Winery

Château Latour

Château Latour has played an important role in the region’s history. Knowledge of the past is valuable in helping us to understand the property’s current reputation. Fortunately, numerous archives have been preserved over the centuries enabling us to establish an accurate picture of the past. This unique heritage shows us an extraordinary stability and continuity in the life of the property and those who have worked there during its long history, which has no doubt been an important factor in the exceptional regularity and quality of the wines.

The Origins

The oldest document mentioning Latour dates from 1331 and is an authorization granted to Gaucelme de Castillon by Lord Pons to build a fortified tower in the parish of Saint Maubert. Château Latour then appears in the Jean Froissart’s « Chronicles » in 1378. This was the time of the Hundred Years War and the « Tour de Saint Maubert » was a fortress to guard the estuary, manned by Breton soldiers for the King of France. After a three-day siege, the Anglo-Gascon army seized the fortress and installed a garrison.

The Foundations

Latour was a jointly held lord’s domain until the end of the 16th century, whose co-owners received rents from the farmers who cultivated the land. At that time, the property was not entirely covered by vines and yet production largely exceeded requirements. There was no proper storage for the wine and it had to be drunk within the year. The estate remained in the hands of the Mullet family until the late 17th century, and while direct use of the land gradually replaced the leasing system, the wine-making situation changed very little.
As a result of successive marriages and inheritances, Château Latour became the property of Alexandre de Ségur, who quickly acquired a considerable collection of properties in the Médoc. The château’s real wine history began with the arrival of this family. Just before his death in 1716, Alexandre de Ségur acquired Château Lafite. His son, Nicolas-Alexandre, was dubbed the « Prince of the Vines » by Louis XV. President of the Parliament of Bordeaux, he further enlarged the family’s estates in 1718 with the acquisition of plots from Mouton and Calon.

Golden Age

In the early 18th century, England’s aristocracy and wealthy middle classes developed refined tastes, particularly for wine, from Bordeaux, Oporto, Jerez and other southern vineyards. Wine exports had been restricted by various blockades imposed by the wars, but now enjoyed a period of relative freedom and trade with Bordeaux grew rapidly. This new economic environment also changed the structure of the Médoc estates which expanded and became of increasing interest to the local bourgeoisie and the parliamentary nobility. Very quickly, the wines of the best estates, including Château Latour, stood out in terms of quality and price. In 1714, a barrel of Latour was worth four to five times more than a barrel of typical Bordeaux wine. By 1729, the ratio had risen to thirteen and by 1767 to twenty. Recognition of Château Latour was already very well-established.

As a result of this flourishing trade, the estate gradually came to specialise in wine production, with 38 hectares of vines in 1759 and then 47 hectares by 1794. Remarkably detailed records of this period are available, kept by the estate’s stewards, who regularly corresponded with the owners; there is also a wealth of often highly entertaining anecdotes about life at Château Latour.

During the revolution the estate was prevented, with some difficulty, from being broken up, and, most importantly, stayed in the same family. By 1842, successive inheritances had increased the number of co-owners, who formed a Société Civile (a non-trading company), which, until 1962, was made up exclusively of descendants of the Ségur family. The property thus benefited from a quite exceptional location and the unique terroir was given « first growth » or « premier cru » ranking in the official 1855 classification, alongside Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Haut-Brion and, since 1973, Mouton-Rothschild. However, over time, the large number of heirs resulted in the sale of most of the shares: the English financial group Pearson became the majority shareholder with 53% and Harveys of Bristol, which was subsequently bought by the Allied Lyons group, acquired a 25% stake. In 1989, Allied Lyons bought out Pearson to hold 93% of the shares, with the other 7% remaining in the Ségur family. In June 1993, Mr François Pinault bought the Allied Lyons’ stake via his holding company Artémis.

A New Era

In the years since 1993, under the leadership of François Pinault, significant changes have been made with a view to upholding Château Latour’s pursuit of excellence in the wines that it produces.
In 1998, Frédéric Engerer, who joined the estate early in 1995, was appointed Manager. Major works started in November 1999 and continued until September 2003. A total renovation of the winery, vat room, wine making facilities and storage areas enabled even greater precision in the production of the wines. A new technical team was also created. In 2012, we undertook further work to enlarge the workspace and create a new ageing cellar, following the decision to no longer sell the Château’s wines en primeur.

Under the chairmanship of Frédéric Engerer, Hélène Génin is the property’s Technical Director, joining the Cellar Master, Pierre-Henri Chabot, and Vineyard Manager, Domingo Sanchez, in an ongoing quest for perfection. This quest is upheld by the efforts of everyone in the seventy-strong team working at Château Latour, in the vineyard and the winery. A wide variety of experiments is constantly being carried out in order to judge the suitability of new procedures. This might for example involve biodynamic methods or new traceability systems, the quest is always for precision, quality, respect of the environment, and awareness of new issues.

In the Vineyard

Most of Château Latour’s vines are planted on gravelly hilltops that stand 12 to 16 metres above the Gironde estuary. The fortunate combination of the Gironde, with layers of gravel on the surface and a clay subsoil, gives Château Latour’s terroir advantages that few other vineyards can claim. This exceptional heritage inspires us every day with a passion and a willingness to make the best possible use of this magical complexity.

The historic terroir of the Enclos can be divided into two main types of soil:

Clayey gravel, in the heart of the Enclos
Gravelly sand, around the edge of the Enclos

The geological characteristics of the soil result in the vines, especially the older ones, developing particularly deep root systems (up to three metres). The presence of lower layers of marly clay that capture water in the subsoil provide the vines with a minimum of water, enabling them to remain « active » even in years of drought and severe water stress, such as 2003 or in 2010, and for longer, optimal ripening to be achieved.

Furthermore, a drainage system for the entire Enclos was created in the 19th century, enabling any water that could compromise the quality of the grapes as the harvest approaches to be quickly removed.

Château Latour’s vineyard is a magnificent mosaic of vines, some of which are a hundred-years-old: each one contributes its share of magic to the wines every year. It is also a constantly evolving organism that requires patience, attention to detail and a great deal of care, to enable the young vines that will succeed their elders to grow.

The vineyard currently consists of 92 hectares of vines, including the 47 that surround the Château, known as the « Enclos », that are potentially used in the production of the Grand Vin. The Enclos consists of a hilltop that rises 16 metres above the level of the Gironde, encircled to the north and south by two streams and to the east by the « Palus » (marshland) on the edge of the Gironde. The forty hectares outside of the Enclos consist of several very handsome plots (« Petit Batailley » and « Pinada » among others) that have been acquired over the Château’s long history. These grapes are used in the Forts de Latour blend and the youngest vines for the Pauillac.

GRAPE VARIETIES
The property is planted with about 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Cabernet Sauvignon is the best grape variety for this terroir; it is perfectly at home in the very poor, gravelly soil, which requires deep roots to find vital nutrients and water in the clay subsoil. These selective supply conditions give the wine concentration, colour and tannic structure.

MERLOT
Merlot plays a regulating role, tempering the strength of the largely dominant Cabernet Sauvignon. It is planted mainly on the lower parts of the gentle hills in the Enclos, where the cooler terroir is well-suited to this early ripening variety. The layers of gravel are also slightly shallower, enabling the Merlot to draw its characteristic body, roundness and power from the clay-limestone layers.

THE OTHER TWO VARIETIES

Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, are used in much smaller proportions in the final blend. Over time, the second has tended to disappear from the blends, with preference being given to the first. Petit Verdot is characterized by its more exotic aromatic profile, its tannic structure and freshness. It provides a subtle but essential nuance to Château Latour’s wines.

In the Winery

Château Latour’s Grand Vin is made exclusively from “vieilles vignes”, an average of 60 years-old, in the Enclos. Gravettes, Sarmentier, Pièce de Château… these are the names of some of the finest plots that express the character of the terroir and forge the wine’s identity every year.

The heart of the Enclos is the only terroir that, every year, can produce the depth, elegance and concentration that we expect of the Grand Vin. It is here that the Cabernet Sauvignon (accounting for more than 90% of the blend) can achieve optimal expression in terms of colour, richness and freshness. These wines need time – often a decade- before they begin to be ready for drinking.

In great vintages, the power and energy of Château Latour’s wines enables them to continue to develop for several decades with ease. The bouquet and impressions on tasting gradually evolve, becoming increasingly complex, ultimately reaching a peak, after which the tannins soften and then the wine slowly declines. Beyond the pleasure of drinking them, these wines can produce powerful feelings and unforgettable moments.

Château Latour is also known for having the ability to produce fine wines even in difficult years.

Winemaking

The harvests usually start in the second half of September and often last beyond mid-October. We harvest each plot at optimal ripeness, taking into account all the relevant parameters at our disposal (analyses, tastings of the berries, weather forecast, etc.). During this period, the estate employs about a hundred temporary pickers, mainly from the Bordeaux region.

The bunches are cut off the vines and sorted by hand, then placed in small crates with a maximum capacity of 8 kg, in order to avoid the grapes being crushed under their own weight.The reception of the harvest takes place on the first floor of the winery. On the way to the vats, the grapes are meticulously sorted in two stages:

removal of vegetation (leaves, stalks etc.) and any grapes that are not perfectly healthy;
after the destemmer, a second sorting belt eliminates any grape stalks and undersized berries that could compromise quality.

The grapes are then gently pressed and transferred to the vats by gravity. Alcoholic fermentation can then start.

The young wine remains in temperature-controlled vats for about three weeks: enough time to extract all the flavours and potential treasures contained in the grapes.

After running-off, in which the wine is separated from the solids or marc (essentially all the grape skins and seeds) and transferred into clean vats or barrels, a second fermentation – known as malolactic fermentation – takes place during the following month. During this stage, the wine softens, developing roundness and precision. Meanwhile, the marc is pressed and the resulting press wine is matured separately in barrels, pending the blending stage.

Once malolactic fermentation has been completed (between the end of November and January), the wine can then be transferred to barrels to start the maturing process. This is the time when the fascinating and crucial stage of the pre-blending tastings begins.

The art of blending is a thrilling phase in the production of the wines, consisting of separating, testing, comparing, and, finally, combining the wines. The senses, memory, rigour and imagination must all be used in perfect harmony to create a style, an impression, while remaining faithful to a personality. The structure, energy and complexity of the wines develops and settles during maturing.

Frédéric Engerer and the technical team, assisted by Eric Boissenot meet regularly from mid-January to taste all the batches of the wines that have been produced. A wide range of wines is analysed to determine the best blend that will be used to make Château Latour’s Grand Vin. The blend is then decided for Les Forts de Latour and finally for the Pauillac. It is also at this point that some of the « press wines » are reincorporated, depending on their quality and the vintage’s overall balance.

The wine is matured uniquely in French oak barrels from the forests of central France. The barrels are renewed every year for the Grand Vin.

The wine stays in the barrel cellar for the first year until the beginning of the summer following the harvest. During the early months, rather than being hermetically sealed, the barrels are loosely stopped with a glass bung to facilitate a very slow exchange of gases between the wine and the atmosphere.. The level of the wine in the barrel gradually goes down due to absorption by the wood and evaporation; the barrels are topped up twice a week in an operation called ouillage.

Before the arrival of the summer heat, the barrels are taken down to the second-year cellar for a further maturing period of ten to thirteen months. There the wine can continue to age in hermetically sealed barrels (placed with the bungs on the side) protected from any variations in temperature.

A year after it has been put in barrels, the wine is clarified using egg white, with one to six egg whites per barrel, depending on the wine and the vintage. This very old technique enables any particles still in suspension in the wine to be drawn down to the bottom of the barrel and removed. A final racking about 45 days after this fining separates the bright, clear wine from the lees.

The wine is tasted to determine when it should be bottled: it has to have lost the generous vigour of its early youth while retaining its finesse and substance, but should not have begun to « dry out » (a deterioration in the wine which is caused by too much time in the barrel).

Where in the World is Latour?

Château Latour is located in the heart of the Médoc wine region, about 50 km north-west of Bordeaux, where the legend of the vineyards of Bordeaux began. The château’s prime terroir, l’Enclos, overlooks the Gironde estuary: it is the river and the ocean that, over the centuries, have given the vineyard its geological complexity and, on a daily basis, ensure a mild climate.

Château Latour’s superb location, just 300 metres from the estuary, gives it its special character and tempers any extreme weather conditions, especially spells of severe cold or frost, as for example in 1991. There are two factors that have a benign influence:

The proximity of the Atlantic, bringing the generosity of an ocean climate;
The immediate proximity of a large mass of water in the form of the estuary, protecting against possible cold spells early in the growth cycle and also enabling earlier ripening of the grapes, which can be an important factor as the harvests approach.

Left Bank

On the left bank of the Gironde River, you’ll find the main regions of the Medoc, and, Pesssac-Léognan & Graves. Sauternes

The Medoc

The Medoc sits to the north of the city of Bordeaux. Note how flat it is and how it is surrounded by two massive bodies of water with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Gironde River to the east of the Medoc wine regions.

The flyover below covers the Médoc from the north, running through the main appellations of Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux with all of the intermediate appellations.

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PRE-ARRIVAL

Les Forts de Latour HALF 2018

Bordeaux Blend | Pauillac, Bordeaux

Pre-Arrival Offer & Pricing Closes 3 April 2024 Terms: Payment upon order. Delivery: August-September 2024. The 2018 Les Forts de Latour is made up of 65.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 0.4% Petit Verdot, with 14.2% alcohol and an IPT (total polyphenol index) of 77. It was aged in 60% new oak. Deep garnet-purple in color, it needs a fair bit of swirling to reveal notions of baked black cherries, cassis and blackberry pie with hints of pencil lead, clove oil, cardamom and alls
PRE-ARRIVAL

Les Forts de Latour 2018

Bordeaux Blend | Pauillac, Bordeaux

Pre-Arrival Offer & Pricing Closes 3 April 2024 Terms: Payment upon order. Delivery: August-September 2024. The 2018 Les Forts de Latour is made up of 65.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 0.4% Petit Verdot, with 14.2% alcohol and an IPT (total polyphenol index) of 77. It was aged in 60% new oak. Deep garnet-purple in color, it needs a fair bit of swirling to reveal notions of baked black cherries, cassis and blackberry pie with hints of pencil lead, clove oil, cardamom and alls
PRE-ARRIVAL

Château Latour 1er Cru Classe HALF 2017

Bordeaux Blend | Pauillac, Bordeaux

Pre-Arrival Offer & Pricing Closes 3 April 2024 Terms: Payment upon order. Delivery: August-September 2024. ‘The 2017 Latour is a blend of 92.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.8% Merlot and 0.1% Petit Verdot with 13.3% alcohol and an IPT of 66. Deep garnet-purple in color, it starts off a little broody before exploding from the glass with powerful scents of ripe blackcurrants, blackberry pie and preserved black cherries plus touches of cedar chest, fenugreek, cumin seed and charcoal wit
PRE-ARRIVAL

Château Latour 1er Cru Classe 2017

Bordeaux Blend | Pauillac, Bordeaux

Pre-Arrival Offer & Pricing Closes 3 April 2024 Terms: Payment upon order. Delivery: August-September 2024. ‘The 2017 Latour is a blend of 92.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.8% Merlot and 0.1% Petit Verdot with 13.3% alcohol and an IPT of 66. Deep garnet-purple in color, it starts off a little broody before exploding from the glass with powerful scents of ripe blackcurrants, blackberry pie and preserved black cherries plus touches of cedar chest, fenugreek, cumin seed and charcoal wit