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Wine Review: Louis Latour whites in the SuperValu French Wine Sale

I’ve already offered my thoughts on the De Mour Bordeaux wines in the SuperValu 2021 French Wine Sale, so now it’s the turn of the whites from Louis Latour. These are all guest wines courtesy of Irish importer / distributor Febvre, and so are not normally available in SuperValu.

My article in April on Latour’s Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne gave a brief overview of the Louis Latour stable; this article includes wines from three of the six divisions.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV

Simonnet-Febvre is a venerable and venerated Chablis house founded in 1840 and purchased by Latour in 2003. It is the only Chablis estate to produce sparkling wine, and reportedly Louis Latour himself celebrated the acquisition of a vineyard in 1891 by cracking open three bottles of Simonnet-Febvre. Better than buying from the Champenois?

The assemblage is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, and the dominance of the former is notable on both the nose and the palate; the nose shows piercing lemon and lime and fresh citrus is evident in the mouth. There is a creamy aspect to this fizz, most likely from some time ageing on fine lees. A fairly low dosage of 7 g/L keeps freshness to the fore.

Warning: if you try this as an alternative to an “extra dry” Prosecco you might well find this Crémant too sharp (it has more acidity and around half the sugar of such Proseccos. However, if you prefer fresher, drier wines then this might well be your cup of tea. It would be great as an aperitif or with freshly shucked oysters – and it’s an absolute steal at €18.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.00 down from €29.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2019

Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay

This wine is from Latour’s outpost in the…erm…Ardèche. It was established in 1979 with a simple Chardonnay, using Burgundian expertise to craft balanced wines in a different environment. The unoaked “Ardèche” wine was followed up by the first vintage of the Grand Ardèche in 1985. Fermentation and ten months’ maturation take place in oak barrels, 80% used and 20% new.

Oak really comes through on the nose, with lovely vanilla, toast and almonds. The nuts continue onto the palate which has texture, depth and great length, yet is perfectly balanced and poised.

This wine is made outside Burgundy but epitomises what great white Burgundy can be – all at a seriously bargain price.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.00 down from €22.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Louis Latour Chablis 2018

Louis Latour Chablis

Chablis has become something of a commodity for many people – it’s a brand in itself and often receives more recognition than producers’ name. Nearly all Chablis share certain characteristics: they are usually fresh and / or lean, with apple and citrus aspects. Some just stop right there, and there’s nothing wrong with those, especially if the price is right and the drinker just wants a simple, unoaked Chardonnay.

But some can offer more, much more – Julien Brocard’s La Boissonneuse is a great example of how good even AOC Chablis can be. I would put this wine in the same category; still unoaked and fresh but not lean, and most of all a fabulous intensity…the kind of intensity that makes you stare into the wine glass in wonder, before swiftly having another taste.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €20.00 down from €29.99 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Louis Latour Meursault 2018

Louis Latour Meursault

Meursault is the largest prestige AOC for white wine in the Côte d’Or and has been one of my favourites for over two decades. The wines are usually somewhat oaked and generous, though rarely dripping with butter as the archetypal Aussie Chard used to be, and develop earlier than the neighbouring (and even more prestigious appellations of Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet.

Latour’s Meursault is made with grapes grown on limestone soils then barrel fermented and matured for around ten months. If this sounds familiar then it’s the template that Latour used for the Grand Ardèche above. It’s a delicious yet subtle example, elegant and balanced yet with a profound depth of flavour. It’s not going to convert many of the ABC club but it’s a magnificent wine that Chardonnay and Burgundy lovers should seek out.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €45.00 down from €65.00 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and SuperValu.ie

Conclusion

It really comes down to price; if someone else is paying then my hand would go straight up for the Meursault as it’s the best wine of the four, though even with the significant sale reduction it is far from cheap. If I’m spending my own meagre pennies then it’s really a toss up between the Chablis and the Grand Ardèche – both are excellent wines and great value for money at the offer prices.

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.