Wine tasting at home IV - what I drank last weekend!

This week I thought I’d cover two wines which I recently drank from famous Burgundy producer, Louis Latour. The historic négociant-éléveur has been a key player in the Burgundy market since its founding in 1797 and is still, to this day, a family-run enterprise. The home of Louis Latour is the Côte-de-Beaune with the majority of its vineyards located in Aloxe-Corton including a number of highly respected Grand Crus. Perhaps the most famous is Corton-Charlemagne which, in some vintages, is capable of challenging the ethereal Montrachet.

Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2017
Steeped in some of the richest history in Bourgogne it may be, but Domaine Louis Latour has also built a reputation for innovation. In 1834, it constructed the outstanding winery at Corton Grancey. Set across five levels, its design allowed for a gravity fed facility which was nothing short of ingenious for its time. Moreover, the tactical decision to plant Chardonnay instead of Aligoté and Gamay on the slopes of Corton-Charlemagne following the ravages caused by the devastating outbreak of phylloxera in the 19th Century was a masterstroke. By grafting the vines onto American root stock they turned a disaster into one of the biggest successes in viticultural history.

But perhaps one of their biggest recent departures has been their investment in the Ardèche region in the northern part of the Rhône valley. With prices of land increasing in Burgundy, Domaine Louis Latour set about finding other locations to cultivate and, in 1979, alighted on an area where the limestone-clay soils were reminiscent of the prized terroir in the Côte d’Or. Here, Chardonnay was planted with impressive results: a fresh unoaked style and the Grand Cru-inspired Grand Ardèche. With fermentation in oak and a further eight to ten months oak ageing, the result is a white which echoes the finesse of its grander aristocracy back in Burgundy, but at a fraction of the price. Cellared well for five years or so, this is a wine that might even confuse the most seasoned palate into thinking it was experiencing something from a far more illustrious corner of the Côte-de-Beaune!

Tasting note
The 2017 Grand Ardèche has a lovely pale yellow colour revealing a nose composed of many flavours including brioche and vanilla. The mouth is long, round and rich evidencing fresh fruits with a subtle accent of oak.

Louis Latour Corton ‘Clos de la Vigne au Saint’ Grand Cu 2013
Burgundy - with its intricate patchwork quilt of interlocking vineyards; its geological and pedological complexities which seem to continually trick and tease (why should it be that neighbouring vines from the same slope - nay the same vineyard! – can produce such variances in weight and flavour so as to confound logic or science?). Here, among the rustic surrounds of church and abbey, through terroir-obsessed growers, the earth conjures such sophisticated and nuanced wines that have no equal. Montrachet, Musigny, Romanée Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg – names that inspire an almost religious reverence and justly so. Nowhere in the world can one find wines that are at once delicate yet profoundly complex, powerful yet hauntingly subtle. The mysterious alchemy here has enthralled and befuddled drinkers for centuries. It does so still. Long may it endure.

Generalisations are dangerous in Burgundy. For every axiom there is an anomaly, for every rule a notable exception. Nevertheless, it would not be wild hyperbole to observe that whilst followers of white Burgundy tend towards the Côte-de-Beaune, disciples of red, especially the more muscular expressions of Pinot Noir, gravitate towards the Côte-de-Nuits. The villages of Volnay and Pommard are obvious exceptions to upset this postulation. Let us not forget too that Chassagne-Montrachet produces a not insignificant dollop of red. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that for all the major red Premier Crus and Grands Crus, one must look North. Well, no, not quite. The Côte-de-Beaune does have one trick up its sleeve which allows it to lay claim to a single red Grand Cru: Corton.

There are those who say that not all of Corton’s plots deserve such recognition. They may be right. But the fact remains that Corton, the biggest Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy, and its various lieu-dits provide the consumer with an excellent demonstration of how Burgundy is capable of producing such a myriad of different flavours and sensations in one spot. The best examples are something quite exquisite: opulent, full-flavoured, complex, sensual and structured. If you are not a fan of the power afforded by the regal red Grand Cru’s of the Côte-de-Nuits, not-to-mention their alarming price tags, this could be the wine for you.

Louis Latour’s connection to Corton dates back to the 1700s. The Clos de la Vigne au Saint vineyard can be traced back to 1375, though Louis Latour acquired their first plot in the early 19th Century. As for the 2013 Clos de la Vigne au Saint, it was perfect and paired beautifully with a delicious roasted pork belly! Yum!

Tasting note
The 2013 Clos de la Vigne au Saint has a beautiful ruby colour with hints of raspberry and coffee on the nose. An elegant, full palate follows with a suggestion of strawberries and cherries. This is a full, soft, sophisticated wine to be savoured.

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