Latour welcomed us for the first time to their new visitor reception and tasting ‘complex’ – clearly, no expense has been spared, with shiny granite walls and designer spotlights. Frederic Engerer has paid the same attention to producing the best wine possible at Latour, where yields have been reduced, selection for the Grand Vin tightened dramatically, and overall production reduced to 10,000 cases. The wine is stunning: focused and fresh, powerful, with sublime mineral complexity and the purest of Cabernet Sauvignon character. Merlots were harvested between 8th-13th September, and Cabernets between the 22nd-30th; a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and a dash of Petit Verdot, aged in 94% new oak. 13% abv.
What is there to say about Chateau Latour that hasn't already been said? Arguably the greatest of the First Growths, Latour has been back on top of its game since the 1980s, and under Frederic Engerer's guidance the estate continues to strive for the ever-changing goalposts of perfection. This hunger comes at a cost. Once the estate used to regularly produce 20,000 cases a vintage. There will probably be less than 10,000 cases made of the sublime 2009. A travesty for wine lovers, but a sad reality of life if striving for the elusive 100 points from Robert Parker.
The grand vin hails from the Grand Enclos, the vineyards which surround the winery. The topsoil is made up of Gunzian gravel, brought to the area from the Pyrenees and the Massif Central during the Pleistocene with a subsoil of marl and clay above a deeper ridge of limestone. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant varietal (80%), with Merlot (18%) and Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot accounting for just 2% of plantings.
Sadly the estate has decided to remove itself from the en primeur market, so 2011 will be the last release as a future. The strategy will be to release mature wines from their cellars.
The Cabernet Sauvignon domanates the appellation, in fact some might justifiably call Pauillac the most classical expression there is of Cabernet based Claret. It is sandwiched between St-Julien to the south and St-Estèphe to the north, a stone’s throw from the Gironde Estuary. The excellent drainage of the intensely gravely soils are the key to quality, producing some of the world’s most long-lived wines. The First Growths of Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild are found here, while other great Châteaux include Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Pontet Canet, Lynch-Bages and Grand-Puy-Lacoste.