I have just returned from the most exceptional tasting and dinner I have ever experienced, and might ever experience. A celebration of a very good and impossibly generous friend’s birthday. The setting: Pauillac, and its finest property: Ch. Latour. This might seem a bit controversial but let’s face it: Mouton and Lafite, the latter particularly so, can and have made some pretty good wines but who is the Daddy? Who is the King? Lafite might get the points and yes, Mouton is building some pretty serious form but there is a class, a breeding, an ethereal regality in Latour. It’s best, and even the juice knows it. The grapes would even be cocky if they weren’t so well-mannered.
So, the challenge, the task, the treat. 1999 to 2008 inclusive, in random (sort of) order and we don’t know which one is which. Which (a) means one can’t be prejudiced (“one”: we’re at Latour) and (b), much as one is a little scared of coming a cropper and rating the wrong wine as the best of the bunch, it really gets you thinking about what’s in your glass.
Herewith the notes/results. Great wines don’t need long notes, and they all tasted of Latour, or impossibly good, regal Pauillac at least.
Wine 1: Graphite minerality. Taut fruit. Firm. Lots of structure. A little austere. A good start.
Wine 2: Not as open on the nose but more developed, more mature in the mouth. Long. Getting better with air.
At this stage I’m still trying to get my bearings without the satnav that is a label.
Wine 3: Again a little closed but something very serious definitely hiding here. Some mintiness. And real muscle in the mouth. Doesn’t seem as long as wine 2 (interesting in retrospect).
Wine 4: Darker. Bubble gum nose betraying its youth. Simple but very, very charming. A couple of the pros reckon this to be the 08. I try not to be influenced.
Wine 5: This be serious. Something really rather good here on the nose. Something deep. And very, very complete. Just getting some bearings, its completeness had me thinking it might be the 00.
Wine 6: This not as obviously powerful, but lots here nonetheless. Laid back.
Wine 7: Rich mocha. Legs open. This is the 03, standing out like a hooker on the corner.
Wine 8: Very young again. And full and rich and edgy in the mouth. Plenty of tannin here but everything in its place and all here. Very, very good. I thought this was the 05 (as did my neighbour).
Wine 9: Very, very complete. Forward, open. Very long. I’m getting lost again here. Woods, trees, that sort of thing.
Wine 10: Again this is a biggy, this is one of the serious ones. Muscle. Balance, length. Perfection.
My favourites, in no particular order, were wines 5, 8 & 10. I’m an 03 snob and knew what it was so rather unfairly discounted it; 5, 8 & 10 turned out to be 2002, 2008 & 2005 respectively. I think I missed the 2000 in the woods and, a very clear point is that Latour just don’t make anything other than exceptional wines.
What is the point here? There are many; here are just a few:
Point 1: Stick a blindfold on and you learn much.
Point 2: Ch. Latour hasn’t made anything less than exceptional for at least ten years.
Point 3: Burn your vintage chart, forget the points, and see point 1.
Point 4: Big Baltimore Bob might be right about 2008 Latour.
Point 5: 2002 Latour is a bargain.
The 2007 was rather lovely and seductive in a child-like way. This was wine 4. The 2000 that I missed was wine 3. This pissed me off because I (a) love 2000s and (b) reckon I can spot them. Wine 1 was the 2004, and the first wine is always hardest to judge because it is setting the benchmark. Wine 6 was the 1999 which was beautifully loose-knit and almost ready. Wine 9 was the 2006, which is seriously, seriously good.
Hard work this tasting lark. And then we started drinking….
Point 6, an addendum from my host: “the thing about the different vintages of Latour is that they are first and foremost Latour”. Which sums it up.