1971 Latour & 1971 Les Forts de Latour


Wine is often a moving target. The greatest tend to be shape-shifters in the glass. Just when you think you’ve got a wine pinned down, it mutates into something different, and you end up crossing out words in your carefully written note. It’s like a child toying with you, playing peek-a-boo. Now you see me…now you don’t. This brings me to this pair of wines served completely blind by Frédéric Engerer at the château. (I should preface this by saying that he does not only pour the estate’s wines, and in fact, these were mixed with a third bottle from the Right Bank.) That said, we were clearly playing “home,” not “away,” for the first pair: the one on the left was better than the one on the right. After what felt like hours trying to guess the vintage, it was revealed as 1971. However, I had basically spent the entire time claiming that the Deuxième Vin on the left was superior to the Grand Vin on the right, the 1971 Latour generally considered one of the few genuinely successful wines on the Left Bank. Here’s the thing. Even after the wines were revealed, I was not the only person to favor the Les Forts de Latour, but with about half an hour of the evening left, it was as if a hidden switch was flicked. The Grand Vin soared so that soon, the Les Forts de Latour was in its rear-view mirror. The mercurial nature is part of our fascination with great wine, which makes writing notes more difficult than it already is, but anyway…

The 1971 Latour is a wine I have drunk three or four times over the years. It is considered one of the few successes on an otherwise patchy Left Bank vintage. Decanted and served blind, the 1971 refuses to play ball for the first couple of hours. It’s a bit dull and sultry like a teenager refusing to come down from his bedroom. Then, having toyed with you, it suddenly manifests wonderful aromas of black fruit, cedar, graphite and tobacco, gaining more and more intensity, manifesting the grandeur one associates with Latour. Likewise, its initially closed palate turns in its heel and reveals finely chiseled tannins, a sense of symmetry and precision that distinguishes it as one of the great Latour wines of the 1970s. This is one of those occasions where the final sips are the best. Magnificent. 95/Drink 2024-2044.

The 1971 Les Forts de Latour is a vintage I encountered once before in London. This example, poured blind at the château against the Grand Vin, is much better. This is immediate on the nose, the fruit with traces of more raspberry and wild strawberry than the Grand Vin, bright and open-knit. Pencil-shaving hints emerge with time in the glass. The palate is malleable and beautifully balanced, with a fine bead of acidity and a little more flesh on the finish. Just as the Latour soars, the Les Forts de Latour seems to run out of energy and fades in the glass. Nevertheless, it remains a mightily impressive wine for a 53-year-old Deuxième Vin. Well-kept bottles continue to give pleasure. 92/Drink 2024-2034.

© 2024, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.