Louis Latour to realise Beaujolais potentialBy Patrick Schmitt
Maison Louis Latour has stepped up its investment in Beaujolais with a new domaine, a new Gamay blend and plans to plant up to 50 hectares of Pinot Noir.
The Burgundy négociant bought the 18-hectare Fleurie property Château des Labourons in October last year, following Louis Latour’s acquisition of Beaujolais producer Maison Henry Fessy in January 2008, while the Beaune-based business is also taking advantage of new appellations Coteaux Bourguignons and Bourgogne Gamay, both introduced to the Beaujolais region in 2012.
Speaking to the drinks business last week, Louis Latour sales director Bruno Pépin stressed his belief in the potential for crus, Gamay, and Pinot Noir from Beaujolais, particularly now increasing demand for red Burgundy is pushing up grape prices.
“We bought Henry Fessy four years ago because we know the Beaujolais region, we believe in its potential, most of all in the potential of the crus, and Beaujolais is a relatively cheap investment at the moment.”
In terms of land prices in the region, Pépin said that a single hectare of vineyard in one of the 10 Beaujolais crus cost between €40,000 for a site in Régnié to €120,000 for a hectare in Fleurie or the best parts of Moulin à Vent.
On average, he explained that land prices were 10 times cheaper than the Côte d’Or, with the least expensive vineyard in “any Burgundy village selling for €500,000”.
As for retail prices for the wine produced from these sites, Pépin recorded, “There was a time when the best crus [from Beaujolais] sold at the same price as Pommard Premier Cru or Clos de Vougeot.”
Louis Latour now own 80 hectares in Beaujolais according to Pépin, who explained that the Burgundy négociant was planning to acquire land in every Beaujolais cru.
“Instead of a single estate, we prefer to offer a complete range,” he said, noting that beyond Georges Duboeuf, and, to a lesser extent, Henry Fessy and Louis Tête, there are few local specialists.
Indeed, referring to rival Burgundy négociant’s investments in Beaujolais, he said a more common approach was to create one wine from one appellation.
“Louis Jadot has Château de Jacques, and Bouchard Père et Fils has Villa Ponciago, but we prefer for Henry Fessy to be seen as specialists of the crus de Beaujolais.”
He also said that Louis Latour has worked on a tiering of its Beaujolais offer to include, from lowest to highest prices, Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, Beaujolais Crus, and then a château range (following its recent acquisition) and finally a single vineyard selection, encompassing sites in Moulin à Vent, Brouilly and “hopefully” in Morgon in the future.
Louis Latour is further taking advantage of Beaujolais’ inexpensive land prices and favourable terroir by planting Pinot Noir, as previously reported by the drinks business.
Focusing on the south of the region where limestone soils exist – and not the granite necessary for cru-quality Gamay – Louis Latour will shortly plant 15ha of Pinot Noir, although Pépin admitted to db that he hopes to increase that to 50ha.
The produce from the vineyard will be sold under the new Coteaux Bourguignons appellation and in a Louis Latour – not Henry Fessy – branded bottle.
He also noted that although the site of these upcoming plantings was more southerly than the Côte d’Or, the vineyards were around 150 metres higher, ensuring the temperatures during the growing season are similar.
This should ensure the profile of the wine will be more like Louis Latour’s Burgundian wines than its Pinot Noir from the Var in south east France, where it produces 30,000 cases from a 100ha property called Domaine de Valmoissine.
Furthermore, he noted that the planned Beaujolais Pinot vineyard was in a “beautiful place” and, due to the golden colour of the limestone soils, this part of the region is called Pierres Dorées – a name Pépin said Louis Latour were considering using for the future wine.
Meanwhile, the producer used ProWein to promote its latest product called Bourgogne Gamay from the 2011 vintage.
Taking advantage of a new appellation, the wine is a blend of Beaujolais crus with 15% Pinot Noir from Burgundy, to bring some “pepper and acidity” according to Pépin.
He said the possibility to blend the crus would ensure stylistic consistency and quality, and pointed out that Louis Latour were the only company producing and promoting wine under this new more flexible appellation.
Retailing in the UK for £9.99, he described it as a great opportunity and already a great success since its first release last year, with orders from 15 markets.
Finally, he noted how the new wine offered a high quality taste of Burgundy without the drawbacks that can plague inexpensive Pinot Noir.
“I don’t think there is any good Pinot Noir below £10,” he concluded.