Way back before the pandemic I attended a tasting of wines from the Louis Latour stable . There were lots of excellent wines, but one in particular stood out for me, the Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne. Before we get into the wine itself, we take a brief look at the different labels of Louis Latour and take a fly-by of the Hill of Corton.
There are six parts to the Latour stable:
- Louis Latour – Burgundy: the original home of the Domaine, more details below
- Louis Latour – Les Pierres Dorées: southern Beaujolais where the clay and limestone soils are suitable for Pinot Noir
- Louis Latour – Ardèche: south-eastern department, just west of the break between the northern and southern Rhône wine regions, mainly planted to Chardonnay and some Viognier
- Louis Latour – Var: a department on the south coast; vines were planted for the first time an hour or so north of Toulon. Clay and limestone soils are again most suitable for Pinot Noir
- Simonnet-Febvre – Chablis: an outstanding Chablis house founded in 1840, bought by Louis Latour in 2003
- Henry Fessy – Beaujolais: a well-established Brouilly-based producer founded in 1888, bought by Louis Latour in 2008
In the UK the group also has a company called Louis Latour Agencies which was founded in 1990 to represent the group in the UK market and since then has built up a small portfolio of other producers.
Focus on Domaine Louis Latour
Louis Latour proudly state their founding year as 1797, although vineyards were first bought by Denis Latour in 1731. The family moved to their current base of Aloxe-Corton under Jean Latour in 1768, with vineyards slowly being acquired as they became available. One important decision in Corton-Charlemagne was the decision to replant Chardonnay (grafted onto resistant rootstocks) after phylloxera had killed the Aligoté and Pinot Noir vines in their plots. More recent developments have focused on sustainable viticulture and environmental certification.
Domaine Louis Latour now produces 21 Grand Cru wines across Burgundy, with 11 in the Côte de Beaune and 10 in the Côte de Nuits. Its Premier Crus are more Beaune-biased with 41, plus 11 in the Côte de Nuits and 2 in the Côte Chalonnaise.
The Hill of Corton and its Appellations
The Hill of Corton is located in the north of the Côte de Beaune. The top is densely wooded and bereft of vines. Below that the topsoil has eroded leaving mainly limestone and marl which is most suitable for white varieties. The lower slopes of the hill have more clay, iron and other materials making them more suitable for black varieties.
There are three overlapping Grand Cru appellations on the hill. In practice, if there is a choice for a given site, vignerons will choose Corton for red wines and Corton-Charlemagne for whites.
The largest Grand Cru in the Côte de Beaune covering 100.6 hectares, of which 98 are Pinot Noir and 2.6 Chardonnay. Unusually for a Côte d’Or Grand Cru – though not dissimilar from Chablis Grand Cru which is around the same size – the name of individual climats is often stated on the front label. The three communes which the AOC covers are:
- Aloxe-Corton (16 climats)
- Ladoix-Serrigny (9 climats)
- Pernand-Vergelesses (7 climats)
Corton is the only Grand Cru for red wine in the Côte de Beaune.
The Corton-Charlemagne AOC is just for white wines and covers 57.7 hectares. As Corton above it extends into the same three communes, but does not usually name the individual climat on the front label. Whereas Corton covers the lower slopes of the hill, Corton-Charlemagne’s Chardonnay prefers the limestone further up.
This is a rarely seen AOC covering just 0.28 hectares; in practice the grapes harvested from this climat are blended in with others from Corton-Charlemagne.
Louis Latour Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne 2017
Louis Latour owns 10.5 hectares in Corton-Charlemagne and so is now the biggest landowner of the AOC. Latour’s plots have a south easterly aspect and the vines average 30 years old. All grapes are hand picked as late as possible – for optimum ripeness – at an average yield of 40 hl/ha.
Fermentation takes place in oak barrels made in Latour’s own cooperage. They are made from French oak – bien sûr – 100% new and with a medium toast. The wines go though full malolactic fermentation in those barrels then age for eight to ten months before bottling.
On pouring the 2017 is a pale straw colour in the glass. The nose has lifted aromas of nuts, smoke and vanilla. These notes continue through to the monumental palate which also has ripe stone and citrus fruits. There’s an impressive mineral streak which keeps the wine from feeling overblown or flabby.
This is one of the most expensive still white wines I’ve ever reviewed, so it’s difficult to assess it on a value for money basis, but it really is excellent and if you like Chardonnay it’s a wine you ought to try at least once in your life.
- ABV: 14.0%
- RRP: €170
- Stockists: no retail stockists at present, but a good independent wine shop should be able to order it for you
- Source: tasted at a trade event