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Top Bordeaux Château Latour Goes Organic

Organic wines are becoming more and more popular. Even the ultra-traditional Bordelais are doing it.

Driving north from Bordeaux on the Médoc peninsula you pass a number of famous wine chateaux. As soon as you cross the border between Saint-Julien and Pauillac you will see one of the most famous, the Château Latour. The château itself is actually hidden behind trees. What you see from the road is the famous tower, “la tour“, looking almost, but not exactly,  like the one you see on the wine label. The real life tour is actually a dovecote from the 17thcentury.

Like many other Médoc chateaux the history of Latour goes back to the 18th century. The current owner, French businessman Francois Pinault, one of the richest men in the country, bought the chateau in 1993.

 

Château Latour is a Premier Grand Cru Classé 1855, the highest classification in Bordeaux and the most prestigious wine classification in France and the world.  This classification alone allows Château Latour to demand extremely high prices for their wine. And, similarly, it makes consumers want to pay those high prices. Of course, this is a high-quality wine, no doubt about it. But still, you have to appreciate the historic significance and the prestige to accept the price.

Latour may be as prestigious as it gets, but it is not resting on its laurels. The newest project is converting a big part of the winery to organic viticulture.

Château Latour is about 60 kilometers from Bordeaux, in the commune of Pauillac. The vines grow in a gravelly soil which is stony and well drained. The vineyard is close to the Gironde estuary and this gives the vines a mild climate without any excesses.  The thick gravel is especially well suited for Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The chateau makes three different wines. The so-called grand vin, that is Château Latour itself, a second wine called Les Forts de Latour and a third wine simply called Pauillac. The grand vin comes from the original part of the vineyards, called the Enclos. This is the most prestigious part of the vineyard where the vines have a fine view of the Gironde estuary. The tradition in Bordeaux says that vines that overlook the water make the best wine. The proximity to the estuary actually gives a slightly higher temperature, helping the grapes to good maturity. The Enclos is around 45 hectares out of a total of 88 for the whole estate.

The grape varieties are 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 % Merlot, 1 % Cabernet Franc and 1 % of Petit Verdot. The planting density is high, 10,000 vines per hectare. Every year the chateau’s viticulturist replaces a certain number of dead vines. These young vines are marked and treated separately. They are harvested separately and they are not used in the grand vin until they are at least 10 years old.

The Enclos is under conversion to organic farming since 2015. It takes three years to be certified so it means that we will see the first organic Château Latour in 2018. Only copper and sulfur, mixed with different plant infusions, are used to fight diseases in the vineyard. Instead of insecticides they use sexual confusion. Only organic fertilizers are used when needed and no herbicides.

 

66 persons work fulltime at the chateau and to these are added 100 pickers for harvest. To ensure that only perfect grapes are put into the fermentation tanks three manual sorting tables are used. Latour uses no optical sorting by machine.  Optical sorting is otherwise the latest trend in Bordeaux.

The winery itself is in a separate modern building. It houses more than 60 stainless steel tanks, some small, some bigger. The winemaker likes stainless steel. It is easy to control temperature and the tanks are easy to clean. The different plots are vinified separately.

The barrel aging starts in December. Château Latour is put in 100 % new oak from the Allier and Nièvre forest in the central part of France. The chateau works with 11 different coopers. This is important to the winemaker as the coopers all have different styles.

 

The wine spends six months in the first year cellar where it will also undergo the malolactic fermentation. The barrels are tasted regularly and the winemaker decides the blend for the grand vin, the second wine and the third wine. He decides if the press wine should be included or not. The wine is then moved to the huge and magnificent second-year cellar where it will spend 10-13 months, so in total around 22 months of aging before it is bottled. 2014 was bottled in June this year. During the barrel aging the wine is racked and topped up regularly, every 3 months. At the end, the wine is fined traditionally with egg whites, 5-6 whites per barrel.

Château Latour is often a textbook example of a Cabernet Sauvignon. No wonder, as often almost 90 % of the wine is made from this grape. It is a powerful wine in its youth, with aromas of cedar wood and black fruit, made even more powerful with the aging in 100 % new oak barrels. It is packed with fruit and tannins and it stays young for at least 10 years. This is a wine you really should wait for, say 10-15 year or longer. It needs time to show what it is capable of. The price in France is approx. 900-1400 € (USD 940-1460).

Les Forts de Latour is the second wine but it is a wine standing firmly on its own feet. 50 % new oak is used but it varies a bit depending on the year. The proportion of Merlot is a bit higher than for Château Latour, around 25-30 %. All vintages are different of course, but Les Forts de Latour often combines concentration with elegance and a certain lightness in style and delicate savory aromas.  Price in France is approx. 350-500 € (USD 365-520).

The third wine, Pauillac de Château Latour, often has about 60 % of Merlot and 35 % of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a quite soft, fruity and drinkable wine even in its younger years. Price in France is approx. 80 € (USD 84).

—Britt Karlsson

 

 

 

First growth Château Latour have released its 2003 grand vin and the 2008 vintage of its second wine, Les Forts de Latour 

Since quitting the en primeur system in 2012 following the campaign for the 2011 vintage, Latour has instead restricted itself to an annual re-release of recent vintages around 20 March, ahead of the futures campaign and another small release of older vintages in September.

The first set of releases in 2013 of the 1995 grand vin and 2005 Forts were released with respective premiums of 19% and 10% on the market price.Merchants and buyers were left unimpressed however and the trade called the price “too high”.

 

Similarly, when the 2004 grand vin and 2006 Forts were released last year with respective premiums of 23% and 6% on the market price, the news was greeted with “deathly silence”.

Then, in September last year, Latour re-released its 1996, 2001 and 2002 vintages. The wines still carried a premium but it was significantly less than anything seen before and was in line with the release of Forts 2007 in September 2013.

Unfortunately for Latour, the wines emerged as many merchants were pushing their 2011 allocations of Solaia and Masseto and so the wines and opportunity were somewhat lost.

With the market showing some improvement, despite a 0.4% decline on the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 in February and Bordeaux returning to favour, there may be some interest in two vintages that are ready for drinking, especially the 2003s.

Interestingly, Latour’s 2005 topped the Fine Wine 100 in February, rising 10.9% to £6,792 a case although this is probably more to do with the current popularity of the 2005 vintage at the moment.

 

Also rising in February were the 2005 vintages of Palmer and Cos d’Estournel. The wine world is waiting for Robert Parker’s 10 year retrospective of the vintage and many are expecting a hike in scores – and prices – as a result. With the 05 Latour currently sitting on 96-points, a wine of its pedigree could easily see a revision elevate it to 98-points.

Interestingly, Latour, Mouton and Lafite are all sitting on 96 Parker points as of 1 March 2008 (Wine Advocate #176), while Haut-Brion and Margaux are rated 98 and are cheaper than Lafite and Latour though not Mouton which is the least costly per case of all the 2005 wines from the five first growths.

But, to return to Latour’s re-releases, as the drinks business reported at the time of the last September release: “Latour’s experiment may be proving tougher than expected for the estate and the latest release [1996] may be a sign it knows buyers will not be swayed by its first growth aura.

“It will not be until previously unreleased vintages – 2012 and onwards – begin to emerge that asking for a premium will start to hold any water.”

2015 by Rupert Millar

 

 

 

Latour offers Ex-Château stocks

Last year, the great first growth Chateau Latour shook up the wine world with the announcement that the 2011 vintage would be their last to be sold in the traditional en primeur system.  Instead, they have introduced a new commercial approach that is groundbreaking in ultra-conservative Bordeaux. Chateau Latour's wines will be conserved at the Chateau until they feel they have reached are ready for release and for drinking. 

Additionally, when the wines are considered ready to drink, only the world's most respected merchants will have access to the Chateau's 'library stocks' direct from Bordeaux. 

The first vintages of the new era of Ex Chateau stock have now been offered:  Forts de Latour 2005 (around £1700 per case/12 In Bond) and Chateau Latour 1995 (£4900 per case/12 In Bond). 

The new approach provides a guarantee of provenance and good storage.  However, it is not yet known whether the price premium of 10-20% for Ex Chateau stock will endure further down the line when set against cases that have been stored under bond in pefect conditions. 

A tour de force of breathtaking power and elegance, Chateau Latour is one of Bordeaux's most consistent greats.  Its second label Les Forts de Latour is a stunning wine in its own right and regularly outperforms many Classed Growths.

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History

Grand Vin de Château Latour – Château Latour Located in the famous Medoc wine region, about 50 kilometers north-west of the city of Bordeaux, the vineyard of Château Latour belongs to the Pauillac appellation.The quality of its wine depends partly on the type of grape variety that is being used, but also on the exceptional combination of natural elements (geography, geology and climate) that constitutes its "Terroir". The original tower of Saint-Lambert was probably built during the latter half of the 14th century. Indeed, on 18th October 1331, PONS, Seigneur of Castillon, allowed Gaucelme de CASTILLON, member of one of the richest Médoc families, to build a fortress in Saint-Lambert.

 

In 1378, Château Latour " en Saint-Maubert ", called later Château La Tour and then Château Latour, entered the annals of history.We are at that time in the midst of the one Hundred Years War and the Tower of Saint-Mambert, a fortified post guarding the estuary, is being held by Breton soldiers employed by the King of France. After a siege lasting three days, the Anglo-Gascon army seized the fort and installed a garnison. Latour stayed under British domination, until the capitulation's treaty, just after the Battle of Castillon, on 17th July 1453.The history of the Saint-Maubert Tower is now a mystery because it doesn't exist anymore... Nowhere, on the 1759 cadastre in Château Latour, do we have the sign of a building that looks like a tower. The fortress, in the 14th century, was based at about 300 meters from the river. We can only assume that the tower stood on the south-east side of the vineyard, near the Juillac river. The old tower was probably not round, but square. If we refer to the time of its construction, we can imagine it was a quadrangular building, with at least two floors.The existing tower, which has nothing to do with the original one, did not give its name to the vineyard. This tower is indeed a pigeon house, probably built with the stones of the old Château between 1620 and 1630. 

 

By the end of the sixteenth century the proprietors had been reduced to a family called Mullet and if direct control was progressively replacing that of tenants and co-proprietors, the system of viticulture was to remain virtually the same until the end of the seventeenth century. At the end of the 17th century, after a succesion of sales, inheritances and marriages, the Latour estate became the property of the Ségur family. It is in 1718 with the Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur, that the Great History of the vineyard starts. Thanks to the marriage of Alexandre de Ségur with Marie-Thérèse de Clausel, "the Tower of Saint-Maubert" entered the Segur family and remained in their hands there for almost 300 years. Just before his death in 1716, Alexandre de Ségur bought Lafite.

 

Two years later, his son, Nicolas-Alexandre, (called "the Prince of Vines") increased the family holding with the acquisition of Mouton (Rothschild) and Calon (Ségur). Only the Margaux estate remained in the hands of the Aulède family. But in 1755, the death of the Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre created substantial changes in the destiny of Latour : before his death, Lafite was given the most attention among his numerous estates. With the division of the Marquis' personal property, Latour finally received the necessary care and investment it required, and started to develop its full potential during the second half of that century. At the beginning of the 18th century, Château Latour started to be highly recognized around the world, thanks to the reconquest of the British market and the development of the wine business in northern Europe. The aristocracy and other wealthy groups of consumers became very enthusiastic about a few great estates, of which Latour was one. And that was how Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador of the United States in France, and future President, discovered this wine in 1787. At that time, a cask of Château Latour was already worth twenty times as much as one of ordinary Bordeaux wine. The reputation of Château Latour was consolidated during the 19th century. It was confirmed in 1855, when the government of Napoléon III decided to classify the estates of the Médoc and the Graves for the International Exhibition in Paris : Château Latour was classified as First Growth.

 

In 1963, the heirs of the Marquis de Ségur sold 75 % of the Château Latour shares. The new shareholders became "Harveys of Bristol" and "Hallminster Limited", both British Limited Companies. "Hallminster Limited" belonged to the PEARSON Group, and held more than 50 % of the shares of Château Latour. However the juridical structure was not changed : it kept the 120 year-old name of "Société Civile du Vignoble de Château Latour". In June 1993, entrepreneur and businessman, Mr PINAULT finally brought Château Latour back into French hands after 30 years of British ownership.

 

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Vineyards

Today the Estate consists of 78 hectares of vineyards. The 47 hectares which surround the Château, the heart of the estate, are called "L' Enclos". Only the grapes from these 47 ha make the "Grand Vin de Château Latour". The vines in this vineyard are very old, some of them being centenarian. This "L' Enclos" benefits from a very unique terroir that combines an optimized sub-soil nutrition for the vines, the Gironde river which tempers extreme weather conditions, and a typical Médoc climate, largely influenced by the Atlantic ocean, which allows the grapes to reach maturation under favourable conditions.

 

In Spring 1963, it was decided to extend the vineyard by 12.5 ha, by planting two plots situated outside the "L' Enclos" which were owned by the Domain since 1850. This extension was not meant to produce a wine that could enter the Grand Vin, but to add a second wine named Les Forts de Latour. This project was undertaken immediately and took about two years to be completed. Renewal of the entire vineyard on a complantation basis : this means removing only the old and non-producing vines, and replacing them with young vines (instead of removing an entire parcel). This decision implies a more complex organization in order to run the vineyard (during harvest for example, the young vines are picked separately), but it allows one to keep a larger number of old vines. From 1968, important improvements were made to the draining system. Tractors and new machines were introduced for better vineyard management at that time but in 2008, the Estate came back to ploughing with horses for a greater respect of the soil, less compaction and an improved carbon footprint.”

 

Soil: top layer of gravels, sub-layers of marls and clays Production area: 47 ha,  Grape varieties: 75 % cabernet sauvignon ; 20 % merlot ; 4 % cabernet franc ; 1 % petit verdot.

Average age of vines: very old, some of them more than a hundred years.

Harvest method: hand picked

Ageing: In new barrels, for 18 months

 

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Winemaking

Upon arrival at the  upper floor of the"cuvier" (vathouse) the stalks are removed from the bunches and the grapes crushed. The juice, pips and skins are  lightly lightly pushed by gravity into the fermentation vats below following three criterea : geographical parcel origin, the age of the vines and the grape varieties.The alcoholic fermentation usually takes about a week.

 

Then the maceration (with all the skins and pips) lasts an extra three weeks.These transformations take place in thermostatically controled stainless steel vats. After this period of four weeks, the wine is removed from the vats in order to be seperated it from the"marc" (composed largely of the grape skins). It is then returned to clean vats to undergo the malolactic fermentation which transforms the malic acid in the wine into lactic acid. This benefits the wine by making it rounder, more supple with added of finesse. Once both fermentations are completed, frequent tastings are held to decide the final destination of each vat into one of the three wines : Château Latour, Forts de Latour or generic Pauillac. The wine is finally drawn off into oak casks in December. Then the maturing in barrel starts, and will last about 18 months. Until the beginning of the summer following the vintage, the wine remains in the first year cellar, but the barrels are not sealed. Instead, a glass stopper is placed over the bung hole which allows for the gaseous exchange to continue between the wine and the atmosphere. Absorption of wine into the wood as well as evaporation combine to reduce the level in the cask, this requires regular (twice weekly) replacement and is known as "ouillage" (topping up). Also, approximately every three months the cask has to be racked, an operation which involves separating the clear wine from the lees at the bottom. Each wine is thus racked 6 times.

 

In July, before the heat of the summer sets in, the casks are transferred to the underground cellar (or second-year cellar), so that the wine may continue its ageing exposed to small fluctuations of temperature. The casks are positionned with the wooden bung turned to the side, in such a way that the bung remains immersed in the wine, causing the wood to swell and therefore creating a hermetic seal. Thereafter, the topping up is no longer necessary. Racking, however, must be continued every three months. Finally, during the course of the following winter, the wine is fined. 

 

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3 different wines with 145 vintages

Winemaking since 1331

  • Frederic Engerer

    Latour's president
    People are always asking me for mature wines. I always wish I had more stock of the 1982 Latour for example – these bottles were sold out since 2008. Even vintages like 1997, 1985 or 1999 -- it would be wonderful to offer them to the market now. But we just don’t have them anymore. We can make many people happy with well-matured wines and we are in the best position to determine when that should be.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Juha Jormanainen, Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  4 wines 

Château Rieussec 2001 / Almost amber yellow color. Nose full of apricot and honey, you could almost chew it. On palate little too much acidity, but still wonderful – loads of exotic sweet fruit tastes. Just buy a bottle and taste it, then you know. Not a 100 points wine just now, maybe some years later, but still 98 points. Prize-quality ratio is one of the best ever.

13d 4h ago

 Omar Khan, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  30 wines 

Le Cinq "Wine Legends" Dinner with wines like Bouchard 1865, Beycheville 1899, DRC Conti 1940, DRC Richebourg 1942, Margaux 1928, Latour 1929, Mouton 1949, Petrus 1949, 1955, 1959, and 1966 etc.

1m 16d ago

 Dhruv Sawhney, Wine Lover (India)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Vintage 1961 tasting with Mouton, Lafleur, Petrus, Latour, La Chapelle, Palmer etc.

2m 4d ago

 Doug Hill / Wine Importer, Pro (Canada)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  10 wines 

My TOP 10 Bordeaux 2016 vintage wines!

2m 5d ago

 Christoph Hons, Wine Blogger (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  15 wines 

New tastingnotes. 

2m 23d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  13 wines 

My TOP Bordeaux from 2010 vintage / Deep ruby in colour, the Lafite has wonderful aromatics, with a gorgeous perfume of violets, cedar, cassis and blackberries. With its velvety tannins and layered, delicate flavours, there is a succulent juicy character to its fruit profile, accented with hints of violet. It is a gorgeous wine that is filled with delicate layers of flavours and at the same time is not heavy or dense. This is clearly a very successful vintage for Lafite in both style and intensity, producing a wine that will outlive the outstanding 2009. 100 points

2m 26d ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  17 wines 

1995 Signature Rosé Jacquesson.  Delicate and pale orange-hued colour. Vinous and attractively spicy nose with red berry aromas and light autolytic influence. The mouthfeel is exterely round and velvety, packed with elegant fruitiness and layers of aromas. The rich body is refreshed by a firm acidic backbone that contius equalyyt long with the wine’s persistent aftertaste. Elegant, harmonius and ripely fruity rosé champagne that is very enjoyable today but will develop harmoniously for another decade.

3m 18h ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  18 wines 

The Friday evening went with friends and Bordeaux's best wines. We started with the almost perfect Haut Brion 1945 and ended the perfect Yquem 1976 vintage. A total of twenty bottles were shared with our friends at our home.

3m 4d ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Latour 1973 surprise d all of us - 96 points?

3m 13d ago

 Hannu Kytölä, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Friday evening with Latour 1959, Lafite 1990, Mouton 1989, Haut-Brion 1995, Margaux 1982 etc.

3m 15d ago

 Andrew Caillard MW, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  126 wines 

Every now and again one stumbles across a paradox that confounds the accepted natural order of things. The 2016 Bordeaux vintage was born out of a growing season that was near-catastrophe and near-perfection. After the Hesperian Dragon’s relentless torment, the Titan God Atlas had seemingly kept the sky aloft with the help of a Phoenix. Following five months of diabolical weather patterns, a warm to hot dry summer arrived in the nick of time, not only saving a vintage, but creating one of the most spectacular vintages in a lifetime.


 The sense of relief in Bordeaux must have been as thrilling as avoiding the bullet of Russian Roulette, or the adrenalin of surviving a base-jump. The razor’s edge has never been so exquisitely fine. While the end result is not always perfect, with the odd abrasions here and there, the overall quality of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage is remarkably consistent with many Chateaux making some of their best wines in 50 years. Typically, the wines have deep colours, pure fruit aromatics, generous saturated flavours, dense rich tannin structures and bell clear acidities. Precision, freshness, elegance, smoothness and “delicate opulence” are words that are being used by various Chateaux to describe their wines.


 The Bordelais are, of course, the world’s greatest spin doctors. They leave snake charmers for dead when it comes to the art of mesmerising. The newly opened and impressive Cité du Vin, which sits on the banks of the Garonne River in Bordeaux, sparkles like a polished turd; a monument to the exaggerations and optimism of this particular type of fine wine game. Momentum is achieved through belief. There is no room for wavering or self-doubt.

3m 27d ago

 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Latour . In a tasting of  161 wines 

Bordeaux 2016 vintage!

3m 28d ago

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