Thu 9 Oct 2008
This brief foray into the white wines of the venerable house of Louis Latour scarcely taps into the long list of products the company produces. Not counting Beaujolais, but counting Chablis, the Côte de Nuit and Côte de Beaune of Burgundy proper and the Mâconnais and Côte Chalonnaise, Louis Latour produces 64 whites wines and 82 red wines. Of course some of these, from the Grand Cru vineyards and some of the Premier Crus, are made in minuscule quantities and are correspondingly expensive.
Louis Latour was founded as a négociant-éléveur in 1797 and 10 generation later is still owned and run by the Latour family. The company owns 125 acres in Burgundy, of which 71.6 acres are in Grand Cru vineyards, the largest amount of Grand Cru acreage owned by a single house.
If 2005 in Burgundy produced chardonnay-based wines of immense power, dynamism and intensity, the whites of 2006 are more subtle and supple, generally, more crystalline is structure and acidity. Let’s say that the 2005 whites exude glamour, while the 2006 whites are lovely.
Le Chardonnay de Chardonnay 2006. Here’s a fresh, clean, well-structured expression of the chardonnay grape, originating from the village of Chardonnay in the Mâconnais; apparently, this is where chardonnay was first planted. Made completely in stainless steel, the wine combines crisp acid, a limestone element that feels lacy and almost transparent and spicy citrus flavors; the bouquet includes an afterthought of orange blossom and honeysuckle. This would be a terrific house wine, whether for your house or for a bistro-style restaurant. Very Good, and Great Value. About $16.
Red wine accounts for about 95 percent of the production of the Beaune appellation, but Louis Latour’s inclusive philosophy practically dictates an expedition into the white wine side. Latour’s Beaune 2006 is an elegant and at this point, almost two years old, a nicely developed chardonnay. The enticing bouquet offers smoke, jasmine, lemon curd and lots of spice, while in the mouth, the wine is quite dry, minerally, vibrant and lavishly oaky; fortunately, there’s also a full complement of buttery, roasted pear and citrus flavors. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+. About $25.
The Louis Latour Meursault 2006 is a “village” wine, meaning that the grapes come from the vineyards of Meursault that are officially designated but not Premier or Grand Cru vineyards. In difficult years, producers will sometimes de-classify their Premier Cru wines and bottle them as village wines. Ideally, a village wine will embody the typical character of the appellation. This Meursault 2006 certainly captures the richness of typical Meursault, with its buoyant, deep, spicy bouquet and its generous, ripe almost savory fruit, but the wine is also searingly steely and minerally, dry and austere. It could use a year to mellow and then should drink well through 2012 or ’13. Very Good+. About $39.
Chateau de Blagny is a monopole for Louis Latour, that is, a rare instance where a producer in Burgundy owns an entire vineyard; usually vineyards are divided among many owners, who sometimes own as little as two or three rows of vines. The Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru Chateau de Blagny 2006 is impressive for its firm structure, its richness and expansive spicy quality and the depth of its fruit, but I found the wine not merely influenced by oak but downright woody. I wouldn’t touch the wine until 2010, hoping it will mellow and find some balance. Very Good. About $55.
Yes, friends, we have come to a time when a Premier Cru white wine from Burgundy can cost upward of a hundred smackers and more, so let’s have no more of that “what ever happened to the $40 Premier Cru” nostalgia, and anyway, in the case of the blatantly wonderful Louis Latour Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru 2006, let’s pretend that the recent world-wide financial melt-down dealt no fatal blow to our fiduciary prowess. My first note is: “Oh wow!” This is an absolutely lovely and expressive chardonnay, deep, resonant, vibrant and complete. Roasted lemon and lemon curd flavors are imbued with smoke and hints of ripe pear and peach. The wine slides across the tongue in a self-confident display of satiny opulence, but chiming acid and an almost plangent limestone element keep any extravagance in check. Spicy oak comes through on the finish, though ultimately the wine is beautifully balanced and integrated. Drink through 2016 to ’18 (well-stored). Excellent. About $90.
Louis Latour’s stylish Chassagne-Montrachet 2006 manages several paradoxes with the handiness of Ricky Jay shuffling a deck of cards while juggling three bowling pins. The wine seems woven of tissues of delicacies that add up to firm size and dimension; it feels weightless at first, but it gathers ripeness and substance; the wood influence is subtle, supple and almost subliminally spicy, yet the wine openly declares its richness; clean, crisp acid and a powerful mineral factor round this impeccably-made village wine off with a touch of austerity. Well-nigh irresistible. Drink now through 2013 or ’15. Excellent. About $46
The Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot” Premier Cru 2006 offers a generous, seductive bouquet of roasted lemon and lemon balm, jasmine, baking spice and super-clean limestone. This is a graceful wine, substantial without being obvious, dense, supple and silky, and perfectly balanced among ripe, sweet citrus flavors, subtle oak, bright acid and a steely mineral element that deepens as the moments pass. A lovely wine with a hint of seriousness about it. Drink now through 2014 to ’16. Excellent. About $81.