Saturday, July 6, 2024

LeDomduVin: Blind tasting of Chateau Latour 1995 - A beautiful surprise!

Blind tasting of Château Latour 1995 

A beautiful surprise! 

Last night, I was challenged to do a blind tasting to find this wine. 

While I was taking care of a private dinner in one of the Salons of the company's Private club, my colleague Sommelier, Leo, brought me a glass of wine from the party he was taking care of. 

He said: "You have to guess what it is."

I have always loved blind-tasting, as it challenges your senses, taste buds, brain, memory, skills, knowledge, ego, and reputation.

A good Sommelier always proceeds by elimination, making educated guesses based on his/her knowledge, experience, and skills to define the region, the grape variety(ies), the vintage, the appellation, and, if really good, even the name of the Cru, the name of the Chateau/Domaine/Estate, and/or the owner or winemaker's name. 

So, I took the glass and proceeded to a thorough examination. 

1. Aspect/Color: I always look at the aspect and color first to define the age. Medium garnet color with orange brick reflects on the rime and many sediments. It was too advanced to be in the 2000s, yet it was not old enough to be in the 80s.

It had to be in the 90s.

2. Nose/aromas: Beautiful yet subtle and delicate nose, with aromas of dark berries, cassis, licorice, sandalwood, with marked earthy notes of forest floor and light truffle, some discreet floral hints.

Bordeaux immediately came to mind. It was pretty obvious on the nose already. A good vintage for sure: not 90, maybe 95, 96, or 98.

3. Taste: I was startled by how good this wine was. Sophisticated, layered, complex, and generous yet in a very refined, subtle, elegant, and classy style. Very focused and perfectly integrated with no roughness, excellent balance, seamless finish, and refreshing acidity. This wine was not about weight like some of these super-extracted powerhouses. It was all about elegance, sophistication, and subtlety.

Such a well-crafted wine could only be one of the Top Bordeaux. Due to its refreshing acidity, I was thinking about 96.

Leo was looking at me with eyes showing he was kind of impressed I immediately guessed it was in the 1990s. While he didn't agree or disagree, I knew I was right. My guts and experiences rarely failed me. 

4. Region/Appellation: Left bank or right bank? That is the question.

Left Bank: Haut-Medoc, for sure. One of the Top appellations, but which one? The wine was not dry and austere enough to be a Saint-Estephe. Too serious and aristocratic to be a Saint-Julien. Too rich and complex to be a Margaux. In fact, the nose and palate resembled more of a Pauillac. Could it be? Definitely possible...

And yet, the earthiness and slight hint of truffle reminded me somewhat of something between a Saint-Emilion and a Pomerol. A "Saint-Pomerol," joked Leo. I like this amusing analogy. 😁👍🍷

Right Bank: Why not? Maybe? Due to the wine's quality and characteristics, it could be a Saint-Emilion or a light Pomerol. 

5. The grape(s): The wine was quite round, soft, and integrated, so it felt more like a Merlot-based wine than a Cabernet-based wine. Its silky texture reminded me of some wines from Cheval-Blanc, but without the tannins of the Cabernet Franc. 

Due to its earthiness and complexity, I opted for Pomerol. If correct, it had to be one of the Top: Petrus, Le Pin, Lafleur, Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, Trotanoy, L'Evangile, La Fleur-Petrus ... etc... 

Yet, if it was based on Cabernet Sauvignon, then it could only be one of the first growths. 

Difficult to tell. My mind was thinking Pomerol, but my taste buds were telling me to stick with the Left Bank, a Saint-Julien maybe, but more probably a Pauillac due to its complexity, layered structure, and sophisticated overall texture and mouthfeel. A high pedigree, no doubt. 

This blind tasting was harder than I thought it would be. And yet, I was happy as my senses, taste buds, knowledge, and skills were not so rusty after all. It was an exciting challenge. 

More especially, Leo was trying to lead me down the wrong path while I reflected and thought aloud. 

Seeing that I may have reached a conclusion,  Leo finally said: "So, what do you think?"

I answered: "Definitely a Bordeaux. Vintage... I will say 1996 due to its freshness and juiciness and because it does not show any of the ripe or even jammy characteristics of a hot or solar vintage. Probably Merlot-based due to its softness and medium color. Maybe a Pomerol due to its earthiness and a slight hint of truffle, reminding me of a Vieux Château Certan I tried (I am a huge fan of VCC). I will say Petrus or Vieux Chateau Certan 1996."

Yet, that said, my taste buds and my heart continued to tell me that I should have stuck with my first choice of the Left bank. 

He replied: "Very interesting, but it is a Pauillac and a 1995 vintage. In terms of the quality, you are correct, it is a Top Wine, it is one of the first growths." 

(Dang! I knew I should have stuck to my first impression... )

My mind was racing: "It is too polished and silky to be Lafite Rothschild. Too consistent and focused to be Mouton-Rothschild. Too rich and complex to be Margaux. Not characteristics enough to be Haut-Brion. And yet, normally, Latour is a much heavier and stronger wine. More especially in a hot/solar vintage like 1995. How could it be?" 

I was puzzled and startled at the same time... 

Leo disappeared and came back with the empty bottle and another glass containing a small amount of it so that I could enjoy it again. I was ecstatic. 

What an incredible wine and such a beautiful surprise! 

It was a real challenge for me as the wine presented characteristics that, in my opinion, resembled more of 1996 than 1995. Also, the angularities usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines (e.g., heavy structure and texture, solid tannins, and even astringency, etc...) had all disappeared and integrated over time. The wine has such a medium color, a light structure, and a silky, gentle, elegant texture, and it was so fresh and juicy, so youthful, too; I thought it was from a cooler vintage, with higher acidity and less concentration. Yet, I was wrong. 

Not completely wrong as I guessed the region and decade, but still wrong, as I could not have guessed the appellation of Pauillac, even if my guts and taste buds told me that it could be it in the first place.

Lesson learned: one should always trust his/her first impression and gut feeling.  

Moreover, I couldn't even have guessed the Chateau, as I would have never imagined that Chateau Latour, which is usually such a strong, rich, opulent, complex, and generous wine, could become such a refined, elegant, racy, and subtle wine, overtime, 29 years later. 

However, this bottle of Chateau Latour 1995 was absolutely stunning and a great example of the striking wine quality only this Chateau is capable of in Pauillac. 

I recommend you to try it if you have the opportunity one day. 

Once again, it proved that blind tasting is hard and that even the best of us can have a tough time guessing when we are tricked and steered wrongly by some preconceived ideas and past experiences. 

This blind-tasting exercise was humbling, as even a knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled Sommelier and Wine Buyer like me, with a 33-year career in the wine industry and a highly trained palate, opening and tasting top-tier Bordeaux and Burgundy wines regularly can have a hard time guessing. 

Thank you, and kudos to Frédéric Engerer and his team at Château Latour. This is a magnificent wine! 

Cheers! Santé!


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