This excellent Graves estate takes its name from the medieval tower which still dominates the main courtyard of the château, a remnant of a fort built in the 12th century by the ancestors of French man of letters and political philosopher Montesquieu.
This structure was built to occupy a strategic position controlling the route between Bordeaux and Toulouse and when it was no longer needed the stones of the fort were robbed for the building of the château at the end of the 18th century.
In 1871, the estate attracted the attention of Edouard Kressmann, who had just founded his wine merchant business in Bordeaux, seduced as he was by the quality of the white wines from the remarkable gravelly hilltop here. The blend created, and which Kressmann’s company sold very successfully, was named Grave Monopole Dry. At that time the estate was known as Château Latour and in 1930 Edouard’s son Alfred, having inherited the family firm and faced with losing this successful wine on the death of the estate owner, set about acquiring it in the same year. He changed the name to avoid confusion with its more famous namesake in Pauillac and it became La Tour-Martillac and eventually Latour-Martillac.
It was Alfred who expanded the vineyard area from 12 hectares, mostly planted to white varieties, adding cabernet sauvignon to the merlot already planted so that the area grew to 30 hectares after the interruption of the Second World War.
In part thanks to his hard work Château Latour-Martillac was elected to Grand Cru status in the Graves classification of 1953 and is one of only six properties in the Pessac-Léognan classified for both red and white wines.
Today six children of Alfred’s successor, Jean Kressmann, own the property with the youngest Tristan and Loïc managing affairs with the help of some of Bordeaux’s finest consultants.
The vineyard area is divided into two distinct sections. One is the patchwork of gravels that make up the so-called Martillac plateau, where the soil is poor and drainage excellent, an ideal habitat for cabernet sauvignon which is planted alongside petit verdot. The second area is closer to the Garonne River where there is more clay and limestone overlaid with gravel. Here merlot does well and the white varieties sauvignon blanc and semillon are planted.
The oldest vines at the estate date back to 1884, a small area of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle in the south-eastern part of the estate. All of the land here is farmed with enormous respect for the environment.
All harvesting is done by hand, with successive trips through the vineyard to select only the ripest fruit. The grapes are then sorted at the cellars. The whites are gently pressed and then fermented in barrel, and the wines intended for the first wine age on their lees with regular bâtonnage for a year or so.