Chateau Latour – A Profile of the Remarkably Consistent Bordeaux First Growth

Perhaps the most consistent of the Bordeaux First Growths has been Chateau Latour. While the other four Chateaus have had periods of underperformance, Chateau Latour has been remarkably consistent over the years in making some of the best wine to be found.

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Chateau Latour can trace its history back to 1331 when a tower, called Tor à St-Lambert, was built on the site. This tower was used for defense in a battle between the Plantagenets and the French during the Hundred Years Wars. Sometime around 1378, the land, now referred to as “the tower” or Le Tour, was a seigneurie, a sharecropping system of land ownership. In 1453, when the English were finally defeated, the owner of the estate, Sieur de Larsan fled. The property returned to the control of the French and the tower on the site was destroyed. Nothing from it, other than the name, exists today. Sometime in the early 17th century, the the building on the label of the bottle called a dovecot was built on the site of the original tower.

It is not certain when the first vines were planted but certainly by the early 1600s there were grapes growing. By the end of the century Latour had developed a top notch reputation for quality wines. In 1670, the estate was purchased by the de Chavannes family which passed in marriage seven years later to the de Clauzel family. Alexandre de Ségur then acquired the property by virtue of his marriage to Marie-Thérèse de Clauzel. Latour remained in his family for almost three centuries although for much of that time, it was managed in absentia.

The 1800s saw a steady expansion in the estate and the quality of wines. In 1855, Chateau Latour was one of only four red wines granted premier cru status. See Bordeaux First Growths: A True Trophy Wine For Wine Collectors. Unfortunately, Phyloxera attacked the vines at Latour starting in 1880. The entire vineyard was replanted from 1901 thru 1920.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

In 1963, the descendants in the Ségur family sold off a controlling interest in Latour to a British group. This group invested in the estate adding vineyards and making improvements to the winery. Latour was the first of the Premier Crus to modernize. Stainless steel fermenting vats replaced the oak. In addition, a second wine called Le Forts de Latour was produced.

Allied Lyons bought control of Latour in 1989 for £110 million. Francois Pinault, a French billionaire who also controlled Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci thru his Group Artemis holdings, bought the estate in 1993 for £86 million. The day to day management of the estate is in the capable hands of Frederic Engerer.