I recently had reason to check out two red Burgundies, both from good appellations and vintages but where I frankly was uncertain about what quality to expect under the cork.
In their December news, the Swedish monopoly (Systembolaget) launched a Corton 2002 from Louis Latour at a surprisingly low price, and they had also (through the importer in question) laid their hands on 2400 bottles, which is quite a staggering amount from an older, good vintage. Pessimists immediately started to suspect that there must be something wrong with it. On the other hand, its “big brother” in the same vintage, Louis Latour Château Corton-Grancey 2002, was very good when I recently tasted it at the Decanter Fine Wine Experience (I scored it 93 p). So this wine definitely begged to be descended upon, armed with a corkscrew in one hand and a glass in the other.
Corton Domaine Latour 2002
Corton Grand Cru, grape variety Pinot Noir.
Appearance: clear and rather light red colour, more brick at the edge.
Nose: ripe strawberries, some citrus, some compost, meat juices and barnyard aromas, spice and rust, initially a whiff of volatile acidity that quickly evaporates.
Palate: more than medium body, slightly viscous mouthfeel, some notes of red berries but not at all very fruit-dominated on the palate, some spice and minerality, decent acidity, somewhat softened tannins, rather foody taste with some rustic hints. Aftertaste with mineral and some bitterness.
Summary: rather fully developed with fairly classical nose but somewhat muted fruit notes on the palate, which has some weight. 88 p.
This wine was better than could reasonably be expected for its price. It isn’t as elegant as typical grand crus from Côte de Nuits, but with some exceptions Corton usually isn’t. This wine also has come rather far along in its development for a 10 year old grand cru. I don’t see any problems in storing it for a few more years, but with its somewhat muted fruit and not too high acidity, I would see it at least as somewhat risky to cellar it for 5-10 more years. Comparing it to the “big brother” Château Corton-Granceys 2002 – Latour produces up to five different red Cortons – this wine shows less of complexity and elegance, and is more developed. However, there is a similarity since they both have the same “colour” of their fruit notes – ripe strawberries rather than predominantly dark cherries (which is common for grand cru wines in top vintages) with some citrus – and rather much minerality.
By the way, since Louis Latour is the largest vineyard owner on the Corton hill with 15,09 ha red Corton and 9,64 ha white Corton-Charlemagne, it is perhaps not that surprising that they had rather many bottles to sell.
Another case for quality control in the comfort of my home was Domaine Tortochot. Their 2002 Chambertin showed weakly at a recent tasting, and also was strangely oxidised and developed for a Burgundy grand cru of a really good vintage at only ten years of age. I therefore wanted to know if it was bottle variation or a wider problem with this producer. So I picked out a 1999 premier cru – also a top vintage – from my cellar; a bottle I purchased earlier this year.
The wines of Tortochot are reasonably priced for being domaine wines from good vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, and I see that they have been scored rather favourably by Allan Meadows (Burghound) in recent vintages, which didn’t quite match my impression of the 2002 Chambertin. When I checked again, it is only from the 2005 vintage that Tortochot quotes his scores, so perhaps they made a turnaround durin the first years of the 2000s? Checking Clive Coates’ 2008 book, he opines that “The wines have improved over the last decade: they are less rustic than hitherto, but they nevertheless lack succulence and concentration”. So checking up on a 1999 seems like a good test.
Light red with rather strong brick edge. Nose with ripe strawberries and cherries, some animal notes with meat juices, some developed notes with mild spices, some dried tobacco leaves, slightly flowery, rather noticeable oak note. Medium bodied, palate with quite sour red berries and morellos, quite high acidity, rather strong spice notes, a hint of alcohol in the attack, slightly less than medium tannin. Aftertaste with sour berries. Developed quite a lot with aeration, indicating that it hasn’t peaked yet. Not a wine for those afraid of acidity, but the nose is pleasant and classical (although with some extra oak added) so I’ll score it 87+ p.
This wine hasn’t at all developed prematurely like the 2002 Chambertin had. On the other hand, the fruit isn’t too concentrated for a top vintage, the taste is quite acidic, and it seems to have seen more new oak than what I think was suitable relative to the fruit. I know that Tortochot still are considered to use a rather generous amount of new oak, so if they previously underperformed in therms of fruit, this is approximately the style of wine that you would suspect you’d en up with. I actually do think that this wine could improve by another 5-10 years of cellaring, because at this level of acidity it will be long-lived and some more spicy notes could probably hide some of the oak.
I’m starting to think that the bottle of 2002 Chambertin wasn’t quite right, almost some kind of “premature oxidation” (although that’s a white Burgundy issue). It is still possible that the basic quality wasn’t too good if premature development gave the impression it did, because a really good Burgundy shouldn’t show tannins that hard. But the again, they seem to have been rustic in the past. In any case, I think I have to try a younger vintage before making a final judgment on Tortochot.
Read the Swedish version of this post here.