Château Latour

Blue-blooded Bordeaux

Based in Pauillac, the epicentre of First Growths in Bordeaux, Château Latour is an estate that can trace its viticultural roots back to the 17th century. Located at the southern edge of the appellation, the vineyard holdings sit at an impressive 92 hectares, with 47 of these comprising the famed L’Enclos vineyard. This plot of prime real estate surrounds the château itself and is just 300 metres from the Gironde Estuary. The soils are rich in clayey gravel at the centre of the site and gravelly sand towards the edges, and its deep-rooted vines (some as old as 100 years) plunge as deep as three metres.

Key to the Latour style—and what sets it apart from its First Growth Pauillac peers—is the dense, sticky clay, argile gonflante (similar to the soils of Petrus in Pomerol) that ripples deep underneath the gravelly surface. Hélène Génin (technical director at Château Latour) asserts that these pockets of clay in just the right places “contain the secret to the wine’s elegantly muscular power and immense longevity”.

The Enclos vineyard is the only terroir deemed capable of producing fruit with the required depth, concentration, elegance and refinement for the Château Latour Grand Vin, and consequently is the lone source for this wine. The remaining hectares of vines contribute to Les Forts de Latour—a wine of great status from chosen plots within L’Enclos and other Cru Classé areas of Pauillac—and Le Pauillac de Château Latour, which is made mostly from fruit from the youngest vines.

Model viticultural practices are in place at Château Latour. Organic certification was awarded in 2018, and biodynamic practices have been used with increasing frequency over the last 10 years. As one might (and should) expect from such a well-resourced producer, no expense is spared in the vineyard. The talented team, led by Frédéric Engerer, use satellite imagery and vine sensors to monitor vigour in the vineyards. They make picking date decisions based on blind tastings of grapes to mitigate any pre-conceived plot bias. Vines are planted at a density of 10,000 per hectare and, should any plots need to be replanted, they are left fallow for a minimum of five years to allow the soils to regenerate. Horse-drawn ploughing was reintroduced in 2008, there are insect hotels and no herbicides are used. And that’s just in the vineyard.

Plantings are Cabernet Sauvignon dominant (76%), followed by Merlot (22%) and with the remaining two percent split between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Each of the 138 plots is harvested separately and hand-picked fruit is placed in small, eight-kilogram bins to minimise bunch damage. The fruit is sorted in two stages in the winery; stage one eliminates leaves and imperfect grapes, while stage two further refines the berry sorting to ensure only the very finest, most pristine fruit makes it to the fermentation stage. Château Latour was one of the first Bordeaux producers to introduce stainless steel vinification back in the 1960s, and this is still the practice today. The wines go through malo and maturation in barrels—all new for the Grand Vin and 50% new for Les Forts—before blending.

The innovation does not stop in the vineyards and the winery. In 2011, Château Latour caused quite a stir when it withdrew its wines from the En Primeur system, instead choosing to release when the wines are deemed ready to drink—or at least, at the beginning of their often very long-drinking windows. Those timeframes can vary but are usually between eight and 10 years for the Grand Vin and six to eight years for Les Forts. Since 2007, Latour has been using a Prooftag system that provides traceability and authentication for the Grand Vin. Each wine wears a code on the bottle neck, which can be searched on the producer’s website.

The Range

Château Latour Pauillac 2014
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Château Latour Pauillac 2014

Certified Organic. Based in Pauillac, the epicentre of First Growths in Bordeaux, Château Latour is an estate that can trace its viticultural roots back to the 17th century. Located at the southern edge of the appellation, the vineyard holdings sit at an impressive 92 hectares, with 47 of these comprising the famed L’Enclos vineyard. This plot of prime real estate surrounds the château itself and is just 300 metres from the Gironde Estuary. The soils are rich in clayey gravel at the centre of the site and gravelly sand towards the edges, and its deep-rooted vines (some as old as 100 years) plunge as deep as three metres. But the key to the Latour style—and what sets it apart from its First Growth Pauillac peers—is the dense, sticky clay, argile gonflante (similar to the soils of Petrus in Pomerol) that ripples deep underneath the gravelly surface. Hélène Génin (Technical Director at Château Latour) asserts that these pockets of clay in just the right places “contain the secret to the wine’s elegantly muscular power and immense longevity”.  Château  Latour’s Grand Vin is made exclusively from vines located in the finest plots within the coveted and revered estate vineyard, L’Enclos. The vines have an average age of 60 years, with some as old as 100. It is from these vines that Cabernet Sauvignon (accounting for 90% or more of the blend in most years) most deeply expresses its terroir. The 2014 was matured in 100% new oak. 

"The 2014 Latour is one of the very finest wines of a vintage that favored the northern Médoc. Mingling aromas of wild berries and cassis with hints of cigar wrapper, loamy soil, black truffles and classy new oak, it’s full-bodied, rich and concentrated, its broad attack segueing into a deep, tightly wound mid-palate that’s framed by powdery, chalky tannins and bright acids, concluding with a long, mouthwatering finish. This classically balanced, youthfully structured young wine looks set to enjoy prodigious longevity. It’s reminiscent of a modern-day version of a cooler vintage such as 1996, though of course these days maturity is more complete and selection even more rigorous than was the case two decades ago."
97+ points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
“So much violets, licorice, pencil, flowers and currants define this on the nose before it moves to fresh mushrooms. It’s full-bodied yet compacted with tension and a compressed center palate. Incredible, fine-grained tannins and energy. The length is truly great.”
99 points, James Suckling, jamessucking.com
"Tasted blind. Big and bold and spicy with intensity. So much on the end! Massive density. Dry tannins but luscious fruit too. Really pure and so Pauillac!"
19/20, Jancis Robinson MW, Jancisrobinson.com
“The 2014 Latour captures the personality of the year in its linear, lithe construction. It's a decidedly understated Latour that is more about finesse than brawn. Bright red cherry/plum fruit, spice, mint and sweet tobacco open over time, but at this level, wines are more about a feel, an expression of place and a vintage. The 2014 Latour embodies all the best this cool, late-ripening growing season had to offer. I loved the 2014 when it was first shown, about five years ago, and I love it today. It is a super-classic Pauillac.”
96 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Château Latour Pauillac 2014
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Les Forts de Latour Pauillac 2016
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Les Forts de Latour Pauillac 2016

Certified Organic. From its genesis in 1966, this wine has evolved and improved to achieve the level of Médoc Grand Cru Classé. Fruit for this wine is sourced from vines within L’Enclos, both from the centre (where the majority of fruit is used for the Grand Vin), from the edges of the site and, from other plots in the Cru Classé areas of Pauillac (some of which have been owned by the Château for more than a century). Winemaking for Les Forts de Latour is in a similar vein to the Grand Vin, with the only difference to note being the proportion of new oak used in the maturing stage (50% as opposed to 100% in the Grand Vin). The varietal blend varies each year; 2016 is 64.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35.3% Merlot and 0.4% Cabernet Franc and sits at a cool, 13.5% alcohol. 

"The 2016 Les Forts de Latour is superb, unwinding in the glass with notions of blackcurrants, wild berries, sweet loamy soil, cigar wrapper and English walnuts. Medium to full-bodied, deep and layered, it’s concentrated and tightly wound, with superb depth at the core, lively acids and ripe, powdery tannins. This is an impeccably balanced, utterly classical Forts de Latour worth a special effort to seek out."
95 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
“The fresh currant and violet aromas are so complex and beautiful on the nose. Full body, ultra-refined tannins and lovely tannin tension. Shows focus and such finesse. Beautiful finish.”
96 points, James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com
“The 2016 Les Forts de Latour is the clear highlight among these new releases from Latour. The first thing that is evident about the 2016 is the pedigree of the vintage. Undisputedly great. Readers will find a potent, dark Forts de Latour endowed with massive concentration and tons of depth. The 2016 won't be ready to drink anytime soon, but it holds tons of promise. Hints of gravel, sage, licorice and pencil shavings linger. The 2016 was impressive a few years ago. It is even better today.”
96 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
“Violet scented dark black cherries and figs on the nose, quite powerful. Tannins are generous but they're juicy and plump, soft almost chalky, they have a really great impact, filling the mouth together with the fruit. Everything has melded together, super balanced and all very harmonious - still clearly powerful with precision and sculpting of the fruit and a long finish with the flavours going on and on. Good acidity gives freshness and a real rush of strawberry and cherry juice on the first sip lifts and sustains the palate the whole way. Such a charming wine with great impact and presence.”
95 points, Georgina Hindle, Decanter
Les Forts de Latour Pauillac 2016
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“I think of Latour as a linchpin of Bordeaux insofar that if it suddenly disappeared, then the region would lose its cohesion, bereft of a wine that encapsulates Bordeaux more than any other.” Neal Martin, Vinous

“Under CEO Frédéric Engerer and technical director Hélène Génin, unremitting perfectionism and attention to detail is the order of the day at Château Latour… the objective, above all, rather than subscribing to any particular theoretical approach, is to treat the vineyard holistically, as a system, within and with nature rather than against it.” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

Country

France

Primary Region

Bordeaux

People

Technical director: Hélène Génin

CEO: Frédéric Engerer

Availability

National

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