Château Lagrange 2011
• Domaine: Château Lagrange
• Appellation: Saint-Julien
• Classification: Third Growth, 3ème Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
The story of Château Lagrange is all about second chances. The famed Third Growth property has a comeback story that rivals the tremendous resurgence tale of Château Margaux. Interestingly enough, this Saint-Julien estate has quite a bit in common with the Margaux First Growth. Both properties had promising origins and phenomenal terroir, but had their fortunes fall over the years. That being said, both Château Lagrange and Château Margaux were resurrected from the depths by families and companies that were fully committed to producing some of the highest quality wines on the market. In the case of Château Lagrange, it was the Suntory company that brought the estate to staggering new heights. Many of the wines from Château Lagrange are considered a phenomenal value, and savvy wine buyers should not miss adding the fine offerings from this estate to their collection.
Château Lagrange had fairly humble beginnings. Reports of the vineyards originated in 1631, and eventually the property was acquired by the Baron de Brane in the 1700s. The Baron had multiple properties and it was very clear he had an eye for exceptional terroir. He owned Château Brane Cantenac, and Château Brane Mouton, a property that is known as the incomparable Château Mouton Rothschild today. The estate rose to prominence when it was acquired by Count Duchatel who added a drainage system to the vineyard. Though this may not seem like an incredibly novel concept, in the 1800s it was revolutionary. Eventually, Château Lagrange was classified in 1855 as a Third Growth estate. The estate declined in quality and changed hands multiple times. Some of the choicest parcels were sold off to other châteaux such as the Super Second darling, Château Ducru Beaucaillou and Château Gloria. In 1983, Château Lagrange was purchased by the large Japanese distillery Suntory (known for its top-quality beer and out-of-supply cult whisky, Yamazaki) and that’s when the incredible transformation really began.
Suntory spared no expense in revitalizing the once defunct château. They modernized the winemaking facilities and took on the massive undertaking of replanting the vineyards. Under the direction of Marcel Ducasse, whose reign at Château Lagrange encompassed 1993 to 2007, the vineyards expanded from 48 to 138 hectares. Château Lagrange is planted with 35-year-old vines on average that mostly consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Interestingly enough, Château Lagrange also has some white varietals planted on the estate as well. One can find plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Gris planted on the gravely soil.
The enthusiastic winemaker, Kenji Suzuta, oversees the viticultural process and crafts energetic and stunning wines. Château Lagrange yields about 60,000 cases of its wine on a yearly basis. These wines are incredibly powerful and tannic in their youth, requiring some time to age in bottle. After about 8-10 years or so, they soften and reveal their aromas of black currant, cedar, and a distinctive herbal quality. The quality of Château Lagrange continues to improve with each passing vintage, yet the prices still remain affordable, proving offerings from the estate are worthy additions to any cellar.
"Slightly pinched and compact, the 2011 Lagrange exhibits a healthy dark ruby/plum color as well as notes of vanillin, black cherries and red fruits, but it is somewhat one-dimensional and straightforward. Solidly made, but not as expressive as some of its peers, it will benefit from 1-3 years of bottle age, and should keep for 10-12 thereafter." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate (4/29/2014, Issue 212), Ratings: 86, Drink: 2015-2027
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