Nestled in the heart of Bordeaux, Chateau Latour isn't merely a prestigious First Growth Bordeaux; it stands as one of the world's most iconic estates. With a history dating back nearly seven centuries, it was one of Bordeaux's original four First Growths in Bordeaux's 1855 Classification. Under the stewardship of Francois Pinault and his dedicated team, Chateau Latour has continually redefined quality standards. Their stringent grape selection process has propelled the estate's wines to unprecedented heights, earning acclaim from critics like Robert Parker, who says, “Ask just about anybody which first-growth is pushing quality to the highest level, and the majority will claim it is Latour.”
A Rich History
Chateau Latour's history unfolds against the backdrop of the 14th century. During the Hundred Years War, the defensive tower, Tor à Saint-Lambert, was erected to safeguard the Gironde Estuary. Though the tower met destruction by the war's end, it was resurrected in the 1600s, lending its name to Chateau Latour.
In the 18th century, Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Segur acquired the estate, marking the beginning of a 300-year dynasty. The Segur family became synonymous with greatness in the region and eventually owned three of the five First Growths, including Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite, and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Chateau Latour's reputation for supreme quality spread worldwide, commanding a price twenty times that of an average Bordeaux wine. Even aristocrats like Thomas Jefferson developed a fondness for its wines.
A Transformational Era
In 1963, the Segur family sold 75% of their shares to the London-based Pearson group, marking the beginning of a transformational era. The Chateau underwent extensive renovations, becoming one of the first in the region to adopt modern stainless steel vats, replacing old oak vats. Thirty additional acres were planted outside the famous "Enclos" vineyard, accompanied by drainage system improvements.
In 1989, Allied Lyons acquired shares from the Pearson group, taking majority control of the estate. Four years later, the legendary estate passed into the hands of Francois Pinault which set the stage for another phase of renovation. The vat room and cellar received an upgrade, boasting new stainless steel tanks of varying sizes, allowing for precise parcel-by-parcel vinification. Astonishingly, under the vigilant eye of Pinault and Technical Director Frederic Engerer, the wine quality at Latour continued to soar.
The Heart of Latour
At the heart of Chateau Latour lies in the Enclos vineyard, arguably Bordeaux's most prestigious site. Spanning 116 acres, this vineyard, planted in 1794, has remained largely unaltered. Situated close to the Gironde River, it boasts diverse soils, including marl, clay, gravel, and limestone. In total, Latour maintains 193 acres of vineyards, with vines averaging 40 years in age are planted to 74.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23.8 Merlot, 1.8% Cabernet Franc and .02% Petit Verdot.
Commitment to Sustainability
Since 2008, Chateau Latour has embarked on a journey toward sustainable farming, introducing horses to reduce soil compaction and implementing organic and biodynamic methods. By 2015, the Enclos vineyard achieved a 100% organic farming certification, a milestone extended to all of Chateau Latour's vineyards in 2019.
The Art of Winemaking
Chateau Latour produces two additional wines including a second wine known as Les Fort de Latour and a third called Le Pauillac de Chateau Latour. Les Fort de Latour originates from younger Enclos vines and its surrounding vineyards, while Le Pauillac de Chateau Latour utilizes fruit omitted from Les Fort de Latour. Fruit from the prestigious Enclos parcel contributes exclusively to the grand vin.
The meticulous winemaking process at Chateau Latour underpins its consistent quality improvement. Technical Director Frederic Engerer, in charge since 1995, has instituted a rigorous selection process, ensuring only the finest fruit from the best site is used. Grapes are vinified with precision, accounting for variety, parcel, and vine age. The grand vin matures in 100% new oak, while Les Fort de Latour ages in 50% new oak.
A Bold Decision and a Bright Future
In 2012, Chateau Latour made a bold decision to exit the futures market, choosing to release wines when they are at their peak readiness for consumption. Although met with controversy from Bordeaux's negoicants, this decision underscores Latour's unwavering commitment to producing exceptional wines. The 2012 vintage, for instance, was finally released in 2020.
Chateau Latour's ascent is a testament to its enduring legacy and relentless pursuit of excellence. While it has remained one of the world's most celebrated estates for centuries, it continues to climb higher, pushing the boundaries of what is achievable in Bordeaux's vineyards and beyond. Francois Pinault and his team are dedicated to crafting one of the world's greatest wines, setting the standard for uncompromising quality. For collectors and connoisseurs, owning a bottle of Chateau Latour is not just a choice; it’s imperative, and there has never been a better time to acquire one of the world's finest wines.