Just prior to the Coronavirus hitting Europe, Château Latour was preparing to release their 2012 vintage direct from the Château for the first time, but following the lock-down across Europe the release was postponed. We had news from the Château this week that the release is now due out on Wednesday. As we await the release, we explore what makes this First Growth from Pauillac so unique.
Château Latour, the King of Kings, is situated on what is arguably the best terroir on the Left Bank, built upon trademark Pauillac gravel and clay subsoil and perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of the Gironde breeze reducing the threats of both frost and mildew. These excellent natural conditions, combined with rigorous production methods, result in one of the most consistent performers on the Left Bank year in, year out.
Latour produces wines of haunting precision, power and finesse, with few finer expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon (80% of the vineyards) to be found anywhere in the world.
The history of Château Latour stretches back almost as far as Château Haut-Brion, with evidence of vines on the property since the 14th century. Amazingly the property had an unbroken lineage of family ownership from 1670 right up until 1963. In 1993 the current owner, François Pinault bought the estate for £86 million from the Ségur family.
Since its acquisition, significant investments have been made at the property including a total renovation of the winery, vat room and wine making facilities under the guidance of Frédéric
Engerer who has since been credited as the man behind some of the finest wines
ever made at the property.
Selling wine before it is bottled is as old as the Bordeaux wine trade. In
the eighteenth century, the estate manager at Château Latour sold an entire harvest
soon after the wine had finished its fermentation to a single British merchant,
avoiding the costs of storing, racking and bottling. How times change.
In the spring of 2012, the Pauillac first growth announced it would stop selling its wines en primeur. Instead, its trio of reds – the Grand Vin, second wine Les Forts de Latour and the third cuvée, Pauillac de Latour – would be released when they were ready for drinking.
Few producers have the means to cellar their wines for such lengthy periods. Château
Latour, owned by François Pinault's Artemis group, whose stable includes Clos de Tart and Napa's Eisele Vineyard, is one of the few that can afford to undertake this storage regime.
Latour lovers have long had to practice patience: the Pauillac gravel and clay soils imbue the wines with precision, power and finesse, which can take decades to unfurl.
The 2012 Vintage
2012 marked the first vintage to be cellared under the new regime. It had its challenges with drought-affected summer months followed by autumn rains affecting the Merlot harvest but, as usual, the tenacious, thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon, plays the lead role in this Grand Vin (90%).
The 2012 release will inevitably require time in cellar to truly hits its apogee but with the seal of approval from the Château, you may dare to taste a bottle upon release, if patience is not one of your virtues.
The inaugural release will be joined by 2014 Forts de Latour (71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot).
To read our full Château Latour producer profile click here.