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Ric visits Chateau De La Tour

November 8, 2018

One’s attention is usually focused on the beautiful Chateau du Clos Vougeot (also the HQ of the Confrerie des Chevalier du Tastevin) whenever one drives up to take a closer look at this massive grand cru (in fact, the largest of the Cote d’Or) such that the other lovely castle within the Clos  du Vougeot is often overlooked. Perhaps that is the reason why the latter building is called Chateau De La Tour (literally: the other building). Built in 1890 and subsequently passed into the Labet family, Chateau De La Tour owns the largest share of Clos du Vougeot, some 5.84 hectares which is about 12% of this grand cru. It is also the only domaine that harvests, vinifies and bottles its Clos du Vougeot Grand Cru all on site right within Clos du Vougeot itself. When we arrived on the wet morning of 27 October 2018, we were greeted at the door by the current owner himself, M. Francois Labet, a distinguished-looking gentleman who, in his younger days, would surely have fit the bill perfectly as a swashbuckling chevalier equally at home at the crusade as he would be saving (and charming) damsels in distress. There is also a serious side to Francois Labet in his winemaking, known to be highly fastidious in working the vines: very careful de-pruning, de-budding, and thinning to cap the limit at 6 grapes per stock. Naturally, the work is mostly manual, yields are low, wicker baskets are used to allow juices from the picked grapes to flow out to avoid oxidation, and whole bunches are fermented. Contrary to popular practice, Francois avoids green-harvesting and there is minimal extraction. However, having tasted his wines, I must say such an individualistic approach appears to work very well. His is the best example of Clos du Vougeot Grand Cru that I’ve ever tasted, the vieille vignes cuvee being most outstanding.

Apart from his own wines, Francois also appears to be involved in promoting the wines of a few other domaines. Naturally, these also share Francois’ vision of making wines with minimal intervention. Domaine Dublere, based in Savigny-les-Beaune, is run by Blair Pethel, an American (!) who caught the winemaking bug at the turn of the new millenium and who’d cut his teeth at Jean-Marc Pillot. He keeps the elevage longer than most at 18-22 months, resulting in wines of freshness, sensitivity and character. Domaine Pavelot, working out of 12 ha based exclusively in Savigny-les-Beaune, was started in 1980s by Jean-Marc Pavelot and is now run by his son Hugues. Using only between 15-33% new oak at most, the wines of Pavelot achieve excellent ripeness and structure. Based in Santenay, Domaine Roger Belland is probably a more familiar name, now run by Roger and his daughter Julie, the fifth and sixth generation Bellands, respectively. Producing a range of whites and reds from 23 ha in the Cotes de Beaune, the reds are superbly structured and generous. Thank you very much, Francois, for your time and for introducing us to some of the best-kept secrets of Burgundy.

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2016 Domaine Dublere Savigny-les-Beaune Aux Verglesses 1er. Clear light colour, exuding lifted aromas of honeysuckle and fig with good concentration of delicate lime, yellow citrus and minerals on the palate, showing good precision and freshness. Finishing cleanly.

2016 Domaine Dublere Volnay Les Pitures 1er. Beautiful intoxicating ample bouquet. Fleshy. Very well integrated with slightly dryish textures. Subtly structured. Could do with more character.

2016 Domaine Dublere Morey-Saint-Denis Les Blanchards 1er. Generous plume of smoky characters, dense red fruits and minerals. Medium-bodied. Rounded and fleshy, underscored by deeper understated minerals. Distinctly feminine. Very fine.

2015 Domaine Dublere Chorey-Les-Beaune Les Maladerottes. Sharp lifted ample bouquet of deep complex red fruits and floral tones. Rather full and fleshy, marked by abundant tangerines that produce fine acidity and intensity, finishing well. Very successful.

2014 Domaine Dublere Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Planchots Nord. Beautiful complex bouquet of red fruits and tangerines. More minerally with recessed fruit on the medium-bodied palate. Could do with more substance.

2017 Domaine Pavelot Savigny-Les-Beaune Aux Guettes 1er. Good colour. Lovely nose of ripe red fruits and cherries. Bright and fleshy, producing excellent tone and suppleness with lovely seamless minerals, displaying good detail. Great finesse here. Excellent.

2017 Domaine Pavelot Savigny-les-Beaune Aux Gravains 1er. Good bouquet, though slightly more subdued and darker, suggesting undergrowth and earthy tones amidst red fruits. Very rounded and juicy, displaying great balance with fine depth and acidity, finishing on a soft minerally note amidst gentle intensity. Very fine.

2017 Domaine Pavelot Savigny-les-Beaune La Dominode 1er. Beautiful deep ruby. Lifted full bouquet of red fruits, dark roses and currants, carrying over to the palate with a deeper note of incense. Fleshy, rounded and fullish, showing good acidity. Soft finish. Short.

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2016 Chateau De La Tour Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Full nose, rather minerally with ash and bright raspberries, violets and dark currants. Plump, cloaked in luxurious satiny tannins and layered with excellent ripe fruit. Highly fleshy and delicious, topped with superb acidity, focus and linearity. Aged in 50% new oak. Excellent.

2016 Chateau De La Tour Clos Vougeot VV Grand Cru. Made from vines older than 80 years, some of which are planted in 1910. Great colour. Distinct palpable difference. More layered in its complex bouquet of ripe dark berries, red fruits, currants, cedar and cinnamon while the palate is impressively ample in with generous swathes of succulent warm ripe fruit at just right level of extraction, superbly balanced and integrated with excellent depth and acidity, tapering to a gentle finish with great linearity. A complete wine. Beautiful. Only 8 barrels.

2016 Domaine Roger Belland Santenay-Commes 1er. Very well-focused effusive bouquet of dense red fruits and camphor tinged with tangerines, carrying good concentration on the palate with a deeper note of twigs and earthy minerals. Seamlessly supple but slightly stern with a tinge of vegetative elements.

2014 Domaine Roger Belland Santenay-Commes 1er. Delicious generous bouquet. Medium-full. Very fleshy within a highly supply pliant tannin structure filled with very finely-detailed minerals, finishing in a gentle lovely glow.

2016 Domaine Roger Belland Santenay-Gravieres 1er. Highly effusive dense detailed bouquet of camphor with fragrant red fruits  and preserved red plums. Beautifully ripe, fleshy and full on an elegant cedary floor, highly opulent, nuanced with lovely acidity and minerality, finshing with great linearity and persistence. Outstanding!

2014 Domaine Roger Belland Santenay-Gravieres 1er. Generous bouquet of complex red fruits that exuded a delicious seductive fragrance. Rather full and fleshy, structured with supple tannins and fine inner detail that oozed with gentle sweetness. Excellent, but the 2016 simply affirms the superiority of that great vintage for reds.

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