It has always been difficult to understand the post-modern French haste to sell their wine birthright to anyone who will pony up too much money for a mediocre product. Why make overpriced plonk to get a high score when you can do it the right way and make something that has amazed the world for centuries?
Case in point is the Latour Corton Grand Cru ($365, sample, 14%), which is everything French wine has been and should be. This is red Burgundy, pinot noir from the Corton section in Burgundy, and any discussion of Corton involves hundreds of years of history and which particular spot on a hill in Corton the grapes came from. If that’s the starting point, why do you need anything else?
I tasted this wine at the Sunday night dinner for Critics Challenge judges, attended by the handful of us who have to stay an extra night. The judges bring wine (I brought some Texas, of course, which was well received), and competition organizer Robert Whitley adds some from his cellar. This came from Robert, and it was the kind of wine that makes you pause after a sip to wonder how it’s possible to make that kind of wine.
The Latour Corton Grand Cru was earthy and dark, but because 2004 was a warm vintage, it also had more red fruit than I expected. Yet those descriptors are almost useless, because this wine won’t be ready to drink for at least five or six years, and probably longer. That means it’s certainly delicious now, but hasn’t aged long enough to bring the whole into focus, and is too young for the various components to have come together. The best analogy I can think of? Marinating a piece of beef or chicken, where the ultimate goal is not to taste the marinade, but to make the beef or chicken taste better.
Highly recommended, and don’t worry too much about the price. That has been skewed by demand in Asia, where a bottle costs more than five times what it costs in Europe. I found this wine for €44 France, about US$60. Not cheap, but more than fair considering what you get.