Wed 9 Jul 2008
Fortune seems to be smiling upon the venerable House of Louis Latour, founded in 1797 in the picturesque town of Beaune and still owned and run by the family. That was not the case in the 1970s and 1980s, when quality seemed to diminish and there was an emphasis on squeaky clean, correct wines. Coming from a superb vintage in Burgundy like 2005 doesn’t hurt, of course, but the wines of Louis Latour feel more powerful, deeper and more attuned to the earth and the vineyard than they did 20 years ago.
Along with the other major negociant houses in Burgundy — Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Faiveley, Bouchard — Louis Latour owns segments of important Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards but also makes many wines at every level and from every commune from purchased grapes, generally through long-term contracts, in the time-honored tradition. The wines mentioned here in fairly straightforward transcriptions of my tasting notes represent only a small part of what Louis Latour produces, but every segment is touched on, from a simple yet very well-made Bourgogne rouge at $17 through village and Premier Cru wines, to a pair of magnificent age-worthy Grand crus.
*Le Pinot Noir Chanfleure de Louis Latour 2005. Entrancing bouquet, penetrating purity and intensity; black cherry and minerals, violets and roses, lavender, potpourri, clean fresh earth; some brambles and underbrush, lovely, dense, chewy texture. Now through 2010 or ’12. Very good+ and Good Value at about $17.
*Marsannay 2005. Acid and minerals cut like a shining blade; tremendous tone and body for Marsannay; smoke, roses, potpourri. black and red cherries and currants, fairly tannic but showing the innate refinement that characterizes the best of these wines. Now through 2010 or ’12. Very good+. About $18.
*Santenay 2005. Quite tannic, earthy and minerally; smoky, spicy black fruit flavors; very minerally but with a soft, smoky, slightly creamy edge; black and red cherries; core of potpourri and bitter chocolate; huge structure. Best from 2009 through 2014 or ’15. Excellent, and a Great Value at about $23. This is one to buy by the case.
*Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 2005. Reticent, brooding, very earthy and minerally; briers and brambles; a spice and flavor spectrum that goes from dark to darker to darkest; massive structure but vibrant and resonant. 2010 through 2014 or ’16. Very good+. About $25.
*Volnay 2005. Extraordinary quality for a village wine. Pure, intense and concentrated, seductive; smoke, dust and earth, roasted, spiced and macerated red and black fruit scents and flavors; remarkable body, tone and resonance; the acid cuts like a knife, a massive wine but so well balanced, so lovely. 2009 or ’10 through 2015 to ’18. Excellent. About $41.
*Volnay En Chevrets Premier Cru 2005. Classic black cherry, currant and plum permeated by beetroot, earthy, loamy; incredibly fruity, floral and spicy, and so minerally that it almost tickles the nose; massive wine, impenetrable structure of tannin and oak and acid, very dry, austere and tannic in the finish. Try 2012 to 2018 to ’20 Very good+ to Excellent. About $50.
*Pommard 2005. Briers and brambles, loam; rose petals; deep, rich, warm, a lovely amalgam of power and elegance; sewwt and dried spices, deep, pure black fruit flavors; huge enveloping structure, but approachable; the tannin builds at the back and comes forward. A great wine. Excellent. 2009 or ’10 through 2016 to ’18. About $45.
*Aloxe-Corton Les Chaillots Premier Cru 2005, Domaine Latour. Sizable, large-framed with deep foundations, reticent; dense, chewy, almost shaggy tannins, tremendous earthy and minerally element; the acid ploughs through; a massive wine but after a few minutes, the bouquet opens beautifully. 2010 through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+ to Excellent. About $51.
*Beaune Vignes Franches Premier Cru 2005, Domaine Latour. Such eloquence and grandeur! Tar, roses, violets, dried spice; riveting purity and intensity, so clean, bracing and expressive! classic red and black fruit but with undertone of pomegranate; wonderful authenticity and tone, vibrancy and resonance. Now through 2015 or ’17. Exceptional. I have never purchased a case of red Burgundy and probably never will, but were I a person who could do so with impunity, I would purchase a case of this wine, believe me. About $55.
*Gevrey-Chambertin 2005. Charming and enticing bouquet of black cherry, crushed violets and loam; dense and chewy texture, fairly tannic but not overbearing; lovely weight and intensity; the oak a bit more apparent than with most of the others in this roster; a bit blunt and inexpressive. Time should help; try 2010 through 2014 to ’17. Very good+. About $45.
*Nuits-Saint-Georges 2005. Very spicy, very minerally, very brambly; very dense and chewy; rigorous tannins, though it’s open-knit, warm and generous to a degree; still, from mid-palate back, this is massive, tannic and austere. Try 2011 through 2015 or ’18. Reserving judgment with a Very good+? About $50.
*Nuits-Saint Georges Aux Crots Premier Cru 2005. Whoa. Cinnamon, cloves, cherry and pomegranate; warm, rich, roasted black fruit; piercing purity and intensity of fruit and floral aspects; dense with briers and brambles, tremendous drying tannins, almost gritty, austere, though freighted with a sense of potential. Try 2011 to 2015 or ’18. Very good+ to Excellent. About $95.
*Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2005, Domaine Latour. What a tapestry of amazing complexity! As huge yet exquisitely balanced as one would expect from this wine. Very dry, very tannic, quite forbidding even, but vibrant and resonant, bursting with ripe and warm black cherry, blueberry and pomegranate flavors. A keeper, try 2012 through 2018 or ’20. Excellent. About $99.
*Chambertin Grand Cru 2005 Cuvée Héritiers Latour. First note: “OMG!” Tremendous, both formidable and mesmerizing. Blinding purity and intensity, manifold depths and grandeur, fathomless layers, a continuous unfolding. Needs ages; try 2015 through 2020 to ’25. Exceptional. $220.