Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Louis Latour Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne 2017

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.

Louis Latour

There are six parts to the Latour stable:

  1. Louis Latour – Burgundy: the original home of the Domaine, more details below
  2. Louis Latour – Les Pierres Dorées: southern Beaujolais where the clay and limestone soils are suitable for Pinot Noir
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Simonnet-Febvre – Chablis: an outstanding Chablis house founded in 1840, bought by Louis Latour in 2003
  6. 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.

Corton

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.

Corton-Charlemagne

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.

Charlemagne

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 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
Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 1)

The end of summer in Ireland means it’s time for SuperValu’s French Wine Sale, running from 5th to 26th September in store and online.  As well as the usual favourites there will be a dozen “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Part 2 will look at some great Bordeaux wines from the sale; this part 1 looks at some of the others I enjoyed:

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France 2018* (12.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc

For this cuvée La Perrière blended Sauvignon Blanc grapes from their home in the Loire with others sourced from the Languedoc and the Gers, adding ripe southern fruit to crisp Loire grapes.  In my view this has been very successful as overall it presents appealing ripeness with a fresh finish.  The nose and palate reflect the Gs: gooseberry, grapefruit and grass.

La Petite Perrière Rosé 2017* (11.5%, €11.99 down to €9.00 at SuperValu)

La Petite Perrier Rose

It is rare for me to recommend a rosé, and outside of quality sparkling or excellent wines like Domaine Tempier of Bandol, I actually prefer the simpler, cheaper wines to the fancier ones.  This doesn’t have a celebrity owner or producer, but it’s accessible and affordable, with appealing red fruit and a fresh finish.  Why can’t more rosés be like this?

Alma Cersius Coteaux de Béziers Rouge 2017* (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Diapositive 1The IGP Coteaux de Béziers is in the Languedoc’s Hérault department and up until 2015 was known as Coteaux-du-Libron, the change effected for better name recognition.  The IGP regulations are very wide in terms of permitted grape varieties, but the three used here are among the most well known: 50% Syrah, 25%Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a fruit forward wine with very soft tannins, showing blackcurrant, plum and raspberry notes.  A great quaffing wine to have in the cupboard when friends pop round for a drink.

Coteaux du Giennois Alchimie 2018 (13.5%, €14.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Alchimie White.jpg

In years past I have reviewed the 2014 and 2015 vintages so it’s fair to say that it’s a favourite.  The vines are on sandy soil, deposited when the Loire was broader and slow-moving at the edges.  This makes for a soft, gentle wine which it great for sipping.  Wild yeast fermentation adds a bit of interest.

Guy Saget Sancerre 2018 (13.0%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Sancerre

Into more serious territory now, a wine aged for seven months on the lees in stainless steel tank.  This is an expressive wine with a slightly saline, mineral character backed up by floral notes and tangy fruit.  The 2018 vintage is drinking now but if well kept should develop nicely over the next few years.

Guy Saget Pouilly-Fumé 2016 (12.5%, €19.99 down to €15.00 at SuperValu)

Guy Saget Pouilly

From Sancerre we now cross directly from the left (southern) bank of the Loire to the right bank and Pouilly-Fumé.  Sancerre has a more rolling landscape and more diverse soils, whereas Pouilly-Fumé is flatter, and also closer to the river.  We also have an additional two years of bottle age with this 2016, which shows white flowers and green fruit in an elegant package.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV* (12.0%, €26.99 down to €19.00 at SuperValu)

Cremant-de-bourgogne-Brut

This was one of my highlights of the tasting, an excellent traditional method sparkling from the Chablis area (the black grapes coming from the Auxerrois).  Simmonet-Febvre is in fact the only producer of Crémant de Bourgogne in the far north of Burgundy and has been making it since 1840.  The blend is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, with the wine resting on its lees after the second fermentation for 24 months.  This is notably well in excess of the 9 months required for non-vintage crémant and even the 15 months required for NV Champagne.  On pouring it has a nice weight to it, with citrus and red fruits lifted by some bready notes.  A classy wine!

Mégalithe Sancerre 2016* (12.5%, €29.99 down to €22.00 at SuperValu)

La Perrière Sancerre Blanc Mégalithe_2016

Now we have a different beast entirely.  Of course this is 100% Sauvignon Blanc but 40% of the must is fermented (with wild yeast) and matured in new French oak.  Over this eight to nine month period the fine lees are stirred regularly.  The other 60% is vinified in stainless steel and the two batches blended before bottling.  It has a little more weight and funk than the Guy Saget wines above but not that much compared to, say, Greywacke Wild Sauvignon.  This is a gentle, gorgeous wine that will drink well now and for the next few years.

Louis Latour Meursault 2017* (13.5%, €59.99 down to €42.00 at SuperValu)

Louis Latour Meursault

As long as I have been into wine Meursault has been a premium wine with a premium price.  After the Montrachet twins it’s the next most celebrated white wine commune of the Côte de Beaune, with a reputation for medium to full bodies oak-aged wines.  Louis Latour’s history goes back to 1797 and has been in family hands ever since.  Outside of the Côte d’Or the firm also owns Simmonet-Febvre (see above) and produces wines in the Ardèche.

The Louis Latour 2017 Meursault is fermented in oak barrels where it also goes through MLF.  Maturation is also in medium toast oak barrels (from its own cooperage), 15% of which are new.  This is a generous wine with lovely heft and mouthfeel, full of soft fruits and a touch if vanilla from the oak.  2017 is a fairly accessible vintage but if put away for another year it would be even more of a treat.