On the Trail

Bordeaux's Rising Star

David Driscoll

It's difficult to call a château a "rising star" in Bordeaux when it's been around for numerous centuries and was first listed as a top property back in 1850, but the rise of Lilian Ladouys over the last decade has definitely caught our attention. Located just a few hundred meters from prime first growth real estate, the Cru Bourgeois estate can trace its roots back to the 1500s when it was part of the fiefdom of Jacques de Becoyran, the lord of Château Lafite. Yet despite a long history of rule and recognition, Ladouys fell into disarray during the wars of the 20th century and saw its vineyards divided and forgotten for decades until the 1980s when it was purchased by Christian Thiéblot, who refurbished the estate and renamed it after his wife Lilian. The seeds for a new renaissance in St. Estephe were planted by the couple as they modernized the production and reinvested in the vineyards, but the final step towards a complete rebirth came in 2007 when Ladouys was purchased by Jacky and Françoise Lorenzetti, the current co-owners of Issan and Margaux. Through an ambitious replanting program that sought to regenerate the gravel and clay soils by assigned specific varietals to various parcels based on terroir, today the Lorenzettis have the estate back on top in a major way.

Over the past decade, the quality of Lilian Ladouys has risen in conjunction with the Lorenzettis' other properties. Just like we've seen major improvements at Château d'Issan and Pedesclaux, the wines of Ladouys have perhaps never been better than they've been over the last few vintages—especially the shockingly good 2014. While '14 continues to be overshadowed by the fantastic '15 and '16 vintages, the harvest produced a number of classic clarets whose value stands tall when compared to the much pricier subsequent selections. On our last two trips to Bordeaux, perhaps more so than the quality of the last two heavyweight harvests, we've come away impressed by how good the 2014 wines continue to develop (we're always more impressed by value!), but especially the Lilian Ladouys . The secret of the forty-seven hectare property is its bevy of high-density old vines, roughly forty to sixty years of age, that form concentrated berries full of intensity. In the case of the 2014, a higher proportion of merlot resulted in a supple and sweet-fruited palate full of blackberries and spice, plump from the merlot, but balanced by the 40% of cabernet sauvignon that adds just enough grip to all that ripeness.

While Lilian Ladouys may not be a classified growth, the property's value as a stylistic true-to-form St. Estèphe wine cannot be understated—especially in this market. For twenty bucks, I'm not sure you can beat it. The 2014 has become one of my new favorite mid-week Bordeaux options (along with the 2014 Brown), and it's an early look at what we can anticipate from the Lorenzettis moving forward. Expect the 2015 and 2016 wines from Lilian Ladouys to be just a tasty, and comparable in price.

-David Driscoll