By Jim Boyce
I joined six Chinese wine writers on April 26 for lunch with Chateau Latour GM Frederic Engerer. Organized by ASC at the Hyatt’s Made in China restaurant in Beijing, the event saw us try his 1995 and 2001 wines with Chinese dishes, including Beijing duck, and discuss Chateau Latour in particular and the wine industry in general. I asked him three things.
Has he tried any Chinese wine?
He said that regrettably he had not.
What does he think about China’s growing influence on the Bordeaux market?
He said that countries such as China are changing the customer base for Chateau Latour: “It’s going to be a different profile of customers.”
“We are not responsible for the tripling of prices,” he added. “It’s out of our hands. Our goal is to provide the best wine every year.”
What does he think of screw tops and has Latour experimented with them?
He reacted strongly to the issue of screw tops. He called them “artificial” and questioned how well wine will age with their use.
“If you make wine to drink in 18 months, then [screw tops are] wonderful,” he said, but added that corks are better for storage. “It’s not a matter of traditional versus modern. It’s understood that our wines last 50 years.”
He gave no indication that Latour had experimented with screw tops.
“Our goal is to get cork better. With screw tops, it’s a different product. They call it wine, but we don’t,” he said, and cited his displeasure with the screw top lobby.
He pointed at the wine we were drinking: “Do you want this wine touching something artificial?”
When asked about glass closures, he said that Latour used some of these with its 2000 vintage and would give the wine a try in 2010. He added that Latour used glass closures in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s.
As for the food and wine pairing, some of the initial dishes proved too spicy – particularly those from southwest China – so the “heat” was reduced for the remainder, with the Beijing duck being an OK match. On top of talking to a leading Bordeaux personality, trying new food and wine combinations added to the fun.
Note: The wines we tried were Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, 2001; Chateau Latour Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, 2001; and Chateau Latour Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, 1995.
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Engerer gave no indication Latour is even interested in trying screw tops. I thought they might want to put some cases under screw top just to see what happens – after all, if the wine doesn’t age properly, then that would justify their cork use (then again, maybe they have done so and aren’t interested in giving out the information – who knows).
With food-wine pairing, it’s tough with Chinese foods, because at a typical meal you have a whole array of dishes that already match well to each other (unless you serve the meal one dish at a time).
I hope you have had an interesting time with the Latours.
It’s rather interesting reading why Latour won’t be a fine match to asian cuisine due to its inaccessibility when young.
It seems like the winemaking philosophy is largely ‘can’t be bothered’ with the advert of screw cap and the movement in fine wine prices by simply denying their involvement and influence.
BTW, would we continue to buy Latour? I hope so … but prices are beyond our pay!