In over 300 years, this first growth property has had just three separate owners, and it is perhaps for this reason that Latour has produced some of the greatest wines in Bordeaux with remarkable consistency of quality and style.
There are records of this estate dating back to the 14th century, and its tower was apparently a fortress during the 100 Years War, but its winemaking history began with the Ségur family in the 1700s. Its owners included the legendary Alexandre de Ségur, also known as ‘Prince of the Vines’, and it remained in the hands of his descendants until 1962.
In this year, an English consortium became majority shareholders, and they retained control until 1993, when the estate returned to French hands in the form of businessman François Pinault. He oversaw renovations in the winery and cellars, and he remains in control today.
Selection for the grand vin has become increasingly severe since Pinault appointed Frederic Engerer to manage the property in 1999, and though the quantitiy of Latour made each year has been reduced, the quality has never been higher.
There are 74 hectares under vine, with plantings beginning around the château itself and stretching out to the very edge of the Gironde, making this the closest vineyard to the estuary. The benefits of this proximity are extra heat in the summer and protection from dangerous frosts in colder periods. While not certified organic, the vineyards are farmed sensitively with horses used to plough between the rows.
The deep gravel soils are ideal for cabernet sauvignon, which makes up 80% of plantings, with the remainder 18% merlot and 2% cabernet franc and petit verdot. Some of the vines are over 100 years old.
Only vines from the original 47-hectare vineyard surrounding the château (which was planted by the Ségurs) are used to make the grand vin. This is vinified in stainless-steel tanks: there are 66 in total, in various sizes, which enables the team to ferment grapes according to vineyard plot, vine age and grape variety. The grand vin matures in 100% new French oak barrels, whereas the estate’s second wine, Les Forts de Latour, matures in 50% new French oak, and contains a slightly higher proportion of merlot.