Many of the famous chateaux of Bordeaux look pretty much the same from a distance. But not Chateau Latour.
The Latour estate is defined, architecturally, by its iconic tower. Built between 1620 and 1630, it was constructed to serve as a pigeon house. A different tower once graced the property, in a different location. The Saint-Maubert Tower, as it was known, was built during the 14th century, but historical records proffer more questions than answers about its ultimate fate.
Located in the famous Medoc wine region, about 40 kilometers northwest of the city of Bordeaux, the vineyard of Chateau Latour belongs to the Pauillac appellation. The quality of its wine is credited partly to the type of grape varieties being used, and also to the exceptional combination of natural elements (geography, geology and climate) that constitutes its terroir.
Today, the estate consists of 78 hectares of vineyards.â€¨The 47 hectares which surround the chateau – the heart of the estate – are called l’Enclos. Only the grapes from those 47 hectares are used to make the “Grand Vin de Chateau Latour.”
This Enclos benefits from a unique terroir that combines optimized sub-soil nutrition for the vines; the Gironde River, which tempers extreme weather conditions; and a typical Medoc climate, largely influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.
This combination of factors enables the grapes to reach maturation dependably and in the best of health.
Of course, the terroir also dictates the grape varieties to be farmed, and Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for about 80 percent of the plantings on the estate.
Cabernet manages to take the best out of the poor gravelly soil by digging deep into the layers of clay to reach its water source. This brings great concentration, deep color and tannic structure when the grapes are transformed into wine.
Merlot represents 18 percent of the “Grand Vin,” and plays an important role in regulating and softening the Cabernet Sauvignon. It is planted mainly on the lower parcels of the Enclos, where the gravel layers are a little less deep, and where the marls and clay layers can be reached more easily by the vines.
Two other grape varieties – Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – account for 2 percent of the total planted vineyard, and in most cases are mixed in with the parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In addition to the “Grand Vin,” Chateau Latour makes two other bottlings.
“Les Fortes de Latour” is crafted from the younger vines of lâ€˜Enclos, along with three lots outside. More Merlot (about 30 percent of the cuvee) and less Cabernet Sauvignon (about 70 percent) than in the “Grand Vin” is used.
A third bottling, known as the Pauillac, was introduced in 1973, but then did not appear again until 1987. Since 1990, it has been released in each succeeding vintage. It is made from grapes grown on younger vines outside l’Enclos.
There is an old Medoc proverb that states, “Only the vines that overlook the water are capable of producing wines of great quality.” Situated just 300 meters from the Gironde River, the vines of Chateau Latour fit that description, and continue to produce wines that are coveted the world over.
Tours: Reservations Recommended
Note: No Public Sale of Wines at the Estate