In late September I had the pleasure of being invited to Château La Lagune to be hosted by Caroline Frey (winemaker) and Patrick Moulin (the Technical Director since 1972). Château La Lagune is in the Haut-Médoc appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. Classified as a ‘third growth’ in the historic Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855, but viewed by many in the know, as being good as any ‘second growth’. The winery was purchased by Jean-Jacques Frey in 2000, and the progress forward has been rapid but controlled at every stage.
Caroline Frey is a young, confident and very talented winemaker, with a good awareness of her role in the balance between that of the vineyard and winemaking. Caroline is content with the progress at La Lagune since her first vintage in 2004. The whole team has done a great deal of work in the vineyards, and because of that, the quality of the wines has improved. They have replanted, changed the density of the vines, and increased trellising to improve canopy management. All of this has improved the quality of the grapes, to get better aromas, tannins and fruit, which you can see in the wines that we tasted.
Caroline Frey works closely in consultation with Denis Dubourdieu (well known Bordeaux oenologist, and consultant). The vines are approx 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and an unusually high 10% Petit Verdot.
While at the winery I was able to see the harvested grapes go through an automatic sorting on a vibrating table and then careful manual sorting thereafter, then de-stemming and a third sorting table of six people. After a light pressing the fruit is fed by gravity (at a 5-degree angle) into 72 temperature-controlled steel vats of different sizes, laid out in a curve (aiding parcel-by-parcel vinification) where there is maceration followed by fermentation. In late December there is a tasting and blending, and the wines then go into oak.
There was once a policy of 100% new wood for the ‘grand vin’, Château La Lagune (approx 33000 cases per year), a longstanding feature of the wine, and a practice more commonly associated with first growths; it certainly tended to make the wine stand out in blind horizontal tastings, but not necessarily for the right reason. Caroline has reined this in, and is now approx 55%, and the wine will rest there for up to 18 months. The second wine is Moulin La Lagune (approx 8000 cases) this wine is more predominant Merlot than the ‘grand vin’, as it accounts for up to 40% of the blend, and will see about 12 months in oak, with only 30-40% new barrels.
I found all the wines I tasted at La Lagune to be confident, with good tannin and palate structure and excellent length.
Now under the direction of the Caroline Frey there is clearly a new direction, seen most clearly with the reduced use of new oak; improved work and quality of fruit from the vineyard, the balance of winemaking, time in oak and blending.
It was a true pleasure to meet Caroline and Patrick, and I have good feeling about the continued quality and success of Château La Lagune.