The history of Ch. Latour
dates back at least to the 14th century, even though
the vineyards for which it is now world-renowned were not fully established
until the 17th century.
The estate is located at the southern edge of Pauillac
, bordering the St. Julien
vineyards of Ch.
Léoville Las Cases, and covers 78 hectares. After a period when it was
under English ownership, in the form of the Pearson Group, owners of the
Financial Times, and Harvey’s of Bristol, the property passed to Allied
Lyons in 1989 and was then bought in 1993 by the French billionaire
industrialist François Pinault, whose empire was to grow to include Yves
St. Laurent, Gucci and Christie’s Auction House.
Pinault has delegated day-to-day control of the estate and its wines to his
dynamic Président, Frédéric Engerer, under whose
stewardship a major programme of investment has taken place which has seen
Latour rise to an undisputed pre-eminent position in the Bordeaux wine
Engerer produces 3 wines: the Grand Vin
, which always comes from the
vines immediately surrounding the château, known as L’Enclos;
Les Forts de Latour
, the second wine, created in 1966, and now regarded
as a great wine in its own right, certainly worthy of Classified Growth status;
and finally a third wine, simply called Pauillac de Latour
, usually the
product of young vines. The second wine, Les Forts de Latour, always comes from
a distinct location, rather than simply being the vats rejected as not quite
worthy of inclusion in Latour itself, so it has its own distinct identity.
In terms of volumes, on average there are about 16-20,000 cases of Latour made
each year, 10-12,000 cases of Les Forts de Latour, and a variable quantity of
the generic Pauillac. As one would expect in Pauillac the Cabernet Sauvignon
dominates, accounting for 80% of the
vineyard, with Merlot
(18%) and Cabernet Franc
/Petit Verdot comprising the remaining 2%.
Vinification is rigorously controlled, with severe selection of only the
healthiest fruit, total de-stemming, and separate tanks for each parcel of
vines. A three-week long maceration is followed by malolactic fermentation in
vats before the wine chosen to become Ch. Latour is run off into barrels, 100%
new, for ageing. The wine destined to become Les Forts de Latour is aged in 50%
new oak and 50% one-year-old barrels.
In style the wine is powerful, structured and compelling, and has been for many
the most consistent performer amongst the First Growth
over the past century, acquiring an enviable reputation for
producing very good wine in the more challenging vintages. It has great
potential to age, with the best vintages lasting a century or more.