Wine with Food: Georges de Latour
By Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. | July 1983
What do you serve with a bottle of Georges de Latour? This wine has become so legendary that the name is “dropped’• by wine collectors to establish the credibility of their wine cellars, by beginners as a standard in awe, and by persons not into wine to impress. The popularity of the name for this California wine is akin to the use of Chateau Lafite for designating the best of Bordeaux.
It is my educated guess that more bottles of Georges de Latour are sought, bought, and given as gifts than any specified California wine. And since the recipient, many a time, may not have a grasp of the value of the treasure he or she holds, I thought it would be worthwhile reviewing the wine.
The full name for Georges de Latour wine is: “Beaulieu Vineyard. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Georges de Latour Private Reserve”, followed by the vintage year. It was first designated as such in 1939 by the founder of Beaulieu Vineyard for his exceptional 1936 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then, for most vintage years, Beaulieu has offered a Georges de Latour, named after the founder, as their best Cabernet wine. (They do make two other levels of Cabernet wine). It has become so world renowned, that Gault & Millau, the noted international guide to wine and food, from Europe, selected B.V. Private Reserve Cabernet as one of the 12 best wines of the world. It was the only American wine named.
Say you came by a bottle of this wine with such a great reputation. (or in fact any fine California Cabernet that has comparable credentials) what do you serve it with?
If the bottle you have is young, (anything under seven years would be considered young for such a cabernet), my first recommendation is to age it more. Most all of the vintages of B. V. Private Reserve have 10 to 15 or 20 years of ageing potential depending on the vintage and the cellar temperature of ageing. (optimum 55 F.)
The occasion might dictate that you have to serve a wine given to you, and the wine is young. Or you might not want to wait for ageing, and want to enjoy the young wine, for what it is and maybe use the experience for comparison. If this is the case, then serve it, by all means. Wine is made for enjoyment and every phase of it can be enjoyable. My personal preference for a young cabernet of breed is to serve it with a suitable main course of a meal. It is not usually satisfactory as a sipping wine since it is likely to be too tannicy and hard.
For the young Cabernet as an accompaniment to the main course of a meal, my preferences are roast leg of lamb, roast rack of lamb, veal roast, filet of beef, rare roast beef, or venison and other game. Serve at room temperature, and decant the wine if needed. Opening the bottle 30 to 60 minutes before serving will help it.
For an aged cabernet of breed, which has developed in the bottle with proper cellaring, the food must he mild and light to do the wine justice. The years of patience exercised in ageing to produce the finer nuances and complexities that this wine can show must not be overwhelmed by dominant flavors in the food. Rich sauces, bold flavors of roasting or barbecuing, or strong vegetable flavors all will take away from the wine. My favorite is a simple New England-style boiled beef dinner with an aged cabernet. You can then relish the complexities of the wine.
Better yet is the serving of the aged cabernet after the main course, along with a cheese course. A lesser red wine can be used for the meat course of your meal. For maximum enjoyment of 10 to 20 year old cabernet. give me some crusty French bread and Brie cheese. Other cheeses that go well are Camembert. aged Monterey Jack. Fondu au Marc, La Tomme du Raisin (grape seed coated French cheese), Port-du-Salut, and Pont l’Eveque.
In both instances, serve at room temperature, open the bottle soon before serving, and decant at the slightest hint of sediment. A note of caution: for aged red wines that show a sediment, be careful about jostling the bottle before decanting. You will shake up the sediment and it usually does not settle fast enough to decant it. Bottles that have seen some motion must be stored upright for 24 hours before decanting.
And when you do all this, please give a toast to Georges de Latour for his fine contribution to California wine tradition. q