Château Latour is unquestionably one of the leading fine wine estates in the world. It produces quintessential red Bordeaux that is regularly traded on the secondary market and features frequently at Christie’s auctions. The estate’s reputation for making outstanding, highly collectible wines was established in the 19th century and cemented in 1855, when the greatest wines of the Médoc and Graves were classified for the International Exhibition in Paris, with Château Latour rated as a First Growth.
Château Latour manages to achieve a rare stylistic balance: its wines are internationally known both for their elegance and purity of fruit flavour, and yet also for their power, muscularity and heroic longevity. Few wines age with such consummate grace as those of Château Latour. They are typically highly tannic in youth and are famously distinctive in the way they mature slowly, and on their own terms; stubbornly refusing to succumb to the effects of the natural passing of time before revealing a cornucopia of aromas and flavours, with the tannins mellowing into a silky-textured, extraordinarily complex wine.
The other great hallmark of Latour is its consistency. The wines are reliably impressive, irrespective of whether the vintage is great, mediocre or even slightly disappointing. Challenging vintages for other châteaux are often considered a success for Château Latour.
Fundamental to the exceptional quality, concentration and intensity of their iconic Grand Vin is the use of ‘vieilles vignes’, old vines grown for over 60 years in L’Enclos, the 47 hectares which surround the Château. This vineyard is the ideal terroir for producing grapes with the perfect balance of fruit concentration, fine-grained tannins and acidity that imparts the wines with vibrant freshness and longevity.
The Château’s 92 hectares of vines is planted with 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. In the 47 hectares of L’Enclos, almost all are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up the major constituent of the Grand Vin, with the remainder Merlot, a dash of Petit Verdot and occasionally Cabernet Franc.
Their second wine, Les Forts de Latour, was created in 1966 and comprises grapes from the younger vines in L’Enclos and from outside the prime vineyard and occasionally wines that were destined for the Grand Vin. Les Forts de Latour has a slightly higher percentage of Merlot in the blend, typically 25% to 30%.
Pauillac de Latour began with the 1989 vintage and comprises grapes from young vines in the less prestigious areas and has an even higher percentage of Merlot, around 45%. Pauillac de Latour is designed for earlier drinking, as Merlot is less tannic and more approachable in youth.
The majority of Château Latour’s vines are planted on gravelly hilltops, with soils that have gravel over a clay subsoil. All the soils are characterised by excellent drainage which encourages the vines to develop deep roots in search of nutrients and water.
President and CEO Frédéric Engerer, along with Technical Director Hélène Génin and Estate Director Jean-Marc Pistre, have ensured that meticulous care in the vineyards and grape selection is paramount. Hand-harvesting and a first sorting are carried out by 200 pickers, before being transported to the winery for the second round of sorting and destemming.
The winery contains 80 temperature-controlled stainless-steel vats, ranging from 12 to 164 hectolitres, which enables separate vinification of different plots and varieties. The various wines are then tasted by the team and the blends of the Grand Vin, Les Forts and Pauillac are determined. The wines are matured in oak barrels, with the Grand Vin aged in 100% new French oak for approximately 18 months, with rackings and regular topping up prior to clarification with egg whites before the final bottling. Les Forts is aged in 50 to 60% new French oak and Pauillac de Latour is aged in 20% new French oak.
Legendary historic vintages that demonstrate Château Latour’s exceptional longevity include 1847, 1863, 1865, 1874, 1899, 1900, 1928 and 1929. Of more recent vintages, the standouts are 1945, 1947, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1982, 1990, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2018 and 2019. Of these, the 1945, 1961, 1982, 2009 and 2010 are arguably the greatest Latour ever made.