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Bordeaux 2018: Château Latour [and 2017, 2008 & 2006]

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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.

Last year, the 2018 was the first fully certified organic vintage at the estate, in a process of conversion begun in 2016. 2018 was a challenging vintage for everyone, but especially those working along organic lines. The first half of the year was exceptionally wet, and there was the threat of downy mildew in the vineyards in May. Flower shatter amongst the Merlot occurred during mixed weather at flowering, although hotter conditions in June did help the formation of the bunches and keep the disease pressure down. In early July, five days of heavy rain led to further mildew pressure which required urgent viticultural attention, resulting in significant crop losses. After this point the weather then shifted favourably. Hot and dry conditions prevailed for two months, with phenolic ripening benefitting from short periods of rain in late August and in early September. At harvest there was some variation in fruit on the bunches, between the heat affected shriveled berries and perfectly ripe fruit. Meticulous sorting was undertaken but extra care needed to be taken in not being too extractive in the winemaking as the remaining grapes were tiny and concentrated. The results? Outstanding. For me this is the most remarkable Latour since 2009 and 2010, even possibly trumping 2016 I think [though time will tell ultimately].

The following notes on the 2018s were taken last April at the château. I have also listed my notes from primeurs 2017, taken in April 2018, and integrated them, along with notes on the recently released vintages of wines from Latour. As you may know, the property now only offers its wines when they deem them ready to drink. The last vintage offered en primeur was 2009.

I hope you find the following notes interesting.

Château Latour, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2018

Very thick and opaque at centre; tight to rim; very deep blackcurrant cassis; intense but also with real depth and substance; real layers here; some mulberry beneath; layered; yet minerality too; bold; lots here; layers and layers of fruit; blackcurrants; real purity; the new oak soaked up entirely; lovely chew and structure to the wine; a beauty but almost perfectly balanced. Super, duper length too. Terrific stuff. Fresh as a daisy too. [91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 14.3% alc, IPT 81, Ph 3.84 TA 3.15, 37% of production]. Tasted April ’19. Drink 2028-2058. 98-100

Château Latour, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2017

Deep at centre; tight to edge; nice and healthy looking; lovely pure blackcurrant cassis; very unadorned but very focused; laser like in that respect; some floral perfume; nice entry; this is very refined; nice texture; complete blackcurrant profile; very elegant and composed; immaculately well dressed;  very mannered; good length on the finish. Classic Latour. [92.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.8% Merlot, 0.1% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April ’18. Drink 2027-2037. 94-96

Château Latour, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2008

Deep at core; earthy red at edge; nice substantial red aromatics; blackcurrant; spices; some leather; earth; feels ready to drink now; nice entry into the palate; shows that this has more to go clearly; quite solid and has a real core to it; texture and matter here; palate younger than the aromatics; freshness. Easily will improve over the next decade and last for a further twenty. [94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 0.75% Cabernet Franc, 0.25% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April 2019. Drink now-2040. 96

Château Latour, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2006

Deep; red at edge; lovely complex nose; this is attractive stuff; fully mature but has more to go; olives; dried herbs; tapenade; blackcurrants; full entry; leather, olives; nicely round tannins but has structure; lots of extract; fab length. Latour technical director compares it to 2002, 2004 and 2008 in style. [91.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc, 0.5 Petit Verdot). Tasted April ’18, Drink now-2036. 96

Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, 2018

Deeply coloured; tight to the meniscus; very fine; oak seamlessly woven in here; blackcurrants; sweet ripe fruit; lovely aromatics which deepened and opened in the glass; some mineral and graphite edge again; this is attractive; great entry; polished as you would imagine; great depth but also balance here; in the mouth it feels like it is has elegance; nice chew and tannins very fine; great length. Initially a little sweeter and more flattering on the nose than the grand vin. [65.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 0.4% Petit Verdot, 14.2% alc, IPT 77, 42% of production]. Tasted April ’19. Drink 2028-2048. 94-96+

Les Fort de Latour, Pauillac, 2017

Nicely healthy colour; tight to the rim; little closed to start; delicate; some perfume and cassis on aeration; quite precise and focused; nice entry to the palate; focused again; nicely done; more flesh and texture; intensity but without the weight; nicely supple tannins; open; mid weight style. [65.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April ’18. Drink 2026-2035. 91-93+

Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, 2013

Mid depth; stylish red on the nose; some acetone; little ink and iodine; some blackcurrant and spices; good on the palate and easy; some leather; spices and blackcurrant tones; elegant. Successful in the context of such a difficult growing season. Bit of sap and chew. Like a fine Chianti on the finish. [63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April 2019. Drink now-2033. 91

Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, 2012

Healthy colour; read at edge but still youthful looking; nice cigar box and blackcurrant notes; quite fine; smoky and savoury; hints of fennel; nice entry on the palate; real delicacy; palate had lots to give; attractive and soft; almost lush palate; then some grip and tannin on the finish. [76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April ’18. Drink now-2032. 93+

Pauillac de Latour, Pauillac, 2018

Deeply coloured; tight to the meniscus; sweet ripe plum fruit; really almost lush; ripe black cherry; some graphite too; very poised on the nose; nice flesh; lots of texture; matter; tannins here but round; some grit to it; with nice acidity or chew I’d call it; elegant finish. Freshness on the end. Softer obviously with more Merlot than the other blends. [56.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30.8% Merlot, 12.3% Petit Verdot, 14.1% alc IPT 76, 21% of production]. Tasted April ’19. Drink 2025-2038. 91-93+

Pauillac de Latour, Pauillac 2017

Nice colour; deep; purple at edge; fresh vibrant Merlot dominated nose; attractive; quite pretty and plush; perfumed; nice entry; well balanced; nicely done; this has nice tension; freshness; some saline notes; nicely extraction – well handled in the cellar. Nice freshness. Mineral. Well composed. [52.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39.9% Merlot, 7.2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April ‘18. Drink 2025-2032. 88-90

Pauillac de Latour, Pauillac, 2014

Mid depth; still some earthy red tones; very mature; some beef and spices; mature spices; little leather; blackcurrants and wine gum note; nice and lifted; nice entry; mature; ripe and sweet tannins; good middle; totally ready to drink; elegance here; but really appetising. Totally ready. Length is good. Some tobacco on the finish. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot]. Tasted April 2019. Drink now-2034. 91+

Pauillac de Latour, Pauillac, 2013

Mid depth; red at edge; ready to drink; quite earthy; pencils; tobacco and leather notes; nice complexity; palate light but elegant; refined; drinking well now and over next 3 years. Tasted April ’18. Drink now-2028. 87

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