2003 Louis Latour Corton Grancey Grand Cru
 
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Vineyards of Louis Latour 2003 Corton Grancey Grand Cru — 10 Years Later

It was a European summer unlike any in memory. We recall sitting in Jean-Jacques Corsin's kitchen on an August afternoon in 2003. The house was dark. Typically, when one closes the shutters of the old stone farmhouses of Burgundy, regardless of the temperature outside, it remains cool inside the house. But not that day. Young Jeremy Corsin, Jean-Jacques' 13-year-old son, couldn't help but run out to the patio to check the thermometer. At 3 pm, the mercury reached 43 degrees — 110 Fahrenheit!

Even in Britain, in the late summer of 2003, rails buckled. The London Eye, the giant ferris wheel on the South Bank of the Thames, was shut down; the heat inside the pods had become too oppressive. London's M25, the rocade that circles the town, was limited to just two lanes after the surface of the highway started to melt.

In Burgundy, 2003 would prove to be the hottest summer in recent history. How hot was it? Last fall, picking began in the first week of October. In 2003, winegrowers were obliged to cancel their traditional late-August vacations as the first calls to harvest came around August 20th.

We first tasted the glorious 2003 red Burgundies from barrel in the fall of 2004. The wines were almost uniformly purple/black in color. Natural sugar levels were historically high, with many of the Grand Crus exceeding 14% in alcohol. Acids seems soft, but many winemakers suggested that on the palate, these ultra-concentrated, weighty Pinot Noirs possessed sneaky vibrancy that defied the results of lab analysis. "Il faut attendre," we were told again and again: we need to wait and see.

On July 2nd, we were treated to a 33-wine lineup at Louis Latour's Château Corton Grancey. While touring the Hitchcockian catacombs of the château, we spotted a pile of sweating bottles neatly stacked in a dank, stone niche. A small chalkboard placard lay on top, marked "CG 2003." We took one look at each other and immediately tabled any thoughts of politesse. We asked our host if he'd treat us to the rarest of Burgundian treats — a trip a decade back in time. Boris Champy, the brilliant régisseur chez Latour, was more than happy to oblige.

What happened in Burgundy as train tracks were melting in Britain and the London Eye shut down? As we sipped, smelled, and swirled the 2003 Corton Grancey over the course of two hours in the château tasting room, Louis-Fabrice Latour offered a glimpse into the shocking 2003 vintage in Burgundy.

"January and February of 2003 were actually cold," Champy began. "But March was very, very hot. Bud-break on Corton Grancey occurred in early March, one of the earliest dates on record at Latour. Then there was a severe frost in mid-April which cost us nearly 35% of the crop. The intense heat began in June. The vines were racing. We had a any number of 100-degree days and as a result, we barely pulled a leaf, doing everything possible to shroud bunches from the sun. A bit of rain in August proved to be particularly important. The vines of Corton Grancey are old. Roots burrow meters underground searching out water reserves. The soils are rich in limestone, but also in red clay, which retains water exceedingly well. Despite what might have been reported in the press at the time, we had no desiccation in 2003. No shrivel or blistering. We harvested at daybreak and we harvested quickly. The crop was very small, but very healthy. I won't say we weren't alarmed by the extreme heat, but in the end — even back then — we believed the vintage had to the potential for a very, very special Corton Grancey."

The 2003 Louis Latour Corton Grancey Grand Cru is a knockout 10 years after bottling, somehow locked in suspended animation. Brilliant, dark ruby to the rim, showing no sign whatsoever of the wine's age. The nose remains perfectly primary, a voluptuous mix of black raspberry and black cherry preserves, tinged with sweet spice and a faint splash of kirsch. Massively concentrated on the attack — if it wasn't for the underlying vibrancy, almost more Russian River than Côte de Beaune — packed with black- and red-fruit preserves, yet still light on its feet. Almost too delicious now, this spectacular 2003 Grand Cru remains poised for the long haul. When will it hit its peak? No time soon.



Tasting Notes

2003 Louis Latour Corton Grancey Grand Cru
"The 2003 Louis Latour Corton Grancey Grand Cru is a knockout 10 years after bottling, somehow locked in suspended animation. Brilliant, dark ruby to the rim, showing no sign whatsoever of the wine's age. The nose remains perfectly primary, a voluptuous mix of black raspberry and black cherry preserves, tinged with sweet spice and a faint splash of kirsch. Massively concentrated on the attack — if it wasn't for the underlying vibrancy, almost more Russian River than Côte de Beaune — packed with black- and red-fruit preserves, yet still light on its feet. Almost too delicious now, this spectacular 2003 Grand Cru remains poised for the long haul. When will it hit its peak? No time soon."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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