Large producer and négociant Louis Latour is one of Burgundy’s best-known names. Along with other major ‘négoce’ such as Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin and the house of Faiveley, the Latour name on a bottle is, for many people, one of only a handful of Burgundy ‘brands’ they might ever come across.
Though it is a region composed of thousands of small growers and wine producers, the production of many of these is so tiny, and they have such a following for their wines, that allocations sell out immediately and the wines are rarely visible on the shelves. But Louis Latour’s handsomely packaged bottles are instantly recognisable: they grace so many restaurant and wine shop lists, making them and the other large négociant houses extremely important representatives of the region as a whole.
And yet the négoce have not always been great ambassadors for Burgundy, pumping out large volumes of mediocre wine. Indeed I have been critical of some of Louis Latour’s entry level wines in the past, whilst at the same time being impressed by some of their Premier and Grand Cru wines, so it was good to pull together this snapshot of half a dozen of their more affordable to mid-range cuvées for this tasting.
Like the co-operative cellars that are still so important throughout France, the négociants play a vital role for the small farmers and winemakers of Burgundy, buying both their grapes and their finished wines which they mature and blend to be sold under their own label. The négociants are as important to the rural economy of Burgundy as they are to the wine lists of the UK, so it is important that the wines they offer are up to scratch. To complicate matters further, many of the négoce also own estate vineyards up to and including the most prestigious Grand Cru holdings, and often there is little or nothing to differentiate an estate-grown wine from a négociant wine.
Whilst it is true that wines from the big négociants rarely represent the apogee of Burgundy, the quality should be good and consistent overall. It is disappointing that this is not always the case, though to be fair, in recent years several under-performing companies have improved dramatically, like Albert Bichot and Bouchard Père et Fils (revamped when purchased by Champagne Henriot), Chanson (purchased by Bollinger in 1999) and Faiveley, also expanding their vineyard holdings and making wholesale improvements in the cellars.
The Louis Latour wines
Nothing amongst this half dozen moderately-priced wines from Louis Latour sets the heather on fire, but the quality is sound, availability easy, and overall these wines can be commended as good examples of their relatively modest appellations.
Louis Latour, Morgon Le Charmes 2009, France
From one of the best Beaujolais vintage of recent decades, this has a lovely Gamay sappiness on the nose, briary with a touch of green wood, but refined red berry fruit and a certain gently smoky mineral character too. In the mouth the concentration of sweet fruit is arresting. There’s a cherry and ripe, juicy red plum character, but the leanness and edge of the acidity and tight tannic structure squeezes the flavours back into place for an elegant, dry finish. It doesn’t have the ultimate juiciness and depth of the best Cru Beaujolais from this vintage, but it is a lovely wine. 88/100. £9.99, Majestic, but on offer until 3rd September at £7.99. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Louis Latour, Pouilly-Vinzelles ‘En Paradis’ 2010
A southern Burgundy Chardonnay from the village next door to the more famous Pouilly-Fuissé, this has a pale colour and an attractive nose showing a little hazelnut and nougat, and a nutty apple fruit. On the palate there is plenty of sweet ripeness here, edging into the tropical with a hint of melon and lychee, fleshy pear and a good acid core. A delicious wine for current drinking and one of the stars of this line-up. 89/100. £12.99, Majestic, but on offer until 3rd September 2012 at £11.99. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Louis Latour, Beaune 2009, France
Home to Chardonnay whites as well as the more frequently seen Pinot Noir reds, Beaune is both a village appellation and the large town that is the epicentre of the Burgundy wine industry. Clear and fresh on the nose, the little nuances of oatmeal and acacia honey just add some richness to straightforward citrus and apple fruit. On the palate the subtle oak supports with some very discreet toast and vanilla, but again it is that racy core of cool white fruit that drives this. A fairly big wine in terms of structure and alcohol (13.5% ABV) but really rather elegant too. 89/100. £19.35, Slurp.co.uk.
Louis Latour, Marsannay 2008, France
Marsannay in the Côte de Nuits was granted its own appellation as a village wine only in 1987 and produces white, red and rosé wines. This red example pours a very pale ruby colour, almost like a deeply coloured rosé. It has a charming and quite seductive nose, layered with scents of damp autumnal woodland and spice, over soft strawberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth it is not the plumpest or most giving of styles, the acidity and tannins really quite lean, and whilst that adds a food-friendly structure, the wine is just a little thin, a little short. 85/100. £13.99-£15.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Louis Latour, Mercurey 2009, France
From the southerly (Côte Chalonnaise) village of Mercurey, this has a reasonably deep cherry/crimson colour and nose that has clear cherry fruit, a touch of graphite and subtle spiciness. It seems tight and focused, without the sous-bois character of the Marsannay at this stage. Filled with charming, ripe red berry and cherry fruit on the palate, it has firm but easy-going tannins and fresh acidity, making it an extremely elegant wine in a youthful, clean-cut style. 89/100. £16.50, Slurp.co.uk, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Louis Latour, Gevrey-Chambertin 2007, France
One of the most famous villages of the Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin produces only red wines. A lovely pale colour again, though a little darker than the Marsannay, there’s a lovely sappy, earthy lift to the nose here, with delicate floral touches over more blackcurranty fruit. On the palate there is more substance here; not only more weight and texture, but a more juicy and solid core of fruit that powers the mid palate. Tannins are fairly beefy in this, and the freshness of the cherry-skin acidity along with plenty of spicy character gives it a fairly lean and structured finish. Drinking well, but will cellar for a few years yet and could soften a little in that time. 89/100. £23.00, Majestic. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com