2012 Louis Latour Vire-Clesse Les Champs
 
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Abbey of Cluny France White Burgundy Foresight and the Monks of Cluny

The Abbaye de Cluny was founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine, in the year 910. While only about one-tenth of the former Benedictine monastery remains intact, thousands flock to Cluny each summer to begin the trek to Santiago de Compostela.

But while the monks of Cluny were renowned for their rigid adherence to Rule of St. Benedict, on the calcareous slopes of Burgundy, the monks are better remembered for their gastronomic excesses when they weren't deep in prayer. Despite their monastic discipline, when it came to food and wine, the brothers took a different view. Instead of limiting themselves to the traditional fare of broth and porridge, the monks ate very well, raising farm chickens for roasting — a luxe in France at the time — while engaging a full vineyard crew to determine where wine grapes could be grown on the east-facing hillsides of Mâcon.

After much careful study, one village stood out from all others. The slopes above the tiny hamlet of Viré were strewn with chunks of white limestone, much like today's Premier Cru and Grand Cru holdings of Meursault and Montrachet. In the 12th century, over 900 years ago, in what can only be described as visionary viticultural awareness, the monks planted Chardonnay in what is now the most revered appellation of the Mâconnais, Viré-Clessé.

Today, Louis-Fabrice Latour is one of the largest landholders on the Côte de Beaune, holder of a gigantic 27-acre swath of Corton-Charlemagne above the family's Corton Grancey in Aloxe-Corton. But when we asked the propriétaire who can afford to drink Montrachet and Corton Clos du Roi seven nights per week what he sips when he's not swirling Grand Crus in oversized Riedel, Louis-Fabrice didn't miss a beat.

"Chez Bocuse, Troisgros, or Guy Savoy, I like old vintages of Corton-Charlemagne. But when the kids are at the table, we toast the monks of Cluny and we drink great vintages of Viré-Clessé."

The winter of 2011-2012 was fairly mild but dry. March came in like a lamb, with a series of warm days more typical of summer than spring. The Chardonnay on Louis-Fabrice Latour's Les Champs got off to a fast start, only to see the maturation cycle stop in its tracks when April, May, June, and even early July shivered with a bevy of chilly, and sometimes rainy afternoons. The vines were now well behind schedule.

"We were all worried," Louis-Fabrice confided at Corton Grancey. "The fruit set was small — not a bad thing for quality, but terrible on the balance sheet. Up until the third week of July, the outdoor swimming pools around Meursault were covered. We'd yet to see a day of summer. Finally, on July 21st, a cleansing wind began to blow from the north. The days were mild, but the weather was excellent. August would be much the same. We harvested a tiny crop off our holding in Viré-Clessé in the third week of September. Quality was exquisite."

The 2012 Louis Latour Viré-Clessé Les Champs is pale green-gold to the rim, infused with piercing aromas of apple, pear, and quince, tinged with anise and orchard pit. Vinified in stainless steel to avoid muddling this luscious white Burgundy's exquisite fruit purity, the attack is both fleshy and juicy, finishing with the bracing limestone backbone that lured the monks of Cluny to Viré 900 years ago.



Tasting Notes

2012 Louis Latour Vire-Clesse Les Champs
"The 2012 Louis Latour Viré-Clessé Les Champs is pale green-gold to the rim, infused with piercing aromas of apple, pear, and quince, tinged with anise and orchard pit. Vinified in stainless steel to avoid muddling this luscious white Burgundy's exquisite fruit purity, the attack is both fleshy and juicy, finishing with the bracing limestone backbone that lured the monks of Cluny to Viré 900 years ago."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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