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“This Domaine possesses by far the most important parcel of the grand cru Clos de Vougeot and has the privilege of being the sole producer that has its winery within the Clos itself. The quality of the grapes in the Vieilles Vignes is exceptional and their vinification in whole bunches, not destemmed, gives a wine of prodigious breeding, worthy of comparison with the greatest Richebourg. The standard cuvée, excellent also, is produced from the younger vines…” Michel Bettane et Thierry Desseauve, Le grand guide des vins de France
Château de la Tour isn’t an overnight success story. This is a grower that has been making outstanding red burgundies since, at least, the 50s. Yet there is no doubt that since 2010 the (already superb) quality of this producer’s wines has risen sharply and in the last few vintages, it has gone through the roof. The 2014s and 2015s are mindbogglingly good and the 2016s continue the trend. François Labet believes that this latest vintage is, in fact, the finest of the three, which is saying something.
The Villages of Clos-Vougeot
Exploring the Clos-Vougeot with François Labet, owner of Château de la Tour in Vougeot
Detailed Maps of Clos-Vougeot
With some 80 owners of the 50.6ha vineyard, this is the largest Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits. The northwest corner is neighboured by the Grand Cru’s Échezeaux, Grands-Échezeau, and, Musginy.
As you’d expect with a vineyard of this size, there are sections that produce superior wine to others. Château de la Tour is in the best section!
Click to enlarge
Viticulture & Winemaking
The Vieilles Vignes are the oldest in the Clos (now 108 years old) and even the so-called ‘younger vines’, mentioned in the Bettane and Desseauve quote above, have an average age of over 65 years! The viticulture is organic and has been for over 20 years.
The wines are fermented naturally, whole bunch, with no sulphur until after malo and even then in very low levels (ending up at 20 mg free/60 total). The wines ferment in concrete and are aged in top-notch, custom-made Chassin barrels and are bottled unfiltered.
Today, Château de la Tour is a member of Les Domaines Familiaux de Bourgogne which includes most of the greatest names in Burgundy but that doesn’t explain the recent spike in the quality and finesse in the wines in recent times. Perhaps what does help to explain this has been the appointment, in 2013, of the talented Sylvain Pataille to assist François Labet with both vineyard and winemaking decisions. This has led to a finer, more approachable style of wine being produced here – more luscious, more seductive, less austere, yet without any loss of terroir, power or authenticity.
The 2016 Vintage at Chȃteau de la Tour
In general, the 2016 vintage for red burgundy reminds me of the lessons learnt from the 1991 harvest. This latter vintage had followed a truly great year (1990) and was therefore underhyped. Today, the best wines of 1991 are very often every bit as good as their 1990 equivalents. In much the same way, 2016 has followed an outstanding red vintage in 2015 which, as always, makes it likely that it will get less attention. The best 2016 reds are certainly a match for 2015 and, in many cases, if I had to choose between the two, I would often (though admittedly not always) be choosing a 2016 example for my cellar. Sadly, there is far less wine in 2016.
The key thing to understand about the 2016 harvest at Château de la Tour is this – the frost caused yields to be down 50%, (at a Domaine where yields are already low thanks to the age of the vines), and this meant that vines were able to ripen their fruit relatively easily despite the cooler conditions at harvest. In the end, a crop of perfectly ripe, clean fruit came in and has produced a series of outstanding, concentrated wines. François Labet brought in fruit between 13 and 13.5% potential alcohol with no chaptalisation.