It was 1983 and Château Lagrange had been in a rut for a half century. Vintage after vintage had been smashed by critics, prices were falling, and its Third Growth status was nowhere to be seen. Then, from halfway across the world, Japanese liquor conglomerate Suntory swept away the rust -- literally replacing the outdated cellar and replanting the vineyard -- and got Château Lagrange back on its feet. We're still reaping the benefits of this turnaround today as prices have yet to catch up to the leap in quality.
Winemaker Marcel Ducasse, who was handpicked by Suntory to lead its return to glory, steered the ship from '83 to 2007 and was recently succeeded by Bruno Eynard, his longtime technical director. Bruno manages the 115 hectare vineyard which is planted primary to Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot at 65%, 28% and 7% respectively. There is also a small white vineyard -- 4 hectares -- planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle. For many years, Ducasse and Eynard worked on perfecting what is now a classically structured Saint-Julien that typically shows an almost medicinal austerity in the early going, with dominant notes of cassis, kirsch, menthol and minerals. Once a chronic underachiever, Château Lagrange is now the largest Cru Classé; in Bordeaux, producing between 50,000 and 55,000 cases per year.