Limestone Hills and the Monks of Cluny
The monks of Cluny first planted the limestone hillsides of Viré-Clessé 900 years ago. As Bernard Retornaz, Louis-Fabrice Latour’s right-hand man, says, “Had the monks witnessed a vintage like 2015, the men of the cloth would have become full-time vignerons!” He wasn’t lying. The 2015 Louis Latour Viré-Clessé Les Champs is brilliant Chardonnay — rich, juicy, and weighty, with all of the hot-vintage opulence braced by stinging acid backbone. Leading the way amongst under-$20 White Burgundies at a razor-sharp $17.99 per bottle.
After 200+ years in the wine trade, the vineyard holdings of Maison Louis Latour are the stuff of legends. Grand Cru and Premier Cru lieux-dits in Corton-Charlemagne, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Meursault, among others, have yielded gorgeously pure, high-scoring wines that have impressed every critic in the world. The top bottlings can age for decades, and collectors don’t bat an eye at triple-digit prices. 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,” he said. “But when the kids are at the table, we toast the monks of Cluny and we drink great vintages of Viré-Clessé.”
2015 was indisputably one such vintage. From January to April, temperatures were mild. Absent any kind of climatic stress, the vines got off to a quick start. June and July were stifling-hot, but then, as if on cue in early August, the weather pattern shifted, ushering in a series of cooler, cloudy days, punctuated by sporadic rainfall that rejuvenated thirsty vines. Another blast of heat and warm winds at the end of August “blow-dried” limestone hillsides, setting the stage for a glorious harvest and one of the richest, purest wines ever to be grown from this pristine plot in Viré-Clessé.
Editor-in-Chief, Wine Access