What: Wine lovers took a spin through the Burgundy region of France Friday night with Charles Ducker of Louis Latour, learning a lot about the history and legend of the region while they tasted great wines from Latour.
Wine World has a long history of presenting interesting, informative wine seminars, and this was one of the better ones. Ducker, southeast regional manager for Louis Latour, has been working with Burgundy wines for most of his life, so he had a lifetime of fascinating stories and important data to share with the pilgrims as we tasted 10 different wines.
Ducker works for Louis-Fabrice Latour, the seventh Louis Latour and the 11th generation of his family to run the business. It has been a family run business for more than 200 years, since 1797. Latour makes wine from more than 100 different Burgundy appellations, so we tasted only a small sampling of what they produce.
If they didn’t already know about terroir, Friday’s crowd learned about its importance, especially in Burgundy. Ducker gave one of the best concise definitions of terroir I have ever heard: “A precise piece of land and the weather that occurs on it in 12 months.”
Charles Ducker, with two of his wines.

In sunny, warm places terroir and vintage are not so important because good conditions make it easy to grow ripe grapes, full of sugar. In Burgundy, one of the northernmost wine regions in the world, each year presents different challenges. And because soil and weather can change dramatically throughout Burgundy, the location of the vineyard is critical.
That’s one of the reasons when you see a label on a bottle of wine from Burgundy, you know exactly where the grapes were grown and who produced the wine.
Ducker made it clear that the winemakers at Latour consider it a sacred duty to exhibit the terroir in every wine they make. He told about one winemaker who said, “If you can tell I made this wine, I have failed. My personality should not be in the wine. I can only deliver what God gives me.”
Enjoying the food.

That is in marked contrast to some “mad chemist” winemakers who add all kinds of things in the winery to get a particular taste they are looking for.
In Burgundy it is extremely important to know what the vintage of the wine is because the weather can change so dramatically from year to year.
Let’s take a look at the wines in the order in which they were presented:

1. Simonnet Febvre, Cremant De Bourgogne, Brut Blanc NV
We started with this beautiful, bone-dry sparkling wine. It is made the same way as the more prestigious sparklers from Champagne. I have long thought that Cremants made from various regions in France are some of the best bargains around.
This one is made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, the same grapes that go into virtually all Champagne. The grapes come from the Chablis subregion, the northernmost part of Burgundy. The vineyards are only 20 miles from Champagne, but more than 60 miles away from the rest of Burgundy.
Latour makes other sparkling wines, but the only other one available in South Carolina is a similar Cremant in a rosé style, made from 100% Pinot Noir

After traditional fermentation the wine is blended and bottled. It sits “on the lees” or “on the slats” for a minimum of 24 months while it undergoes a second fermentation. The longer the bottles lie on their sides like this the tighter the bubbles get. Under French law the wine only has to sit like this for nine months to be a Cremant, but Latour takes extra time to improve quality.
Ducker said the wine can lie on the slats for years. The next step is going on the riddling rack, where the bottle gradually becomes vertical with the neck down over a period of time. All the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle. It gets frozen, and when the bottle is turned upright and opened, the pressure from the carbon dioxide that has been building pushes out the sediment. The winery than adds the “dosage,” a mixture of wine and sugar and puts the cork in the bottle. After 30-60 days the sparkling wine is ready.
Andrew kept things running smoothly.

Ducker said after the wine has been disgorged you don’t want to keep it too long because it starts to go downhill. But before disgorging you can keep it a long time. He said there are some sparklers with the letters “LD” on the label. That means “late disgorgement.” That means you can get an older vintage that still tastes young and can last longer.
The final bit of information he gave us about sparkling wines surprised most of the group: Store sparkling wines upright, not on their sides.
This was a very nice wine if you like your sparkling wine very dry.
2. Macon Villages, Chameroy 2013
This is a very nice, well-integrated wine with good natural acidity. This wine spends no time in oak. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks.
There was very little aroma, but on the palate the wine is lively with a medium finish.
Ducker explained that in Burgundy the winemakers are doing the same things they were doing 1,000 years ago. Vines are planted close together, at a higher density than in California.
They didn’t have stainless steel, but they had neutral tanks in which to make wine. New oak changes the wine, and he mentioned again that winemakers in Burgundy just want to present what they found in the vineyards, not change it.
He also said Burgundy’s low-alcohol wines are more acidic and that helps their longevity. It also makes the wine more food-friendly. He said when you taste wine at Latour, no one talks about the tastes they detect in the wine because everyone’s taste is different, “and the most important palate is yours.” Instead they might talk about characteristics of the wine, or what food it would be good with.

3. St. Veran, Les Deux Moulins 2014

Ducker called this the poor man’s Pouilly-Fuisse, because the vineyard lies next to that famous appellation and the wines have similar characteristics.
This is another pleasant wine with little aroma but delicate, refreshing flavors.
Like the Macon Villages, these grapes are picked by hand and never see oak. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The winery does not stir the lees.
I liked the clean, refreshing taste of this wine. To my palate there were some hints of green apple. My wife Teri said, “It does something nice on your tongue.”
While we sipped this beauty, Ducker told us about barrels. He said Latour is the only domaine that still makes it own barrels. (In Burgundy a domaine grows its own grapes while a negociant buys grapes from several growers and makes wine under its own name. Latour is both.)
All of Latour’s barrels are medium toast, no matter which wine goes in them. That allows the winemakers to present the true expression of the grapes and where they came from.
So when you’re tasting a Latour wine, the only difference is the grapes and where they were grown. All the other factors are kept constant across a range of wines.

4. Grand Ardeche, Chardonnay 2013
This may have been the bargain of the night. The special sale price was $13.99, and it was a very nice wine with a little more weight than the previous two.
As the wine was poured Ducker asked everyone to hold off taking the first sip until everyone had been served. He told us to sniff the wine then take a sip and hold it on our tongues and in our mouths for a few seconds before swallowing.
The wine had a more intense flavor than the previous two. Like nearly every white wine in Burgundy this one is made from Chardonnay grapes. It is vinified in stainless steel and then spends 12 months in oak, evenly split among new, 1-year, 2-year and 3-year barrels.
Ducker said this is a long-lasting wine. He recently had a 1995 vintage that was still very good and fresh.
Ardech, which is southwest of Burgundy, has a history of winemaking that goes back 2,400 years.
When Latour was digging to build a new wine making facility they found ruins of a Roman amphitheater. They had to stop construction and start again across the road so the ruins could be excavated and restored.
Ducker also talked about how important smell is when tasting wine. That’s why he had us sniff the wine before taking the first sip. The aromas of the wine open up many more sensations and can even trigger memories.
He said we can only taste four things: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. (He forgot the fifth taste, umami, which is a savory kind of sensation.) When you add aroma you get a much richer experience.

5. Chassagne Montrachet, Blanc, 2015
This was the best white of the night, and also the most expensive at $69.99
It had a huge aroma compared to the first four wines. First sips revealed both fruit and acid, well-balanced. It is vinified in stainless steel and then spends 12 months in oak.
I thought it had a rich, vibrant mouthfeel and a long aftertaste. It is a great wine that Ducker said would age well for a long time. The average age of the vines is 30 years.
After the last white wine we took a break to get some food. Wine World had a great selection: Chicken Cordon Bleu, squash slaw, a cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto and a berry salad.

6. Henry Fessy, Beaujolais Villages, Vigne Vieilles 2013

This was a fresh, vibrant, fun wine, full of fruit flavors. This wine would pair well with coq au vin or salmon.
The average age of the vines for this wine is 50-60 years. Some new vines are mixed in to replace older ones, so some of the vines are about 75 years old.
Ducker said all five of the red wines we were tasting were made the same way. All were hand harvested and went through open vat fermentation. After a day or two the skins float to the top to form a cap.
The cap is punched down three times a day and there is a pump over twice a day. Latour uses the traditional method of placing a man on a trapeze over the tank to punch down the cap.
The wine stays on the skins for 12 days to pick up color and tannin. Because Latour is so concerned about reflecting the terroir in their wines, they remove the skins after 12 days.
“After 12 days you begin to get an extraction level in which the image of the terroir becomes blurred,” said Ducker.
After that the wine spends about six months in oak.

7. Domaine de Valmoissine, Pinot Noir, 2014
We thought this was the best red value of the night. The sale price was $12.99.
The wine was a bright red in the glass, with pleasant cherry notes in the taste. It was an easy wine to drink.
The vineyards for this wine are in Provence, so Latour designed a new bottle for the wine so people wouldn’t think they were trying to pass it off as a traditional Burgundy.
Ducker said Latour was the first to plant Pinot Noir grapes there years ago, and there is still no one else growing that grape. The area is about 1,500 feet above sea level so it gets both warm sun and cool nights to help the grapes develop more evenly.
The grapes are fermented in traditional open vats and the the wine spends 10-12 months aging in stainless steel.
8. Marsannay Rouge 2014

This was another nice, simple Pinot Noir, bright red in the glass with plenty of fruit on the palate. It had a lighter color than the Valmoissine because it comes from a cooler climate.
Ducker said it is a versatile wine and would match many different foods. He recommended pasta salad, salmon or lamb.
He reminded everyone that these wines are not meant to be an aperitif or a cocktail. They are made to go with food. He even had us put a piece of cheese in our mouths before taking a sip of wine. It really made the wine taste much better.

9. Pommard 2010.
The final two wines were blockbusters, with price tags to match. The Pommard was a darker wine than the previous reds, with a more robust flavor. The average age of the vines is 40-45 years old.
Ducker said 20 percent new oak is used with this wine because “the substance of the fruit has such structure that using oak allows the wine to better express itself without taking away or masking the terroir.”
He said even though the 2010 vintage was considered difficult for red wines in Burgundy, Latour made a great Pommard. He described the wine has having big shoulders that would make the wine good with a filet.
10. Beaune, Premier Cru, Vignes Franches 2013
This was a fantastic, opulent wine with fruit-forward flavors. It is deep ruby in the glass, with pleasant cherry aromas. The flavors are complex, as each sip reveals a new layer. I picked up some cherry and current.
The “Vignes Franches” in the name is a reference to the history of the area. The words mean “free vines,” and reflects that the owners of this area did not have to pay taxes on the land. Ducker pointed out that each name on the label has significance because it shows the specific location of the wine in the bottle.
“I can imagine the owner and a friend enjoying a glasses of wine when the friend asks  ‘from which vineyard is this wine,’  said Ducker.  “The owner would reply,  ‘It is from my Beaune vineyard where I pay no tax.’  Thus the name ‘Vigne Franches.’ ”
The wine spends 10-12 months aging in oak barrels, 25% new.
It would pair well with Beef Bourguignon, duck, lamb or soft cheeses like brie.

Write A Comment

Pin It