Little Latours 

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When it comes to white wine, I have expensive French white Burgundy tastes. Unfortunately, I have a cheap New World Chardonnay income. So when I get a hankering for tasty white Burgundy'which is often'I turn to the best French bargains I know: the under $15 white wines of Maison Louis Latour. They are dependable, yummy and'most important'inexpensive. Almost without exception, they drink pricier than they really are.



The Louis Latour family has been making and shipping wines from its home base in Burgundy, France, since 1797. Today, the family-run Maison Louis Latour ships wine to more than 60 countries globally and is widely recognized as the producer of some of the world’s best red and white wines.



But along with making award-winning wines from Burgundy, Latour has extended its reach beyond Burgundy. It’s the Latour wines from the Ardèche and the Côteaux de Verdon that have lately piqued my interest'in part because of their relatively low price.



From the Ardèche region of France come three “little” (in price anyway) Latours: Chardonnay Ardèche, Grand Ardèche, and an interesting Chardonnay-Viognier blend called Duet. Louis Latour Chardonnay Ardèche ($9.95) is a crisp and smooth oak-free Chardonnay which ferments in stainless steel tanks with 100 percent malolactic fermentation, giving the wine a soft, buttery component with hints of apple.



While both Chardonnay Ardèche and Grand Ardèche are made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, they get different treatments under fermentation. While the Chardonnay Ardèche is fermented in stainless steel, Grand Ardèche ($11.95) is fermented in a more traditional manner in oak barrels but also with 100 percent malolactic fermentation. The grapes are lightly pressed before the oak-barrel aging, and the end result is a wine with bigger body than the Chardonnay Ardèche, with spicy hints of vanilla from the oak barrel fermentation. All in all, the Grand Ardèche is a slightly more sophisticated wine than the Chardonnay Ardèche. If you’re not sure about the difference between stainless steel and oak-barrel fermentation, try tasting these two wines side by side.



The third and latest Latour wine from the Ardèche region is called Duet, aptly named for the tricky dance that must be negotiated when blending Chardonnay and Viognier. Chardonnay grapes are late ripening on the vine, while Viognier ripen early. So marrying the two is a thorny tango at best, since the two grapes must be fermented simultaneously and together. But when the combination works, as it does in Louis Latour’s Duet, the result is a sexy, racy wine full of soft fruit and smoothness imparted by the Chardonnay. Unfortunately, I believe the DABC has now discontinued its duet with Duet in Utah, although you can still find it on sale here and there for as little as $4.95.



I’ve mentioned Louis Latour Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres before: It’s my single favorite white wine priced under $20 ($9.95). That’s simply a steal for a wine this wonderful. Produced in a commune called Lugny, in South Burgundy’s Mâconnais region, Latour Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres is fermented in stainless steel with 100 percent malolactic. It’s a little hard to describe all the rich, complex flavors of this wine but easy to appreciate: apples, nuts, honey and brioche flavors all come together in a luscious symphony'sort of what I’d imagine nibbling on Ingrid Bergman’s ear to have been like. Don’t let the $10 price fool you: This wine is so tasty that Tony Blair celebrated his election to British Prime Minister with Latour Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres.

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