Château Latour has produced a focused set of wines in 2012. They have finesse and precision but felt perhaps a little leaner than 2011 at the same stage. Now that Latour have abandoned selling en primeur the snapshot of these wines in their youth is possibly a bit academic given that it will be a few years, at least, before even the most junior Pauillac will be released, let alone Les Forts and the grand vin itself. Handy, then, that the wine that stole the show on the morning I tasted at Latour was their Pauillac 2009, the current release of the ‘third’ wine. It’s stunning. Immediately it reminds you just how pedestrian much Pauillac is in 2012. Oh 2009, how we miss you!
Anyhow, back to the future and 2012. Following a very dry winter here at Latour [a 30% water deficit], April was extremely wet, May comparatively dry but June wet again. July heralded a return to drier weather and then much warmer weather towards the end of the month into August. Veraison [the grape’s colour change] was very drawn out. Some grapes began changing colour from late July, mid-veraison was noted on August 14, yet portions of grapes were still green in September. Clearly there was much variation in ripening, reflecting the difficult weather during flowering. August was a tricky month, though it brought much needed warmth, the drought [just 16% of the average August rainfall arrived] meant that growth in fact had stopped on many plots by the end of the month. Acidity, though, was preserved by cool-ish nights and not overly hot temperatures.
The harvest began with the Merlot on September 24. Subsequent rainfall made things a little stop-start, and the variety was harvested completely by October 4. Cabernet was picked in just eight days between October 5-16. The threat of botrytis from the rain was considerable in this period, though the late stage rain also aided the final phenolic ripening of the grapes. The dry August kept the skins thick, if low in sugar, which by and large helped keep the grapes healthy as conditions deteriorated. Selection was necessarily very strict here. The grand vin represents just 36% of the crop. The wines must be seen as a success in the context of the harvest. My feeling is that Latour 2011 [which was very good indeed in that tricky vintage] had the edge over 2012, but there is not that much in it.
Château Latour, 2012
Very deep and saturated look; healthy colour; vibrant; very pure blackcurrant aromas; lots of layers and a real seam of precision; depth; oak present; very precise and focused; quite sinewy on the palate; very fine tannin; elegant with layers of flavour; quite serious. Elegant style, not the powerhouse of 2009 or 2010 but this is the vintage here. Finesse. 90.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.6% Merlot, 0.2% Petit Verdot 12.8% alc, IPT 73 35.6% of production. Tasted Friday April 12, 2013 at Chateau Latour. 94-95+
Les Forts de Latour 2012
Deep and saturated; vibrant at edge; sweet; some smoke; cassis; minerality; graphite tones; more immediate prettiness than Latour on the nose; some smoked meat tones when it opens up; quite dense; some chew; not austere but structured; little lean maybe in the middle; correct and not flamboyant or as show stealing as their 2010 Les Forts; overall sinewy palate; tannins fine; finesse and elegance. Good length. 76.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 12.8% alc, IPT 71 42.2% of production. Tasted Friday April 12, 2013. 91-93+
Nice saturated colour; healthy; fresh blackcurrants, some cassis; attractive fruit bit stalky in part; elegant palate; fresh; quite clean and with acid; correct and good effort in vintage context. Polished. 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 54.5% Merlot, 1.6% Cabernet Franc, IPT 63 12.8% alc 22.2% of production. 87-89
With the property out of the en primeur system, the current releases were also tasted at the Château. The 1995 Latour didn’t show that well for me, though the Les Forts 2005 looked classy, but make way for the Pauillac 2009… As I mentioned at the top this is an outstanding effort at a fraction of the price of the grand vin. Well worth getting hold of a few bottles.
Château Latour 1995
Dark at core; redder at edge; dust, spice, earthy blackcurrant tones; quite dense on the palate with blackcurrant tones, spices and some chew. Feels quite backward in style. Pretty chewy tannin, almost, dare I say it, a little rustic. Good length but feels backward overall. Possibly still needs time? It’s a very good wine, don’t get me wrong, but overall something of a disappointment given the reputation of the wine and the vintage. 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc 1% Petit Verdot. 93/100
Les Forts de Latour 2005
Mid depth; some reddening at edge; some menthol, tea, blackcurrants on aeration; palate dense; roast character; blackcurrants; lots of material and a very serious effort this; very good density and length. Chewy on the end. 93+/100
Deep and dense; wonderfully open; lots of graphite; blackcurrants, cassis; great Pauillac characters on the nose, textbook in the very best sense; open on the palate [Merlot] with lots of material [and nice grip too]. Even at £50 [$75] a bottle this is very much worth considering. Makes you marvel at how good the grand vin is in 2009….very impressive. Third wine? Third growth more like… 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot. 92+/100