I love Château Latour. It has to be one of the most remarkable wines in the world. It is the gold standard to which other ambitious producers of [predominantly] Cabernet Sauvignon all aspire to emulate, if not in style, certainly in substance. That legendary California winemaker Paul Draper spoke frequently of Latour when working on Ridge’s own super Cab, Ridge Monte Bello in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as the Bordeaux he most admired and took inspiration from. The no expense spared approach, financed by billionaire entrepreneur François Pinault, is beyond the pockets of many producers, of course. The same affordability question is true of the grand vin itself. A single bottle of Latour, even in an average year, is still typically more expensive than a top-label washer dryer or fridge freezer. Remarkably, there are even more expensive Cabernets in the world than Latour, but rarely any better. I’ve pulled together notes taken over the last two years at the property – a baker’s dozen of wines from the estate, spanning a number of vintages between 2018-2006.
Posts Tagged ‘Pauillac’
Finally notes taken on wines tasted at the Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé tasting in London last year. While the majority of these were 2018s that I’d missed during primeurs week, it was also a good opportunity to look at other recent vintages. In Margaux, Château Rauzan Ségla had made a sublime wine in 2018, so too Château Branaire-Ducru and Château Léoville Poyferré in St Julien. In Pauillac, Château Pontet Canet was astonishing, paralleled in different ways by extraordinary wines at Château Montrose in St Estèphe and Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan.
Get ready for the superlatives. Last Friday, in wonderfully warm late March sun, I started at the top. First up this year was a visit to Château Latour. Frankly you couldn’t get a better introduction to the extraordinary quality of this vintage – the proverbial game of two halves. In 2018 an incredibly wet first half of the growing season was followed by a sunny, hot halcyon, game changing second, that spanned July to October. The ripeness and depth of fruit and the texture of Château Latour in 2018 immediately reminded me of 2009. Yet there is real freshness here too. This is Latour that is a mix of 2009 and 2010. Wow!
Many of the red wines tasted during my visit to Bordeaux this April had freshness, engaging aromas, juicy fruit flavours, reasonable depth and generally soft tannins. On this basis 2017 is surely a good vintage? Well yes. For the best properties we’re talking of wines with elements of 2014, 2012 and 2008, possibly a combination of all three in certain places. Things are more exciting for the whites [it looks to be a brilliant year] and Sauternes too has excelled again. But these generalisations hide a somewhat heterogeneous vintage.
My second day tasting Bordeaux 2017 started in bright sunshine at Château Haut Bailly. The purity of the wine in the past few vintages here has been unsurpassed and their terroir in Pessac-Léognan is wonderful. Frost took out a plot from production but there is finesse and elegance to this 2017. Ten minutes away, in contrasting but equally beautiful terroir, Château Smith Haut Lafitte has delivered the goods once again. The whites are brilliant, showing what a great vintage 2017 is here potentially for white wine. The reds are plump, and very well-upholstered with plenty of fruit and freshness. Excellent stuff. At Château La Mission Haut-Brion the remarkable quality of the whites was again underscored. Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc and Château Haut-Brion Blanc are fabulous – though they never put a foot wrong with the whites mind. The reds are impressive, combining of the structure and fruit of 2014 perhaps with the freshness of 2008. La Mission is more approachable than usual in 2017 and Haut-Brion felt the fractionally deeper of the two. Both show wonderful purity.
Great to be back in Bordeaux and excited to taste the infant 2017 vintage. How have the wines faired given the challenges of the growing season – the frost that devastated some, the hail that affected others and the challenge of vintage rain? Yesterday I had a nose around St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. I’ll post in more detail later but first impressions? The wines tasted had vivid, fresh flavours, bright acidities and round tannin. They don’t have the weight or texture of 2016, 2015 or 2014, but there is the freshness of 2008 with the harmony of 2012. Cabernet seems to have faired well, better than the Merlot which was a little more affected by the September rain, but these are very early generalisations.