Highest rated vintages for Latour
There are only 10,800 cases (rather than the normal 15,000-20,000) of the 2003 Latour, a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot (13.3% finished alcohol). A prodigious effort, it boasts a saturated purple color as well as a gorgeous perfume of smoke, cedar, creme de cassis, flowers, crushed rocks, and blackberries. Massive and multi-layered, with huge richness and low acidity, it is about as unctuous as a young Latour can be. It could be compared to the 1982, but it may be even more pure, at least at this early stage, than that monumental wine. The level of intensity builds prodigiously in the mouth, and the finish lasts nearly a minute. Disarmingly accessible (although analytically the tannin level is high), I suspect it will ultimately shut down, but it was performing impeccably when I tasted it. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2040+. What can one say about proprietor Francois Pinault and his manager, Frederic Engerer? A strong argument can be made that in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, Latour produced the wine of the vintage, although it has plenty of competition in the Northern Medoc in 2003. Moreover, the bargains are the estate’s least expensive cuvee, Pauillac, followed by Les Forts de Latour, Latour’s second wine which continues to increase in quality.
A blend of 91.3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8.7% Merlot with just under 14% natural alcohol, the 2009 Latour is basically a clone of the super 2003, only more structured and potentially more massive and long lived. An elixir of momentous proportions, it boasts a dense purple color as well as an extraordinarily flamboyant bouquet of black fruits, graphite, crushed rocks, subtle oak and a notion of wet steel. It hits the palate with a thundering concoction of thick, juicy blue and black fruits, lead pencil shavings and a chalky minerality. Full-bodied, but very fresh with a finish that lasts over a minute, this is one of the most remarkable young wines I have ever tasted. Will it last one-hundred years? No doubt about it. Can it be drunk in a decade? For sure.
Always somewhat atypical (which I suspect will be the case with the more modern day 2003), the 1982 Latour has been the most opulent, flamboyant, and precocious of the northern Medocs, especially the St.-Juliens, Pauillacs, and St.-Estephes. It hasn’t changed much over the last 10-15 years, revealing sweet tannins as well as extraordinarily decadent, even extravagant levels of fruit, glycerin, and body. It is an amazing wine, and on several occasions, I have actually picked it as a right bank Pomerol because of the lushness and succulence of the cedary, blackberry, black currant fruit. This vintage has always tasted great, even in its youth, and revealed a precociousness that one does not associate with this Chateau. However, the 1982 is still evolving at a glacial pace. The concentration remains remarkable, and the wine is a full-bodied, exuberant, rich, classic Pauillac in its aromatic and flavor profiles. It’s just juiced up (similar to an athlete on steroids) and is all the better for it. This remarkable effort will last as long as the 1982 Mouton, but it has always been more approachable and decadently fruity. Drink it now, in 20 years, and in 50 years! Don’t miss it if you are a wine lover. Release price: ($350.00/case)
One of the perfect wines of the vintage, Frederic Engerer challenged me when I tasted the 2010 Latour at the estate, asking, “If you rate the 2009 one hundred, then how can this not be higher?” Well, the scoring system stops at 100, (and has for 34 years,) and will continue for as long as I continue to write about wine. Nevertheless, this blend of 90.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.5% Merlot, and .5% Petit Verdot hit 14.4% natural alcohol and represents a tiny 36% of their entire production. The pH is about 3.6, which is normal compared to the 3.8 pH of the 2009, that wine being slightly lower in alcohol, hence the combination that makes it more flamboyant and accessible. The 2010 is a liquid skyscraper in the mouth, building layers upon layers of extravagant, if not over-the-top richness with its hints of subtle charcoal, truffle, blackberry, cassis, espresso and notes of toast and graphite. Full-bodied, with wonderfully sweet tannin, it is a mind-boggling, prodigious achievement that should hit its prime in about 15 years, and last for 50 to 100. There is no denying the outrage and recriminations over the decision by the Pinault family and their administrator, Frederic Engerer, to pull Latour off the futures market next year. However, you can still buy these 2010s, although the first two wines are not likely to be released until they have more maturity, which makes sense from my perspective. Perhaps Latour may have offended a few loyal customers who were buying wines as futures, but they are trying to curtail all the interim speculation that occurs with great vintages of their wines (although only God knows what a great vintage of future Latour will bring at seven or eight years after the harvest). As a set of wines, the 2010s may be the Pinaults' and Engerer's greatest achievements to date. Of course, I suspect the other first-growth families won't want to hear that, nor will most of the negociants in Bordeaux, but it's just the way things are. Frederic Engerer, by no means the most modest of administrators at the first growths, thinks it would be virtually impossible to produce a wine better than this, and he may well be correct. If they gave out Academy Awards for great performances in wine, the Pinaults and Engerer would certainly fetch a few in 2010. P.S. Just so you don't worry, Engerer offered up the 2009 next to the 2010 to see if I thought it was still a 100-point wine, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, it still is.
A spectacular Latour, the 1996 may be the modern day clone of the 1966, only riper. This vintage, which is so variable in Pomerol, St.-Emilion, and Graves, was fabulous for the late-harvested Cabernet Sauvignon of the northern Medoc because of splendid weather in late September and early October. An opaque purple color is followed by phenomenally sweet, pure aromas of cassis infused with subtle minerals. This massive offering possesses unreal levels of extract, full body, intensely ripe, but abundant tannin, and a finish that lasts for nearly a minute. Classic and dense, it displays the potential for 50-75 years of longevity. Although still an infant, it would be educational to taste a bottle. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2050.
The 2000 Latour (a relatively abundant 14,000 cases compared to what they produced in 2009, 2008, or 2005) is “packed and stacked.” The extremely rich, black/purple color to the rim is followed by a wine with some subtle smoke, loads of minerals, a hint of vanilla, and plenty of creme de cassis as well as roasted meat and a slight scorched earth character. Broad, savory, and rich, the wine seems to be about 5 years away from full maturity and should drink well for at least 40-50 more years. A great effort, probably eclipsed only by 2003 and 2009.
Only 44% of the production made it into the dense ruby/purple-hued 2005 Latour, a powerful, backward, 12,000-case blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Petit Verdot and Merlot. As I wrote last year, this classic effort is built for the ages, and is largely destined to be drunk by our offspring rather than anyone over the age of 50 today. Complex aromas of crushed rocks, graphite, black cherries, creme de cassis, new saddle leather, and dried mushrooms are still tightly wound. The wine is full-bodied and powerful with exceptionally high tannin combined with zesty acidity, and laser-like focus. It will require 15 or more years of cellaring. I still prefer the 2003, but administrator Frederic Engerer says this “is more Latour.” Anticipated maturity: 2020-2060.
The wine of the vintage? There are only 10,000 cases of this extraordinarily rich, dense 2002 that is as powerful as the 2003 (even the alcohol levels are nearly the same, 12.85%) . It is dark ruby/purple to the rim, with notes of English walnuts, crushed rocks, black currants, and forest floor, dense, full-bodied, and opulent, yet classic with spectacular aromatics, marvelous purity, and a full-bodied finish that lasts just over 50+ seconds. Huge richness and the sweetness of the tannin are somewhat deceptive as this wine seems set for a long life. Administrator Frederic Engerer seems to be more pleased with what Latour achieved in 2002 than in any other recent vintage. Hats off to him for an extraordinary accomplishment in a vintage that wouldn’t have been expected to produce the raw materials to achieve something at this level of quality. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2045.
A beauty, the opaque dense purple-colored 1995 exhibits jammy cassis, vanillin, and minerals in its fragrant but still youthful aromatics. Medium to full-bodied, with exceptional purity, superb concentration, and a long, intense, ripe, 40-second finish, this is a magnificent example of Latour. As the wine sat in the glass, scents of roasted espresso and toasty new oak emerged. This classic will require considerable cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2050.
A terrific effort from Administrator Frederic Engerer and owner Francois Pinault, the dark ruby/purple-tinged 2004 Latour exhibits a strong cassis character intermixed with notes of crushed rocks, earth, cedar, and forest floor. Racy, elegant, but powerful with medium to full body, and sweet tannin, it will benefit from 5-7 years of cellaring, and should keep for three decades. It is a very impressive offering. Also tasted: 2004 Pauillac (87; $38.00)