Wines of the Week: Chateau Latour & Longting Vineyards

Chateau Latour 2001 Chateau Latour Pauillac Bordeaux                             94+
Longting Vineyards 2020 Lan Hua Marselan Bing Hai Penglai China           90
by Robert Millman and Ian D’Agata

Chateau Latour 2001 Chateau Latour Pauillac Bordeaux                      94+

by Robert Millman

The wine came from my cellar where it has been aging since 2007. The color alone—that Latour black-hole impenetrable darkness—and the clear meniscus, with no signs of browning augured well for the wine in the glass. I decanted it two hours before serving. The wine, now 18+ years in bottle—the true time from which relevant aging begins—is at a stage at which most Bordeaux are at peak or close to peak drinking. Of course, Latour is famously a slow ager and often tastes less developed that its peers at a comparable point in their lives. (The truth is that Châteaux Lafite and Margaux are just about as resistant to father time and mother oxygen as is Latour.) I am pleased to report that the 2001 Château Latour is quite ready to drink though it will surely be just fine in a decade. But, based in this bottle, the wine has matured nicely. Perhaps bottles stored at the Château from day one are less ready to drink.

Even though it can be argued that the terroir at Latour is less dependent on vintage conditions than most other Bordeaux, vintage conditions still matter. The 2001 wines had the misfortune of coming right after the powerful 2000s, another vintage which was hyped, probably over-hyped, when the wines were tasted from barrel. It is rare for a successor vintage to have the depth and concentration of its predecessor. The weather in 2001 was erratic: April went from cool to cold, which does not promote a strong growing season. In May, things started to turn around and improve, thanks to an unexpected, but much appreciated heat wave. July was wet. August was dry. The see-saw of warm and cold temperatures continued until September. September turned out to be one of the driest Septembers in Bordeaux history. However, some late rains before picking affected Cabernet Sauvignon in the Medoc. Many professions found the right bank Merlots based wines to be more consistent than their left bank relatives. This helps account for the fact that the 2001 Latour, as pure, elegant and true to its nature as one might wish, lacked the extra touch of ripeness and “sweetness” which made the 1982 so extraordinary.

I have already discussed the wine’s true-to Latour appearance. The bouquet was classic Latour: graphite, blackberries, subtle smoky oak and a lovely tobacco scent that permeated the aroma from start to finish. A bit more ripeness and the bouquet would have been a knockout. On the palate the aromatic properties carried right on through the palate. Tannins are largely resolved playing a background role. How often do the tannins dominate in a Latour, even an older one!  The 2001 is a tamed beast. The most remarkable feature of the wine was its expansive mid-palate which covered every inch of the palate and persisted for a long time before the finish entered the scene. With a mid-palate like this, the finish is less important.  This is a lovely, elegant gentlemanly Latour, true to its nature but just missing the greatness that would come for more ripeness. A note on how I score wines: Always relative to the level of the wine. A 94+ Latour is “better” than a 94+ 2nd, 3rd or 4th growth Bordeaux. So, relative to what Latour can be at its best, this is what I believe to be a fair score. Dinking window: 2022-2031.

Longting Vineyards 2020 Lan Hua Marselan Bing Hai Penglai                    90

by Ian D’Agata

Longting Vineyards is one of China’s three-four best wineries with a history of turning out amazing sweet. Late harvest Petit Manseng wines that give southwestern France a run for its money and very good Cabernet Franc. No, France need not quiver in its winemaking boots, but it’s always a pleasure for any wine lover to see emerging nations and winemakers produce delicious wines.

The Longting Vineyards 2020 Lan Hua Mareselan Bing Hai Penglai is bright red in colour. On the nose, it smells and tastes a little like Cab Franc at first, with aromas and flavours of fresh raspberry, violet, flint, noble cocoa and smoke, then turns savory with hints of licorice, tar, sea breeze and seaside herbs. Remarkably pure fresh and clean, this is beautifully fruity and long featuring mineral nuances and very good drinkability, focus and energy. An easygoing, ideal entry-level Marselan wine not meant to be long-aging or ultra-concentrated but given this is the first ever Marselan wine Longting winemaker Larsen has made, I’d say félicitations! Very well done indeed. Drinking window: now-2026.


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