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People often ask me if and when to decant wine. / One reason to decant is to increase the oxygen contact with the wine. I personally find it more important to decant older wines than young ones, as this is needed to breathe life into a wine that has been imprisoned for decades. An older wine at first often has an off-putting musty smell that only disappears with time and air. I have on countless occasions experienced how a wine was written off as being well past it, sometimes having to stop my fellow drinkers from pouring the wine away, only to see it blossom in the glass with time and air, developing into a delicate beauty.
The timing depends very much on the wine in question - a vintage with a good structure will need longer than a lighter vintage, Bordeaux generally needs longer than a Burgundy. Powerful white wines like Chardonnays and Grüner Veltliner also benefit from decanting as does mature Rieslings. Also the very young Bordeaux, like this Latour from exceptiomal vintages, will benefit sometimes from very long decanting time, even 10 hours or more.
What I don't believe in is the habit of just opening the bottle to let the wine breathe - the air exchange taking place at the small surface is negible. The problem occurs if the cork crumbles and fall into the bottle, as this means that you will have to decant the wine earlier than you had really planned.
Another reason is to separate the wine from its depot.
This is usually done with Bordeaux but funnily enough rarely with Burgundy, which for me is a fallacy - depot will negatively affect a delicate wine more than a sturdier wine.
This reminds me of a funny story - as Sotheby's were to auction off large parts of the famous Thurn und Taxis estate in Germany a decade or so ago, there were also parts of the wine cellar to be auctioned off. As Serena Sutcliffe, the head of Sotheby's wine department, went to examine the cellars she found that all wooden wine cases had large circular holes in them. On asking why, she was told by the family butler that these were drilled in order for the wines to breathe.
The chateau makes three different wines. The so-called grand vin, that is Château Latour itself, a second wine called Les Forts de Latour and a third wine simply called Pauillac. The grand vin comes from the original part of the vineyards, called the Enclos. This is the most prestigious part of the vineyard where the vines have a fine view of the Gironde estuary. The tradition in Bordeaux says that vines that overlook the water make the best wine. The proximity to the estuary actually gives a slightly higher temperature, helping the grapes to good maturity. The Enclos is around 45 hectares out of a total of 88 for the whole estate.
The grape varieties are 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 % Merlot, 1 % Cabernet Franc and 1 % of Petit Verdot. The planting density is high, 10,000 vines per hectare. Every year the chateau’s viticulturist replaces a certain number of dead vines. These young vines are marked and treated separately. They are harvested separately and they are not used in the grand vin until they are at least 10 years old.
The Enclos is under conversion to organic farming since 2015. It takes three years to be certified so it means that we will see the first organic Château Latour in 2018. Only copper and sulfur, mixed with different plant infusions, are used to fight diseases in the vineyard. Instead of insecticides they use sexual confusion. Only organic fertilizers are used when needed and no herbicides.
The barrel aging starts in December. Château Latour is put in 100 % new oak from the Allier and Nièvre forest in the central part of France. The chateau works with 11 different coopers. This is important to the winemaker as the coopers all have different styles.
The wine spends six months in the first year cellar where it will also undergo the malolactic fermentation. The barrels are tasted regularly and the winemaker decides the blend for the grand vin, the second wine and the third wine. He decides if the press wine should be included or not. The wine is then moved to the huge and magnificent second-year cellar where it will spend 10-13 months, so in total around 22 months of aging before it is bottled. 2014 was bottled in June this year. During the barrel aging the wine is racked and topped up regularly, every 3 months. At the end, the wine is fined traditionally with egg whites, 5-6 whites per barrel.
Château Latour is often a textbook example of a Cabernet Sauvignon. No wonder, as often almost 90 % of the wine is made from this grape. It is a powerful wine in its youth, with aromas of cedar wood and black fruit, made even more powerful with the aging in 100 % new oak barrels. It is packed with fruit and tannins and it stays young for at least 10 years. This is a wine you really should wait for, say 10-15 year or longer. It needs time to show what it is capable of.
The autumn of 2009 was mild and wet whereas the first months of 2010 were particularly cold and dry. We then noted a delay in the budbreak which did not properly get going until April which was almost summery. Flowering was disrupted by rain and cool temperatures during the first half of June resulting in significant flower abortion and uneven grape size. We had to wait for the last ten days of June for temperatures to return to seasonal norms. Water stress began to develop at the end of June in some plots in the Enclos and increased in July. Generally, the vines stopped growing at the end of July.
Harvesting of the Merlot began on September 20th with the young vines, and the Cabernet Sauvignon on October 4th (after stopping for a few days between grape varieties).
Drought and cool temperatures contribute to optimal ripeness
The sum of summer temperatures in 2010 was close to that of summer 2009 (962°C compared to 982°C), but decidedly chillier than those of 2005, which totalled 1052°C. These cool temperatures had a substantial influence on the balance of our wines, preserving a good level of acidity and attractive aromatic freshness.
Very little rainfall (only 267 mm) from March to August 2010 generating a drought of similar intensity to that of 2005, when only 227mm of rain fell.
Another feature of the 2010 vintage is the low temperatures above all in the first three weeks of August, which made for the preservation of good levels of acidity in the grapes while also maintaining attractive aromatic freshness.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|1 165€ +5.9%||1 100€ +2.3%||1 075€ -20.1%||1 345€|