2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Expert Rating
BH 92-94 points
(Read the full review below)
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Aloxe-Corton 92-94pts and Twenty-Five Years of Corton-Charlemagne

Our first trip to Burgundy was in the summer of 1979. Enthralled by the honeysuckle and lemon curd minerality of the region's whites, we spent a week knocking on cellar doors in Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Corton. While Burgundians are hardly known for their hospitality, we managed to squeeze our way into the caves of Comtes Lafon, Michel Niellon, Robert Ampeau and Pierre Morey. Once inside, we tasted, listened and eyeballed the ubiquitous color-coded topographic map that depicted each vineyard on every slope of the Côte de Beaune.

The vineyards were categorized according to quality, part of the classification system that has evolved into the world-famous Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. The lesser sites, largely positioned at the bottom of the hillside where soils are deeper and more clayey, were called "villages." A bit further up the slope, on the second rung of la côte, you would find the First Growth Meursault Perrières and Poruzots, Puligny-Montrachet Combettes and Referts, and the stunning Chassagne-Montrachet Caillerets (truly a Grand Cru in our book). Finally, there were just five Grand Cru vineyards, four of which were situated high on the center cut of the incline. Proprietors who owned Chardonnay rows in Le Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet counted their holdings by the tenth of an hectare (approximately 1/5 of an acre). Today, a single hectare of Le Montrachet — if such a massive holding ever went up for sale — would fetch upwards of $3,000,000.

The fifth Grand Cru vineyard is located several kilometers away. The story of how Le Charlemagne came to be planted to Chardonnay captures the essence of Burgundian folklore like few other tales. In the late 8th century AD, Charles the Great (aka "Charlemagne") noted that the snow in certain sections of the hillside above Aloxe-Corton was first to melt, and ordered that only that section be planted to red grape vines. A couple decades later, Charlemagne's fourth wife Luitgard, tired of the crusty, red wine drippings on the white beard of the king, ordered that a portion of the hill be pulled up and replanted with white grape varieties — a section that is today known as Corton-Charlemagne.

Unfortunately for even the most ardent Burgundy collectors, few are invited to participate in extensive, vertical tastings of Grand Cru whites. You can count us among the fortunate few. Our early interest in Burgundy paved the way for 35-year relationships with the top names on the Côte — none more renown than Louis Latour.

Thanks again to Bernard Retornaz, Louis Latour's affable Burgundy expert, for treating us to a Corton-Charlemagne tasting for the ages that would include 25 vintages of Latour's most heralded Grand Cru.

Generally speaking, we tend to divide white Burgundy vintages into three categories. There are the warm, soft, opulent vintages (i.e. 1971, 1976, 1983 and 2009), the cold, lean, high acid vintages (1984, 1994, 2004), and the truly great harvests where ripeness and backbone meet in perfect harmony (1978, 1985, 1995, 2005, 2008, 2010). But almost regardless of the vintage, on that brilliant fall afternoon, each bottle of Latour Corton-Charlemagne seemed youthful, locked in suspended animation.

By all rights, the low-acid 1971s should have fallen apart a decade ago. Not here. Ditto for the 1976 and 1983. As to the low-pH 1984, the color is golden, and honeysuckle salinity has taken center stage. Shuck a dozen oysters and call it a day! But the wine of the day on almost every scorecard was the wildly phenolic 2008, a staggering Chardonnay that seems poised for a 30-year ride into the Côte de Beaune sunset.

The 2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne, in the opinions of both Bernard and Burghound's Allen Meadows, is one of the greatest Grand Crus ever crafted chez Louis Latour. Brilliant greenish-golden to the rim with piercing aromas of Granny Smith apple, pear liqueur and anise. Bright, tightly wound and weighty on the attack, this is a finely layered, but massive Corton-Charlemagne, just beginning to expose its richly mineral underpinnings. Drink now, if you must, or far better, lay this Grand Cru Chardonnay down for a decade … or three.

Meadows, whose subscription newsletter Burghound has become bedtime reading to Burgundy collectors worldwide, called this sensational 2008 Grand Cru "tension filled … striking wine … gorgeous," before lobbing on 92-94 points.

Tasting Notes

2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
"An upper register and highly complex nose of green apples, white pear and citrus notes introduces almost painfully intense, pure and impressively powerful big-bodied and overtly muscular flavors that possess an almost aggressive minerality on the palate staining, tension-filled and driving finish. This is really a striking wine that is built to age as there is an abundance of dry extract. Gorgeous."
92-94 points -- Burghound

"Brilliant greenish-golden to the rim with piercing aromas of granny smith apple, pear liqueur and anise. Bright, tightly wound and weighty on the attack, this is a finely layered, but massive Corton-Charlemagne, just beginning to expose its richly mineral underpinnings. If you lack patience, decant for two hours before pouring into oversized Riedel. Far better — lay this phenomenal Chardonnay down for a decade … or two … or three."
-- WineAccess Travel Log


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