The Sun Rising: 2009 Latour

Last week I tasted through just under 170 wines from the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. A full report is here.  In the meantime a few words on something rather special.  On a wine that has made me stop and think.  2009 Château Latour.

I had last tasted this wine sometime in the morning of April 13th, 2010. I remember the day, and the moment. Along with some of my former colleagues I was at Latour, the Silverback of Bordeaux, to taste the soon-to-be-released 2009s. These days at Latour you taste the three wines from the vintage in the barrels: Pauillac, Forts de Latour and the Grand Vin, followed by the current library release vintages of same. Back in those days you’d just taste the three wines from barrel, so: 2009 Pauillac, 2009 Forts de Latour and 2009 Latour. Here’s my barrel note on the Grand Vin:

“It even looks regal. There is class in the way it stains the glass. And again on the nose: lifted, elegant. All here. You chase the perfume, the restraint. And in the mouth this is perfection. I don’t want to spit. This is Latour. Hauntingly other-wordly. Phenomenal. Beyond words. Latour. Beyond the Gods. Celestial. Solar. I am lost for words. Perfection. Seamless. And first and foremost Latour. Incredible.”

It’s fair to say that I liked it.

The car park at Latour is a few minutes’ walk from the offices and tasting room. This allows for some reflection after tasting, some fresh air and, as I was then inclined to enjoy, a cigarette. It also allows time for a phone call: I called my boss, Big Si the Wine Guy. I confessed to him that I wasn’t sure if life was worth living any more. Certainly, life as a wine merchant had lost much of its appeal. Because I had found, and drunk from, the Holy Grail. And that was it. I couldn’t really see the point of anything else. From a vinous point of view, I’d done it. I had seen the Elysian Fields. I’d walked them. I had picked the fruit, and eaten it. Mr Staples, a man not often known for soppiness, made his confession. A week previously, he had tasted the same wine. And (well, he’s not known for his rigid relationship with the truth either, so maybe take with a pinch of salt) he confessed to having had a little cry in the car park afterwards. Embellished or not, the emotion, and the experience, was there.

The good news is plentiful. Life has proved to be worth living. In the years since I first tasted 2009 Latour I have achieved much. I have a son. I have learned more about wine than I ever thought possible (though there is still some way to go). And I have had the opportunity to taste this epic juice again, albeit in different circumstances: tasting wines blind in Battersea is not the same as tasting from barrel in Bordeaux.

The top wines from the 2009 Bordeaux vintage are breathtakingly good. They are all an experience. Rarity and labels make Pétrus and Le Pin expensive in the extreme (both will set you back more than £3,000 a bottle) though, these two perhaps notwithstanding, they are worth the money. They are experiences that cannot be replicated. Scoring these becomes very, very, tricky. How do you score the sun rising?

I gave my highest scores of the tasting to three wines: Latour, Le Pin and Cheval Blanc. For what it’s worth (these were tasted blind) I thought Pin was Lafite and Cheval was Margaux (as I say – there is some way to go on the learning front; in my defence one of the characteristics of 2009 is that the vintage can overpower the terroir).  I got Latour though – it could have been nothing else.  And, whilst all three may have scored the same, it’s the Latour that has been on my mind like fresh love ever since I tasted it.

You see: 2009 Ch. Latour is one of those wines that sticks. It is, and is going to be, an icon. There are no concerns about where it’s going to go, how it will develop – the modernity of the winemaking is free of fancy tricks or force. As someone remarked to me via social media: “(I) just couldn’t imagine how it could have been improved”. If you are lucky enough to own it then (a) on no account sell it and (b) look after yourself; this wine has decades to go. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford 2009 Latour then there are few other wines that you can purchase that will provide quite so much pleasure.  And not just pleasure, something more: something deeper. In the same way as truly great poetry, music or, indeed, a sunrise, 2009 Latour makes all wealth alchemy.