On the Trail

Latour's Quality Runs Deep

Jeff Garneau

We were fortunate enough to visit Château Latour during our 2016 En Primeur trip and I (Jason) was pinching myself from the second we stepped onto the property. I never expected to see the actual fort of Les Forts fame (the second wine of Latour) in person, let alone step foot in the tasting room of this legendary estate. Latour is one of this world's greatest wines—many people consider to be the best. As we walked inside to our appointment, at the end of the table—following the 2016 line up—was the 2012 Pauillac de Latour, the estate's third wine after Les Forts. Upon tasting, I was immediately transported back to when the first 2012s were reaching US shores and arriving at K&L. This wine reminded me of how much I loved that vintage. A wonderful expression of harvest and the château, it displays lovely purity of fruit and that characteristic 2012 bright fresh acidity. A combination of complex savory, mineral tones and exotic spice dominated the seamless offering. The wine has wonderful poise and polish, with the Latour thumbprint throughout. 

What exact do we mean when we say "second wine" and "third wine," you might ask? Each year, after the initial selection is made for the Grand Vin, and for the second label, Les Forts de Latour, some of the remaining lots are used to produce a third label: Pauillac, an "appellation" wine. Also included are grapes from some of the younger vines on the estate, as well as from outlying vineyards. The “Pauillac” bottling will usually include a higher proportion of Merlot and is intended for earlier consumption, requiring less aging than Latour’s more prestigious labels. When we tasted the 2012 Pauillac de Latour at the chateau in early April it was good enough to compare very favorably with a barrel sample of the excellent 2016 edition. Again, it's very much in the Latour style: structured, bold, and black-fruited. Very generous with loads of sweet fruit and good concentration. Tannins are quite fine. Drinkable now or over the next decade. Given the pricing for First Growths these days, this wine represents one of the great bargains in Bordeaux.

-Jason Marwedel and Jeff Garneau