré in 2018, while her sister Anne Cuvelier works alongside her expanding wine tourism and events at the estate. Sara and I tasted through a vertical of recent vintages, which I have woven together with another tasting I conducted during a previous visit, going back to 2000. While the consistency of quality across this period is impressive, unsurprisingly, the hedonic personality of this estate shines through most clearly in the drier, sunnier vintages such as 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019. But I find it is the opulence of 2009, 2016, and 2018, in particular, that so beautifully complements the similar personality of this estate and makes for the most remarkable experiences of time, family, and place.


If this is your style, these are vintages of Léoville Poyferré at its finest that you will not want to miss!

- Sara Lecompte Cuvelier

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photos by Johan Berglund