There’s a minute group of businesses who belong to a special club; an “uber” tier to the concept of family-run companies called the Henokiens. The membership is limited to companies that are leaders in their respective fields, remain family owned, have a history of 200 years’ experience and still bares the name of the founder… you won’t be surprised now to learn that the membership is currently stuck at 30 companies. In the entire world.
So my last trip down to Las Vegas I was recommended this little gem by my good friends at the Double Helix in the Venetian ( www.doublehelixwine.com ). These are my same highly proficient colleagues who introduced me to the Chateau LaFleur St Jean which is right across a country road from Petrus and yet sells for less then $100 USD a bottle… with 3-4 years of cellar age on it~!! So anyways, when these people make a suggestion I perk both my ears and prepare to learn.
the Latour wine-making facility
And opening this bottle was certainly a learning experience. This has balance, structure, precision… in short it has all of the qualities that one could ever hope for from Burgundy and it has them in ample quantity. Best part? It only runs about $50-60 USD so about half the price of what I would pay in British Columbia (the second highest liquor tax in the world).
I knew enough from my FWS (French Wine Scholar) program to know when I smelled, swirled and tasted the wine that it was something special, but it was when I read about the company that I discovered just how unique this really is. Since 1797 the family has been refining their skills as negocients or wine-brokers… but to call them brokers is really a failure in translation as there is so much more then that. This is a family that for 10 generations, from father to son, has bequeathed a legacy of winemaking that has little comparison. For how does one compare any modern winery against this kind of collective wisdom? Centuries of studying their soil, the aspect, the slope, the way the wind flows in Autumn… a thousand minute details collected, organized and put to good use. Who can really hope to equal the Burgundians when it comes to knowing one’s land?
And here is the family, still working the land and honoring tradition whilst being leaders in innovation. Of particular note is their intricate wine-making facility in which all handling of the juice from the grapes is done through gravity to eliminate unnecessary oxidization.
I could go on, but the best proof of a wineries work is still to be found – in the glass~!
2009 Montagny 1er cru “La Grande Roche”
Cote Chalonaise, Cote D’Or, Burgundy
soil: limestone, chalk, clay
*NOTE: DO NOT SERVE TOO CHILLED! UNDER 15c/68F WILL INHIBIT AROMAS/FLAVOURS
This wine sings with precision from the initial aromas to the end of the palate: a textured bouquet of clean hay/almonds/crushed seashell minerality is brilliantly balanced by crisp/lean acids driven by that self-same seashell mineral focus. The structure is impeccable and the length a generous 20-30 seconds… a natural pairing for seafood, but especially richer Oyster Affairs such as the classic Oysters Rockefeller
As a New World consumer, it’s difficult sometimes to truly understand the Old World systems: premier cru, grande cru, premier classe, vielle vignes, appellation… how do any of these words have bearing on California, Washington or Ontario? Well as a much wiser man explained to me, if wine were art then the French vineyards are Degas, Cezanne or Matisse. The vineyards, and the people who have helped shaped them into what they are, have defined a style of wine-making that all must learn if they are to ever develop their own art. Burgundy and the Cote Chalonnaise are not the be-all/end-all of what Chardonnay is~!
But. But it’s families such as the Latours who inspired people like the Wente clan of California; without whom there would be little in the way of Chardonnay in the New World, and even less quality. It isn’t obligatory to honor these pantheons for their own sake, but respecting centuries of dedication seems the least we New World consumers can do. And so I raise the last of my glass to the great artists of Burgundy and invite you, when you want to taste Old School precision to do the same.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or: