Château Latour and Château d’Yquem New Releases

France, Bordeaux

Château Latour and Château d’Yquem New Releases

The month of March brings a new set of Château Latour releases and a first look at the newly bottled 2020 Château d’Yquem, as well as its off-dry sibling, “Y.” Offers for these wines will soon be hitting the markets, so while I was in Bordeaux last month, I took the opportunity visit the estates for a taste of what’s to come.

Batter Up

Château Latour


Latour is releasing a trio of strong, if diverse, vintages this year—the 2018 Pauillac, 2017 Les Forts de Latour, and 2015 Latour.


Of the 2018 Pauillac de Latour, winemaker Hélène Genin said, “We were very careful with the harvest date this year. We tried to harvest earlier, so that the tannins are ripe and there is a good weight, but not too much.” An extreme vintage that started off with one of the worst episodes of widespread mildew that Bordeaux has ever known, followed by a hot, dry summer, the concentrated 2018 Pauillac certainly has more weight and richness than is typical, yet it maintains a sense of decorum. This “third” wine of Château Latour accounted for 21% of the production this year.


“This is so floral!” exclaimed Genin as we tasted the 2017 Les Forts de Latour. She’s not wrong. A very impressive showing for this label, it’s certainly not far off the quality of the Grand Vin this vintage while displaying a very different personality. It goes to show how Les Forts is no longer a “second label” per se for Latour, having developed a unique individual signature. The fruit sources are mainly dedicated Pauillac plots owned by Latour and a little declassified fruit from the hallowed l’Enclos. Notably, this was the last year for Cabernet Franc, which is a minor component in Les Forts de Latour this year. The last of Latour’s Cabernet Franc was pulled out at the end of 2017.

Of the 2015 Château Latour, winemaker Hélène Genin recalls, “It was a late harvest and an uneven vintage because of the rains before harvest. We had some botrytis pressure, but the wind came and took care of the threat.” A stellar growing season for the most part, the big challenge for this part of Pauillac was the 60 millimeters of rain that fell over two days in the second week of September. After this, quality depended on vigilance, patience, and selection. At Latour, the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest started on 28th September and didn’t finish until 10th October. This grand vin (representing just 30% of production in 2015) is a remarkable achievement—brava to winemaker Hélène Genin and the team!

Château d’Yquem


As usual at Château d’Yquem, the first picking in August was for their off-dry style, “Y.” “Picking started on 13th August and finished on the 19th,” said Pierre Lurton. “There was just a touch of botrytis on the Sémillon this year.”


I’ve long been a fan of Y, especially when the wine exhibits a touch of that honeyed character that comes with a kiss of botrytis. This 2020 is right up there with the best vintages of this label.


As for the main Sauternes event, Lurton said, “2020 was a strategic vintage. It was a very dry September with little botrytis. So, the first picking was the passerillé—shriveled berries—in mid-September. Eventually, October 23rd, 24th, and 25th provided a great window for picking. We were able to harvest concentrated, fully botrytized berries during this period. However, the crop was down 30% this year compared to 2019.”


Sauternes châteaux, like Yquem, that took a gamble and weathered the storm—Storm Alex on 2nd October—went on to produce some surprisingly impressive, sweet wines in 2020, demonstrating a good amount of botrytis character, if not as concentrated and sweet as more consistently great vintages. This said, I like the generally lighter, fresher styles of the most successful 2020 sweets, which still maintain a lot of layers and unmistakable signatures. For this reason, I believe this is a vintage that Bordeaux lovers who do necessarily gravitate toward the more hedonic wines of this style will want to seek out.


This 2020 Yquem should give a lot of pleasure within just a few years of cellaring, and yet it has the intensity and layers to cellar a few decades and reward the patient with an array of pleasures to come.

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Johan Berglund



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