Chateau Latour 1989

By , 25 October 2012



Benchmark stuff.

Yesterday I presented a tasting intended to explore what constitutes icon wine to the final-year winemaking students at agricultural college Elsenburg at the invitation of lecturer and resident winemaker Bertus Fourie. Some thoughts on what constitutes icon wine:

When does a cult wine become iconic? A wine becomes “cult” when it manages to capture the imagination of those highly involved with top-end wine; icon wines meanwhile are recognised as great across the board.

Matters of 1) quality and 2) style: icon wines obviously have to be of a very high intrinsic quality but I would further contend are classically styled more often than not. Wines made using extreme techniques of viticulture and winemaking in order to stand out in the market place may succeed commercially but will always struggle to acquire icon status, the Bordeaux garagiste movement a case in point.

Does there have to be a limited production? Rarity often contributes to the mystique of a label but is not essential to icon status – the Bordeaux First Growths typically between 15 000 and 20 000 cases.

Is pricing a relevant attribute? The argument might be made that Chateau Libertas and Tassenberg are iconic but their positioning at the bottom end of the market means that they will always struggle to shake off commodity status.

Is there an established evolutionary curve? Track record is important but not essential to a wine acquiring icon status. Mondavi-Rothschild venture Opus One was created out of nothing and has acquired icon status but this route is not easy. KWV’s failed effort with Abraham Perold Op die Berg Shiraz a reference. In addition, icon wines are nothing if not luxury brands – brands have life cycles and need to be carefully managed.

The line-up as follows:

Dom Pérignon 2002
Desiderius Pongrácz 2003

Vergelegen White 2009
Domaine de Chevalier 2006
Giaconda Chardonnay 2005
Bachelet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009

First flight
Meerlust Rubicon 2007
Vergelegen V 2007
Ornellaia 2004
Mouton Rothschild 1997
Latour 1989

Second flight
Vega Sicilia Tinta Valbuena 5 ⁰ 2005
Gaja Sperss 2007
Amarone della Valpolicella Giuseppe Quintarelli 2000
Columella 2009


4 comment(s)

  • Christian26 October 2012

    In fairness, Elsenburg Class of 2012 is pretty cool – it was more about the challenges of presenting such a line-up. Imagine trying to do a good job of telling the story of Mouton’s 1973 ascent to First Growth status AND deal with the low-level Brett on the 1997 AND then really savour the Latour 1989…

  • Harry26 October 2012

    If they could not keep their shit together to maintain engagement with a line-up like that, well, I just don’t know. 

  • Christian25 October 2012

    Hi Dana, Not that easy to keep 20-odd students engaged and properly assess wine but the Dom P, Vergelegen White, Domaine de Chevaier, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Latour and Columella were the real deal for me…

  • Dana Buys25 October 2012

    A very interesting line-up Christian! As they say in the movies – show me the money. In wine speak that is how did they score ???

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