A Very Special Evening with Chateau Lafleur in Scotland

A Very Special Evening with Chateau Lafleur in Scotland

Monday 11th March 2019
by Alex Turnbull

It is not every day that I get the privilege of drinking Chateau Lafleur. In fact most days I would consider myself lucky to drink Pensees de Lafleur, or even the Guinaudeau’s superb family estate Chateau Grand Village

So to drink two vintages of Pensees and three vintages of Lafleur in one evening was always going to be a special occasion.

On an uncharacteristically warm February evening a small group of wine lovers and collectors (coordinated by one private client to whom we owe tremendous thanks) gathered at the Cromlix hotel in Perthshire for an intimate dinner with Julie and Baptiste Guinaudeau. Kicking off with a glass of Dom Perignon 1990 from our private client’s cellars, the stage was set for a memorable and eventful evening appreciating the wines of famed Pomerol property, Chateau Lafleur.

We began with a brace of whites. First, A Louima 2012, which was the first vintage of what is now known as Les Champs Libres, from magnum. Les Champs Libres is an ambitious project that revolves around the Guinaudeaus identifying specific plots within their Fronsac estate that would be better suited to growing white grape varieties and replanting these sites with Sauvignon Blanc clones from Sancerre. The result is an unbelievably complex Bordeaux white that easily rivals the top names at a fraction of the price. A Louima 2012 is drinking beautifully – the tropicality and freshness of the Sauvignon balancing perfectly with the toastiness of the oak. Les Champs Libres 2014 at first was the more closed of the two, but as it sat in the glass it quickly came in to its own. Exuberant and supremely well balanced, this is still a baby and requires further cellaring.

Les Champ Libres 2014 

We then started on the reds: Pensees de Lafleur 2000 and 1990. Despite the ten year difference between the two vintages, the 1990 tasted barely a day older than the 2000 and was unbelievably fresh for a wine of now 28 years old. Not a second wine, Pensees de Lafleur comes from a specific row of vines within the Lafleur vineyard that are sandier on the surface and less gravelly than those that go in to Lafleur, comprising roughly 0.8 of a hectare, which equates to roughly 3,600 bottles a year. Interestingly the selection process for what goes in to Pensees has developed over the years which means that the 1990 was made from a slightly different selection of vines to the 2000. Two vintages that I thought would be mature but are only just beginning to drink confirms my view that Pensees has incredible cellaring potential.

The main of Scottish beef with fondant potato and a delicious jus was complemented by two stunning vintages of Chateau Lafleur – 2001 and 2000 - two very different vintages, both wonderful in their own right. Increasingly I am convinced that these so-called “lesser” vintages are where the value lies. There is a tendency from merchants and journalists alike to focus on the top years and ignore everything else. But it is those years where things weren’t so perfect that truly great winemakers and terroirs come in to their own. Lafleur 2001 is proof of this. Whilst on paper I should prefer the 2000, the 2001 right now is just too delicious and was easily the wine of the night. The 2000 by comparison is a power-house only just starting to get going; restrained, pure, focused and intense, it is impossible not to see the brilliance of this vintage.

We finished the evening off with a lovely cheese board and Chateau Lafleur 1995. Showing a little more evolution than the previous two, 1995 is a Lafleur that I have had the pleasure of drinking a few times, and on every occasion it has been magnificent. Lots of complexity, finesse and elegance, 1995 is a majestic Lafleur that can be drunk now or cellared further, it will impress regardless.

A big thank you goes to the Cromlix hotel who looked after everyone splendidly and treated us to some seriously excellent cooking. And of course, I must thank Baptiste and Julie Guinaudeau who devoted their evening to our small group and continue to make magical, spellbinding wines.

I greatly look forward to trying the 2018 in a few weeks’ time.