2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Expert Ratings
BH 92-94 points
WE 95 points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Domaine Louis Latour 92-94pt Corton-Charlemagne Friendships -- With Benefits

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 Comte 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 cote, 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, due to simple rules of supply (there's never enough) and demand, rarely are the most ardent Chardonnay collectors invited to participate in extensive, vertical tastings of Grand Cru white Burgundy. Count us among the most fortunate. Our early interest in the Grand Cru Burgundies paved the way for 35-year friendships: Those friendships came with benefits, none greater than chez Louis Latour.

If Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet are best known for their opulence and limestone minerality, Latour's Corton-Charlemagne is most revered for its scintillating lemon curd vibrancy and almost unimaginable age-worthy structure. The annual retrospective Corton-Charlemagne tasting features 25 vintages of Latour's Grand Cru. Thanks to Bernard Retornaz, Louis Latour's affable Burgundy expert for treating us to a Chardonnay afternoon for the ages.

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 even if each bottle of Latour Corton-Charlemagne sang a distinct growing-season song, almost without fail, the wines remain 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 life!

But today, on this very first Grand Cru white Burgundy offering on WineAccess, we're not going to "sell" you on the merits of Corton-Charlemagne from "fat" or "lean" vintages. Instead, courtesy of M. Retornaz, we're swinging for the fences, proposing what most white Burgundy collectors believe to be the finest Corton-Charlemagne vintage since 1990!

The 2008 Corton-Charlemagne was one of the top two wines of the day, even if it's still a baby. Drawn from a steep 10 percent grade at the top of Aloxe-Corton, set at nearly 1,000 feet in elevation, the bedrock is made up of fine limestone and calcareous marl. After a cool growing season that came together beautifully under blue September skies, Latour would bring in just two tons per acre of tiny, golden berry clusters. Sugars were high (finished alcohol flirts with 14 percent). Acids were riveting.

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.

Allen 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 -- Allen Meadows, Burghound.com

"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, September 21, 2013

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