Some have said that once you have tasted Château Latour, the way you experience wine changes forever. I’m not so sure about that, but my visit to Château Latour certainly had me wishing I had more opportunities to drink this incredible wine and more income to be able to afford the habit.
As described by Frederic Engerer, Latour’s Managing Director, Château Latour’s greatness comes from its perfect intersection of geography, geology and climate. Latour is situated just far enough north in Bordeaux that it can soak up the region’s ample heat, sun and cool nights but still experience the necessary stress on the vines required to make great wine. These conditions, combined with an unparalleled rigorousness in the vineyard, contribute to make Château Latour one of the most powerful and long-lived wines in the world. I actually had the privilege to be at the château on the first day of the 2011 harvest and saw this attention to detail in action. I watched as 10 people hovered over a sorting table removing any bruised or sub-par fruit from the young Merlot that had just been hand picked from the vineyard. It is this precision and meticulous detail that truly makes Château Latour one of the best wines in the world.
Yet the fruit alone is only half the story. The personal connection that the team at Latour exhibit is something I have never seen before. Many of Latour’s employees have been with the Chateau for 25 years or more. This sense of family has afforded Latour the luxury of having an intimate understanding of not only the vineyards, but also how to best vinify each individual vintage into the best possible product.
In 2000, the Chateau completed a multi-million dollar renovation of its wine making and wine storage facility. This initiative not only brought Latour to the cutting edge of wine making and quality control, but also introduced some incredibly innovative concepts to the wine making process. One example (that blew my mind) was that Latour now has the capacity to blend an entire vintage worth of wine in a single blending vat. (Sonia Guerlou, Château Latour’s Reception and Tours Manager, gave me a little context by comparing the size of the blending vat to the size of 3 good sized swimming pools stacked on top of each other.) Exacting this type of control over its end product ensures that every bottle of Latour is as magnificent as the last.
The highlight of my visit to Château was the opportunity to taste a sample of all three of Latour’s wines. Le Pauillac de Château Latour, Les Forts de Latour and of course Le Grand Vin. The 2009 Le Pauillac de Château Latour is Latour’s 3rd wine made for the grapes that don’t quite make the cut. For most other wineries, grapes that don’t make the “cut” get sold on the bulk juice market. For Château Latour, they make a “baby” Latour for the budget conscious. The Pauillac was a fresh wine with fruit forward aromas of blackberries, black plum and blackberries. The refreshing nature of this wine came from its excellent acidity. Out of the three wines I tasted at Château Latour, the Pauillac was the one that surprised me the most. I never thought that a Château with the prestige of Latour would spend much thought on a wine that only represents 15% of their production and is not made every year.
Château Latour’s second wine, Les Forts de Latour quite frankly is better that most Grand Vins that I have tasted. The 2006 vintage that I tried was absolutely delicious. It had complex aromas of black fruit, spice, smoke, oak and that classic minerality that tells you are in the Premier Cru. This wine is by no means a second wine. In fact, if you can get your hands on Les Forts I highly recommend that you buy it. I have seen with my own eyes that Château Latour puts as much effort into Les Forts de Latour as they do Le Grand Vin. Consider it a steal for the price.
Finally, the top of the house! The 2004 Grand Vin de Château Latour. Despite coming from a more difficult vintage, this wine was incredible! It was deep, intense and layered flavours of black fruit, sweet spice, leather, oak graphite. This wine still had firm tannins, but has the acidity to keep this wine fresh even with long aging. This wine will last 25 to 30 years at least. It’s amazing that you can get all this complexity from a wine made in what has been called an “off” vintage.
Visiting Château Latour was definitely the highlight of my visit to Bordeaux. Regardless of your opinion on the ever rising price of the Premier Crus, the attention to detail and passion that goes into creating every vintage of Château Latour is the benchmark that all wine producers should strive for. As Sonia Guerlou so eloquently stated, “there are no shortcuts in making a wine of this quality, history and importance.” I have to agree. Thank you to all at Château Latour for opening your doors and allowing me in, if only for a moment. I will savour my time at Château Latour and the unmistakable flavour of your wines long in my memory.
Just one more post from my visit to France…tasting the 2010 barrel samples from Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Clerc Melon and Château d’Armailhac.
If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.