2009 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Expert Ratings
WS 93 points
BH 93 points
(Read the full reviews below)
 
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Dinner in Beaune with Louis-Fabrice Latour Grand Cru Madness on Rue D'Alsace

In 2010, the world economy seemed to be teetering at the edge of the abyss. The largest banks in the country were said to be holding the government hostage, demanding bailouts.

The price of real estate plunged, not only in Scottsdale, Lake Tahoe, and Fort Lauderdale, but on Central Park and in Palo Alto. The middle class, worried about the value of its homes and kids' college tuition bills, started cracking open piggy banks, counting pennies. Even in the circles of the super-rich, we're now told, billionaires stopped flaunting their wealth. Given the circumstances, it just seemed in bad taste.

If you wanted to come to understand how much has changed on the high end of the market, and why there are bidding wars for Upper East Side penthouse apartments with list prices in the tens of millions, you only needed to pull up a chair at our Rue D'Alsace dinner table with Louis-Fabrice Latour.

If Latour is one of the wealthiest landholders in Burgundy, he's also one of the most straightforward and open. Three months ago, Louis-Fabrice told us, in what has to go down as the most outrageously expensive land grab in the history of the wine industry, luxury goods corporate giant LVMH purchased a 21.4-acre Pinot Noir parcel on the Côte de Nuits. That walled-in Grand Cru vineyard is called the Clos des Lambrays.

"What did LVMH pay?" we asked.

"It's madness to even talk about Grand Cru pricing in Burgundy today. It's like Central Park or the Champs Elysees. The price is what someone is crazy enough to pay," Latour answered. "What did LVMH pay? They paid $140,000,000!"

We tried to do the math in our heads. An acre of Clos des Lambrays yields about 2.5 tons of Pinot Noir per year. In a good year, the vineyard might produce 50 tons, or about 3,000 cases. It didn't add up. "How long will it take for them to pay off the investment?"

The largest landholder of Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne just laughed. "If all goes really well? If prices continue to go through the roof? If there are no more hail storms like the one last week? If there are no more Great Recessions?" Louis-Fabrice shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe two or three HUNDRED years!"


Twenty Years of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne

Wine Spectator Vertical TastingThe next day, we met Louis-Fabrice and his régisseur at Latour's Château Corton Grancey. High above the château and the village of Aloxe-Corton, on a perfectly exposed southwest facing of the Côte de Beaune, the reddish soils are bleached white by fist-sized chunks of limestone. That gigantic 27-acre swath at the very top of the slope is Louis Latour's Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne.

On June 30th, Wine Spectator published an excellent piece by Burgundy expert Bruce Sanderson after a 19-vintage Corton-Charlemagne tasting with Louis-Fabrice Latour. As Sanderson would report, while Latour's Corton-Charlemagne is always terrifically mineral and precisely honed, each vintage bears the signature of the growing season from which it was drawn. The 1993, for example — which Louis-Fabrice also chose for our dinner in Beaune — came from what was thought to be a middling year. Still, 20 years after bottling, Sanderson was stunned by the wine's vibrancy, complexity, and youthfulness.

"In challenging vintages, our Corton-Charlemagne often doesn't open up for a decade," explained régisseur Boris Champy. "But in rich vintages, like 1990, 2002, 2009, and 2010, the Chardonnay is delicious almost immediately, even if it will continue to age effortlessly for 20-25 years."

In four hours at the tasting table at Château Corton Grancey, we tasted 32 reds and whites, including five vintages of Corton-Charlemagne — 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. At 3 pm, per his boss's instructions, Champy popped one last cork.

The summer of 2009 was quite warm in Burgundy. Harvest came unusually early. On the steep slopes of Corton-Charlemagne, the crop was pristine. Bunches were beautifully formed, regular and perfectly clean. In most years, rigorous sorting is done first in the vines at picking, then on the sorting table at the château. In 2009, there was little sorting to be done.

If there's a knock on the white Burgundies of 2009, it's that they can be almost too forward and lush, lacking sufficient backbone for the long haul. Our last bottle of the day showed off Champy's remarkable intuition for his vines. As a result of picking a full week before most of their neighbors — as Sanderson aptly reported — the 2009 Corton-Charlemagne combined luscious apple/pear/honeysuckle richness with exquisite crispness and precision.

Louis-Fabrice Latour had saved the best for last.

The 2009 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne, while absolutely luscious now, is still in its infancy. Pale green and faintly golden in hue with a mouthwatering nose of ripe citrus, honeysuckle, anise, and orchard pit, showing great pitch and aromatic delineation. Rich, ripe, dense, and unusually opulent on the attack, yet still showing off classical Grand Cru restraint, the finish remains bracing (pH is a stinging 3.15!), arguing eloquently for 10-15 years of cellar slumber.



Tasting Notes

2009 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
"Candied apple and lemon flavors are highlighted by butter and grilled almond notes in this opulent white. Concentrated and creamy, with a hint of seashore that adds another dimension. The saturated finish echoes the butter and nut themes. Best from 2013 through 2025."
93 points -- Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator

"A discreet touch of wood sets off aromas of dried rose petal, lemon grass and green apple that precede rich, full and obviously well-muscled big-bodied flavors that possess an intense minerality on the powerful, driving and palate staining finish that delivers simply terrific persistence. This imposing effort is most impressive and should offer up to a decade of potential improvement."
93 points -- Allen Meadows, Burghound

"The 2009 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne, while absolutely luscious now, is still in its infancy. Pale green - faintly golden in hue with a mouthwatering nose of ripe citrus, honeysuckle, anise, and orchard pit, showing great pitch and aromatic delineation. Rich, ripe, dense, and unusually opulent on the attack, yet still showing off classical Grand Cru restraint, the finish remains bracing (pH is a stinging 3.15!), arguing eloquently for 10-15 years of cellar slumber."
-- WineAccess Travel Log


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