This could be the last Latour to be offered en primeur, so in a sense it is historic. All the conjecture around Latour's historic announcement will probably overshadow what is an exceptional wine - we wouldn't expect anything less. After all, since Frederic Engerer has been at the helm, Latour has produced an extraordinary string of vintages, regularly topping our list as wine of the vintage. It is a great shame that Messrs Pinault and Engerer are stepping back from a system that has served the Bordeaux Chateaux so well; but money and control talk, and the loyal en primeur buying customer can take a walk... Produced from 84.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot, the grand vin, and it is very grand accounts for just 34% of the production. At first brooding; deep and elemental, but with coaxing notes of flowers, pencil shavings, sweet earth, camphor and cherries emerge. There is masses of dry extract which coats the mouth and leaves flavours of bright plum, griotte cherry, crème de mûre and dark chocolate; very seductive and deeply intense. This possesses huge concentration, but is never thick or heavy; the structure is beautifully constructed around immense, yet silky, woven tannins. As one expects from a great vineyard like Latour, the finish is complex and echoes the noble flavours found on the palate. There is not the weight of the 2009 or 2010, but this is undeniably a handsome, mightily impressive beast.
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.