Latour: What’s all the Fuss About?

No, I did not buy this.
Yes, I I did hope to hate it.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it was delicious.

20161108_222923This was my first experience drinking mature first growth Bordeaux. I wasn’t drinking the wine blind, and I hadn’t researched the vintage much beforehand. Sad as it might sound, my main thought in anticipation of drinking the substance within was: will it be worth the money? Now, the economics of wine is a complicated business. Drinking wine is a perception, affected by attention, mood, circumstance, and subjective taste. That in itself means that no wine can be ‘the best’. Add to that the complication of market trading, en primeur interest, advertisement, and everything else that goes into supply and demand economics, and you are left in a confused mess when deciding the relationship between your wine drinking pleasure, and value. The question that I want to consider with you is to whether it is worth splashing out money on first growths simply to ‘try them’ and ‘see what all the fuss is about’.


So, how much extra cost is demanded by this presumable increase in quality? To put things in perspective, 1985 Latour can be found on the market for £300-800. It is a reasonable vintage that has little more to offer as an investment and is on the trough of its  own value-time curve. To get an idea of how much ‘better’ this wine might be, let us compare it to the £40 village level burgundy that we started with:

Meursault Les Grands Charrons, Bouzerau, 2012

Immediately exotic nose: pineapple, mango, mandarin. Balanced with oak, lemon and some pepper on the palate. Buttery as expected, with good length and mouth-feel. Great acidity, and interesting nuances in the flavour profile (dill came across quite strongly as the wine sat in the glass). 91 Points

Chateau Latour, Pauillac 1985

Not what is had expected; I would have never guessed this was a 30+ yr old wine. Deep red, with no clear orange or brown on the rim. Loads of blackcurrant blackberry cherry fruit still, matured with wet earth, porcini-like umami and some aniseed-like spice. Intense flavour, v pure balanced and long. Still enough tannic grip to carry the wine, and a lovely inky texture. 95 Points.

Latour 1985 is wonderful; no question about that. I was really really trying to criticise it and find things that I didn’t like about it, but there wasn’t anything. I was impressed that the fruit was still carrying and by the essential components of acidity, length and balance. However, it is certainly not worth splashing £800 on if you are paying simply to ‘see what all the fuss is about’. Indeed, it becomes immediately obvious that there is a disparity between how ‘normal’ wines are priced, and how ‘luxury’ wines are priced. The former is based on taste, year and area. The latter is driven mainly by history and critics.

Frederic Engerer, Latour president explains in an interview that the price is ‘a bit frustrating’ and it stems from ‘the market.’ This is fair, true, and I cannot criticise a business for making money that is there to be made. What does make me a little sad however, is that this money is probably not invested into major improvements in quality, and if it is, the wine will rarely be drunk by those who will notice the improvements (if drunk at all!)

Learning point: As Mr Engerer describes, Bordeaux is ‘a magical place’. Go explore it for yourself, before splashing the cash on Latour.