When we look back in history and compare our notable Kings, Queens and Prime Ministers, a few stand out as exceptional. Churchill, allegedly ‘King Arthur’, Richard the Lion Heart, Queen Elizabeth the 1st, and Victoria all stand out to me. I strongly believe that Château Latour, similar to these individuals, has its roots firmly entwined in history and throughout its peers as one of the greats. I would go as far to say, that it somewhat has a class of its own, similar to some of the afore mentioned great leaders of their time.
The reason I mention this is down to one simple point; Château Latour has been the most consistent First growth Château from the Medoc region for over 100 years. I have noted the best vintages this Château has provided us with at the end of the article. Ask any critic, these wines have performed better over this period than any of its competitors; Château Lafite, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Château Haut Brion.
History of the Château
Before I move on, a bit of background history. Documents take us back to 1331 where we meet a man called Pons, the Seigneur of Castilian. If it wasn’t for this man, we wouldn’t be enjoying all the benefits this magnificent Château offers 689 years later. Pons allowed one of the most prestigious families at the time, in a small village called Saint-Lambert (Medoc), to build a fortress. Interestingly, the label is still the landmark tower we see on the label today. Sadly, the tower no longer exists, and it remains a mystery as to how, when, and why it got knocked down.
Scholars say it was placed on the South East side of the Château, near the Juillac River, and this is where it eventually resided. However do not fear, the Château has rebuilt a tower, most likely made from their old Château stones that broke away in 1620. It is now a fun-loving playground for pigeons. The name has also been slightly altered from Château La Tour, to Château Latour, a substantial difference!
Was it luck?
Through a series of successful marriages, consistent sales and a few inheritances (everyone needs a bit of luck!) the Château finally landed in the hands of the Segur family. The family played the largest part in making the winery into the modern, flexible and prestigious winery we see today.
The family-owned the vineyard for nearly 300 years and, just before Alexandre De Segur died, he bought Château Lafite. The Estate was extremely well managed. Comprehensive documents of the Estates administration, culture, maintenance and decision making can still be seen today.
This happened over the course of 300 years and allows you to see the journey it has taken. I am not allowed to post it; you will have to go on your own journey to see for yourself.
Development of the Château
As the Vineyard entered the 18th century, it was recognised around the world as one of the greats, a Pope of the industry. This was largely down to the development of the Bordeaux market, which happened as a positive externality of the ever-growing British market, and the Northern European drinks trade. Aristocrats and wealthy families found respect in this reliable and consistent winery, carving the demand and price for the foreseeable future, thus making it one of the most sought-after Château’s in the world.
Right, tell me what this actually tastes like!
So, what does this wine actually taste like? I will use the 2009 vintage as this is indisputably their most famous vintage and for good reasons. Even China adopted this vintage which inspired them to grow their own Bordeaux influenced market – might get in trouble for saying this, but it’s the truth because their wines are fantastic!
Once they realised there was a spiritual connection with the number nine, China became a huge factor of this vintages triumph. The 2009 Vintage is regal, a powerhouse of Tannins, surfing to every corner of your palate. It has a softness to it that makes your mouth feel like it met its best friend, an injection of spice, mulled blackberries, undertones of sloe gin, tobacco, truffle, cassis and earthy flavours.
The beauty, of not only the 2009 but of all these vintages, is they require patience – a little bit like wrinkles, you earn the right to have them.
The breakdown of Vineyard
The 90-hectare Château has 78 hectares planted solely to Cabinet Sauvignon 23 Merlot, 1.8 Cabernet Franc and 0.02 to Petit Verdot. These were the plantings. Over the last few years however they have done some secret changes and decreased their Cabernet Sauvignon, nearly diminished their Petit Verdot and the Merlot has certainly become more dominant. This might be down to the fact that Merlot is the backbone of most of the best wines in Bordeaux.
In my opinion, they should have stuck with what shaped their history. However, the Château kept one very secret parcel safe…..the “Enclos”. A parcel of land that burns the eyes of critics, produces Cherubs that fly around the world, putting love in-between everyone.
It was once said there was glass of Château Latour on David Beckham’s right foot. The Enclos is a 47 Hectare slither of land that has remained untouched since 1794. The Terroir in the Enclos is made up of a small amount of clay in the sub soils, but mainly dominated by deep gravel. Gravel is essentially Sandstone, Limestone and Basalt, all unconsolidated rock fragments and as you can tell, very good for certain vines.
The Merlot Grape variety being the most vastly planted grape in the Vineyard, sits in the lower parcels, here we have less gravel, lying close to the surface, with the Sub Soils containing a far richer nutrient profile. Merlot is a pig in shit here, bathing in deep Gravel Soils. Here you will find the grapes for the….drum roll please, Grand Vin Château Latour. So inevitably this is where the money is at, this vineyard, and its history is the reason I have a job. Let that sink in. Along with other Château’s of course, not to put myself up for a grilling from the Trade!
The modern age
As we are now in ‘The Modern Age’ it’s only appropriate we talk about the wineries newest developments that are making its wines adventitious for both the pocket and the palate.
The winery has gone through pretty drastic restoration processes. These projects started in 1964, of which one of them included the winery changing from wooden vats to stainless steel versions. This does not mean ageing of course, simply, they were on the ball and one of the first to adopt this new innovation for fermentation. Later, the whole trade would be using the same method.
The man behind it? After July 1993, when the shareholders of allied Lyons, who owned 25% of the shares of Château Latour bought Pearson’s, they sold their shares to Francois Pinault for $131 million which today would be $237,234,630. He subsequently took over ownership of the winery and hired his son, Frederic Engerer.
It was this man who took the winery into history-making territory. Frederic Engerer, really started having an impact in 1995. Many of us in the trade, place his best work as the 2009 Vintage. My opinion is very much backed up by the fact the winery no longer sells their wines as a future.
They closed this option off to the public in 2011. So, getting your hands on a glass, bottle or case, will make you one of very few to experience this luxury product and be a part of its journey. That’s why I love wine, the journey continues with or without you.
Please note that picking up the phone is ok. I could talk about this forever.
I hope you are all well during these times.
Written by Our Sommelier
The Best Vintages of Château Latour
Over the past 120 years are as follows – 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1982, 1975, 1971, 1970, 1966, 1964, 1962, 1961, 1959, 1955, 1953, 1949, 1948, 1945, 1934, 1929, 1928, 1926, 1921 and 1900.
More about Our Sommelier Ltd
Thank you for reading our second article on our First Growth Collectors Series. We hope you enjoyed our insight into one of the most wonderful French Bordeaux Wine Estates, Chateau Margaux. Stay tuned for the next release on https://oursommelier.com/blog/
Our Sommelier Ltd was incorporated in 2013 and is owned and managed by Arlene King from her London, Mayfair address. The concept behind Our Sommelier is to offer a personalised Sommelier service to private and corporate clients who have an interest in Fine Wine and Spirits, bespoke gifts, seeking procurement of rare and fine wine and spirits for their private cellars, in-house tasting events, and to tour vineyards.
Photo credit to: Hervé Lenain / Alamy Stock photo