Years back, Louis Latour’s wines were my very first introduction to the Burgundy region. No, I am not talking about the so-called-Burgundy jug wines (I still don’t understand how such a prominent wine region allows using its name in California), but the real stuff. The real, extraordinary Chardonnay that grows in French Burgundy.
I was lucky to be introduced to this region by one of the best producers in Burgundy. Starting from “low end” but superb Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche, from Corton hillside to the Mâconnais, this tasting included Pouilly Fuisse as well as their most special Grand Crus.
Never before in my life, had I a chance to taste Pouligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, or wines of Marsault, all Premier Crus, side by side. This tasting forever engraved the taste of superb Burgundy wines in me.
It was a privilege to represent wines of Louis Latour’s family at the company, I worked for. Latour remained a family owned business since 1797 (they are a member of the Henokiens Society, which unites independent firms with an age of at least 200 years). The most recent, the seventh Louis Latour, manages a domaine of 50 hectares of Grand and Premier Crus.
Pretty soon I realized that although these wines were exceptional, they were almost unsaleable on the mainstream market. I certainly didn’t have customers for the high end Crus (they are quite pricey) but it was hard to sell even the most inexpensive of the portfolio. Could it be that retailers couldn’t even pronounce the names correctly? That certainly stopped me from showing it a lot, because I didn’t want to look like a fool, selling something I can’t even pronounce right. Although everybody appreciated the taste, regular retailers rather grabbed another Californian Chardonnay. After all, the Chardonnay variety is the most selling wine in the United States.
And how about the mainstream wine drinker? Coming to the store, looking for something new to try – unless you had a great wine guy in the store, nobody would even put these wines in the consumers hands. It didn’t say Chardonnay on its label. Yet, I had a handful of clients who were not afraid to do some extra work, and took these wines in their wine stores. They didn’t mind to introduce them to their wine customers. And they sold! Because they are so extraordinary.
Louis Latour Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche sold around $10 a bottle. Yet it tasted as Chardonnays twice or more the price of Californian wines. Actually, there is no comparison. Burgundy is such a unique region. It could serve as a teaching tool for someone who is still rolling eyes when wine geeks start to talk about regions and terroirs. For those who believe that Chardonnay is Chardonnay and that’s the end of story -it just taste the same.
No, it doesn’t. Although not many regular wine drinkers would get the chance to taste these wines, as I did, side by side, incl. the most prominent Crus, I wish every Chardonnay lover had the chance. It was an eye opening experience for me. I never looked at Chardonnay the same since. Even the few kilometers between the small vineyards made a huge difference in the soil, sun exposure – and therefore the wine tasted completely different. It was fascinating.
As I said at the beginning, it has been a few years back. And, I don’t sell wine for living anymore (regrettably). Yet, when I recently noticed Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse in the store, and it was reasonably priced, it brought back the memories of that day, of that tasting. Of course I grabbed the bottle. In sunny Florida, I am always in the mood for some crisp white wine.
We had opened it the other night, when I prepared just simple asparagus fritata and some salad for dinner. It was one of those lovely evenings, sitting outside, feeling the gentle breeze in our hair, surrounded by palm trees, slowly moving in the wind. I sniffed the familiar aroma and took the first sip.
Boy, that wine was superb!!! The delicate citrus flavors, clean and fresh, covered my entire mouth, every taste bud was awoken. My husband (which until recently hated dry wines) was charmed the same way. The great crisp acidity of Pouilly Fuisse made my mouth watering for more, as soon as I swallowed, and was left with a long, impressive finish. It was a perfect match for that dinner, and most importantly, for that warm evening.
We usually have a glass of wine with a dinner and finish the bottle the next day. Not this time. I can’t stop drinking it. “I am finishing this one,” I proclaimed decisively and pour myself a generous second glass.
My father used to joke: “you don’t pour your own glass, let someone else pour it for you, so you don’t look like an alcoholic.”
Oh well, I missed that one. Love you, dad!