The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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Page 26 of 92

26 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015 { on the road } PERHAPS THE ONLY THING BETTER than drinking great Burgundy is drinking great Burgundy in Burgundy. Not long ago I was given such a chance, and it was eye-opening and wonderful. My pre-trip excitement was out of control to say the least, and there were many sleepless nights leading up to my departure for France. For me, the highlight of the trip was my visit to Maison Louis Latour. I consider myself to be a hardcore Burgundy nut, and I believed myself to be well versed in their history and exactly what made Maison Louis Latour so very special. What I discovered was a side of the Maison that is less known yet equally important in understanding the wines and the family who makes them. From its birthplace at the foot of the hill of Corton, Maison Louis Latour has over two centuries of Burgundian history. Founded in 1797, the house has become a natural cus- todian of an ancient tradition. Authentic to its roots, it has always been a point of honor to remain independent and family-owned. The seventh Louis Latour, who represents the eleventh generation since his founding ancestor, now runs the estate. The domaine of Louis Latour is com- prised of 48 hectares (119 acres) ranging from the red Grands Crus of the Côte de Nuits: Chambertin and Romanée-Saint- Vivant, to the white Grands Crus of the Côte de Beaune: Corton-Charlemagne and Chevalier-Montrachet. The jewel in their crown is the 33 hectares (81.5 acres) of vineyards in Aloxe-Corton, which over- look the beautiful Corton Grancey winery (the region's oldest operating winery). As a respectful nod to this rich history, Louis Latour makes their flagship Grand Cru wine, Château Corton Grancey, in only the best vintages. The domaine wines, as well as their négociant wines, are deeply marked by their terroirs, and are carefully vinified and aged to create wine with elegance and finesse. I also learned that in the early years of the 20th century, the fourth Louis Latour decided to establish a cooperage and make the barrels destined for aging his wines himself, going so far as to purchase a forest to the east of Beaune, on the plain of the Saône River, to supply his cooperage with reliable oak in its early years. To this day, oak is sourced from their original forest, as well as from other forests of Northern France and aged in open air for more than two years. Only one type of barrel is produced, which undergoes a medium toast. Approximately 3,000 barrels are produced per year, half of which is used to age the Maison Louis Latour wines, and the rest are exported around the world to some of the most prestigious producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Maison is also a long-standing member of the Hénokiens, an exclusive club that only admits companies that are leaders in their respective fields, remain family owned, have at least 200 years' experience and still bear the name of the founder. Simply stated, the Maison Louis Latour family is the original keeper of the Burgundian keys. They are unquestionable masters of their craft. Accessibility and exclusivity were the two common denominators of my expe- rience. I spent every waking moment completely immersed in the best wines, vineyards, history and cuisine native to Burgundy. There were so many "Ah-ha!" moments that it's hard to exactly say which one was the best, although having the privilege of tasting over 150 wines from many different vintages was certainly a bright spot in an already wonderful trip. Above all, Louis-Fabrice Latour and his phenomenal staff treated me like family and I will forever be grateful. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAISON LOUIS LATOUR PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAISON LOUIS LATOUR Burgundy In Situ REDISCOVERING MAISON LOUIS LATOUR by Stewart Prato, CWE, FWS, CS The Louis Latour cooperage produces only one type of medium toast barrel, each stamped with the year of manufacture. Built in 1834, the Louis Latour winery was revolutionary and innovative for the time. Today, its five levels still allow for gravity-flow winemaking.

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