CHATEAU LATOUR VERTICAL WITH ROBERT PARKER AND LATOUR’S FREDERIC ENGERER – One Market Restaurant, San Francisco, CA (10/25/2003)
This was a memorable tasting of Chateau Latour back to 1982, with Robert Parker and Latour’s Frederic Engerer.
Parker summarized his philosophy regarding “great wines,” opining that they need to be “singular.” He gave La Tache and Haut Brion as examples. “And they have to please you hedonistically and intellectually.” Parker compared great wines to great cuisine: both should have “extraordinary intensity of persistent flavor,” and yet be “light, not heavy.”
In tasting young wines, Parker said he looks for “purity, balance and expression,” but doesn’t expect much in the way of aromatics, which are usually not there yet.
Parker explained that Latour is “a wine of reference. You can’t know great wines without knowing Latour.” He also explained that it had the smallest production of the First Growths, with the others having more than twice Latour’s 2002 production of 8,000 cases.
Frederic Engerer told us this was the biggest tasting Latour has done in 10 years. He also claimed that wine has been produced on their land for 500 years, with a lot of changes coming in the past couple decades, especially with the major renovations to the winery and vineyards they started four years ago.
According to Engerer, records from 1730 indicated that a vineyard whose production now goes into the Les Forts should be planted in white grapes. The Les Forts grapes generally comes from two vineyards: one that was planted in 1988 and another in a classified growth area of Pauillac that was planted 40 years ago, which includes a parcel of Merlot. Latour also produces a third wine, called “Pauillac,” which is hardly ever seen in the U.S.
In response to a question about comparing Bordeaux First Growths, Parker offered that Mouton was “always a bit more showy, possibly in keeping with the Baron’s personality.” He said Mouton usually had a lot of oak, coffee, espresso and torrefaction flavors. Latour and Lafite, on the other hand, were “more about elegance,” and in recent years, more concentrated.
Parker mentioned that Cabernet Franc, which does well in St. Emilion, gives a great complexity note to fragrance, although there is little of it in the Medoc.
A man who stated he had invested heavily in 2000 Bordeaux asked Parker if he could advise him further on the wisdom of that investment. Parker modestly responded, “I hate to trouble you, but I’m never really sure.”
Parker told us he had been in Napa and Sonoma for the previous 15 days. He reported that California 2002 looks good, and 2001 is a top vintage, although reminded us that his appointments had all been with the traditional top producers.
When someone asked where he had eaten in Napa, Parker said his tasting days were so long that he basically “lived like a hermit” during them, mainly taking advantage of “room service at Meadowood.”
Parker was asked what tasting glasses he uses. He said he had tried them all, and is now using short stemmed Riedel Vinums that “allow you to swirl.” On larger sized Riedels, he complained that you need a big pour or else the nose can get lost.
In answering a question, Parker mentioned that “in 15 or 20 years, I’ll be fully retired.”
Les Forts de Latour
I really liked the 2000 Les Forts, and it and the 2006 are relatively good values.
- 2000 Les Forts de Latour – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Black, with cherry red at the edges; very nice blackberry and mocha nose, with hints of olive; tight, with sweet tannins underlying a big berry mid-palate; long, rather hot finish (really opened up after an hour in the glass, and was still tasty after two hours) 93 points
- 1999 Les Forts de Latour
Subtle berry and cranberry nose; very tight, espresso mid-palate, hints of tobacco; dry, tannic 25 second finish 91 points
- 1996 Les Forts de Latour
Black red with a slight orange tinge at the edges; nose of olive and oregano; nice, tight, herbaceous palate, with cedar and tobacco (Opened up a lot with time in the glass; Engerer said this one contained about 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot) 92 points
Recent Vintages of Latour: 2001-1991
I was tremendously impressed with the 2001, and after multiple comparisons, came down slightly in favor of it over the 2000. I also loved the 1996.
- 2001 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Dark black red in color; intriguing, beautiful cassis and blackberry nose (with a little caramel showing after time in the glass); very elegant, mocha and blackberry entry, sweet tannins; coffee and pepper finish (still really nice after two hours) 96 points
- 2000 Château Latour Grand Vin
Very black red; lovely, deep blackberry nose; rich, concentrated, tight but tasty blackberry fruit merged with sweet tannins; very long finish that is somewhat tannic and dry95+ points
- 1999 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Black, showing a little dark orange at the edges; vegetal, with berries, mocha, vanilla and caramel on the nose; thick, tight, dry tannins; low on fruit, but showing coffee flavors; long, tannic finish (The tannins did tone down and the wine opened up after an hour or so in the glass.) 94 points
- 1996 Château Latour Grand Vin
Olive and oregano nose, with earth and berries showing too after 30 minutes in the glass; good opening notes of cedary fruit; nice, lighter tasting mid-palate of herbaceous fruit; herbaceous tannins on the finish 95 points
- 1995 Château Latour Grand Vin
Reticent earthy, berry nose; tight, showing a little coffee and cedar fruit, but so tight I found it hard to drink now; earthy, dry finish 93 points
- 1991 Château Latour Grand Vin
Orange at the edges; fishy, gym socks nose; a little raisiny, but still tight, sandalwood mid-palate; very dry tannic finish 87 points
Older Vintages: 1990-1982
The second bottle of the 1990 was excellent; the first was tired, probably somewhat oxidized due to a defective cork. The 1988 was the best of the ’88 first growths I’ve sampled. Our L.A. contingent had attended a gourmet extravaganza pre-Latour dinner at the home of friends in Clayton the preceding night that featured the 1988 Lafite, Mouton, Haut Brion and Margaux. The 1982 was mature but showing very well.
- 1990 Château Latour Grand Vin
Intriguing sandalwood, cedar nose; nice, concentrated fruit initially, with very sweet tannins, a hint of currant, but fades out to thin, strawberry flavor; light sandalwood finish.
Since the mid-palate faded out so much, I asked Parker how he thought the ’90 was holding up. He said he was disappointed with it, that it was not representative of recent bottles he’s had, and did not taste like the relatively young wine that it is. This comment resulted in us being poured from a second bottle (and I greatly appreciated Parker’s honesty about this wine’s showing).
2nd bottle: Much younger tasting, with fresher fruit, and lovely, well-resolved tannins.98 points
- 1988 Château Latour Grand Vin
Good color; nose of leather, cigar box, and a bit of tar; nice cedary opening notes; rich; turns to coffee on a big mid-palate; very long finish (Parker described it as “not showy, but good.”) 95+ points
- 1986 Château Latour Grand Vin
Nose hinted of Madeira, along with strawberries and cream; elegant, strawberry, coffee flavors; a little Burgundian on the finish. Drinking well now. (Parker said it was like the ’96, although taking a long time to develop.) 95 points
- 1985 Château Latour Grand Vin
Faint, smoky, strawberry nose; nice, spicy, strawberry and cedar mid-palate; light, good finish (Parker described it as “soft, easy, friendly” and “not real concentrated, but nice.”) 94 points
- 1982 Château Latour Grand Vin
Subtle cedar and coffee nose; lovely, graceful, sandalwood palate, still high in acid, with resolved tannins; long finish 97 points