A Solidly-Made Pommard and a Familiar Set of Flavors

2009 Domaine Latour- Giraud, Pommard Refene 1er Cru

DSC_0619This is spicy, with a nose of briery black cherries, cooked plums, candied notes of cherry liqueur, as well as  fresh, bright highlights of red cherries, fennel, fresh herbs and vanilla. It’s not a heavy wine, as no Burgundy should be, with its long, lean, palate impression. But it is slightly husky in the mid-palate, with a significant core of dark fruit and noticeably sturdy tannins from stems, wood, and seeds, that flows all the way through the finish.  Clearly there were a significant portion of stems included in the fermenter for this wine, which adds structure, and freshness through the carbonic fermentation that occurs inside the unbroken berries. This Pommard-Refenes is exactly as promised: it screams Pommard.  This is a very good wine, offering plenty of fruit, spice and personality, yet at the moment it seems slightly disjointed and is still a bit primary in flavors, and a touch rugged in texture. This will certainly age well, in fact it will only improve as the elements meld together and the texture gains polish. I’d love to taste this in 20 years.  The domaine’s website describes the Refene as having “amplitude rather than grace.”  I can get on board with that: grace will take some time in the cellar to come around.  I found an ounce and half at the bottom of the bottle – after being open 5 days un-gassed. Amazingly, it was showing well, with no oxidization at all. Score today: 87 points.  Potential with long-term cellar time: 92 points.

Is it the Clone That Brings So Much Familiarity to Pommard?

See the excellent article on Pinot Noir Clones at Pinotfile.com
See the excellent article on Pinot Noir Clones at Pinotfile.com

This wine is glaringly a Pommard. It is quite different from anything made anywhere the Cotes de Nuits. But really what I’m continually reminded of are some of the more seriously styled Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Like many of Oregon’s wines, it is darkly-fruited, with good acidity, lots of spice, the use of stems, and notes of forest floor. The tremendous similarity between this Pommard and Oregon Pinot, I believe, is use of a common clone; not to mention the similare winemaking techniques being used. The irony here is while this Pommard reminds me of Oregon Pinot, it is the Oregon winemakers that are emulating Pommard.

In the 1940’s the “Pommard Clone” (UCD4) was gathered cutting from Chateau Pommard by Dr Harold Olmo of UC Davis.  30 years later,  Dick Erath and Charles Coury would introduce  a virus free “daughter” of UCD4  to Oregon winemakers from their plant nursery.  UCD5 was widely planted across the Willamette Valley and remains the most common Pinot Clone in Oregon.   There is so much of the Pommard clone is planted in Oregon, that there is a taste association I am getting between these two regions. Today a wide array of the so-called Dijon Clones have been to the mix.  An excellent article (that is fairly layman friendly) has been written by William “Rusty” Gaffney, M.D. on his site pinotfile.com.

Latour-Giraud’s History and Style:

Jean-Pierre Latour in the Latour-Giraud cellar
Jean-Pierre Latour in the Latour-Giraud cellar

Domaine* Latour-Giraud is primarily a white wine producer that is based in Meursault and is particularly well-regarded for his white wines.  Only 20% of Latour-Giraud’s production is red wine, but long with this Pommard Refrene, Jean-Pierre makes a Volnay Clos des Chene, and a Red Meursault Caillerets. The domaine became established with the union of two families the Latour’s who trace their winemaking back to 1680 to Jean-Latour Boillot (Boillot is another famous Meursault and Volnay name) and the Giraud family who made Marc de Bourgogne and Cassis until the first world war.  Typically the husband’s family name is listed first, and the wife’s name is second, and that is what happened when Pierre Latour married into the Giraud family in 1958.   Jean-Pierre Latour, whom I presume to be Pierre’s son, has been ensconced as the family firm’s winemaker and director since the 1980s. His sister Florence works there as well attending to the “administration” side of the business. With Jean-Pierre making the wine here for over 30 years, Latour-Girauds wines are stylistically a bit more old school, and tend to be on the richer, more concentrated side of the spectrum.  They are brighter and more honeyed  (of course they are Meursault) than say Jean-Marc Morey, but they are not the newly en vogue fresh wines we are seeing that get no battonage (stirring of the lees) like at Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.

*Domaine , meaning ‘field’ in French, is a legal term that denotes a winery that grows 100% of its own grapes.  If a producer buys any grapes or made wine, it may not use the name it no longer can be classified as a Domaine, rather it becomes a negociant.

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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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