Château Latour is perhaps the most famous French wine, rated as "First Growth" (Premiers Crus) by the 1855 Bordeaux Classification system put in place by the government of France. That there are only four other wines rated "First Growth" and given the huge popularity of French Bordeaux wine, this says a lot about its quality.
The Château itself has been a wine-making site since at least the twelfth century, with the first mention in the history books of the time dating the construction of it to 1331, when a small winery was built on the present-day property, and to 1378, when the remainder of the original estate was built. The estate has since then been situated about three hundred metres from the Gironde estuary. A garrison fort was built there to protect the estate and winery from attack during the Hundred Years' War.
Many changes in ownership followed over the intervening centuries, including several decades of ownership by English interests and several more decades of ownership by Dutch interests. The present owner of Château Latour appears to be Bernard Magrez, a French wine magnate who also owns many other Bordeaux wineries and estates.
Château Latour produces just three products, all of which are highly sought-after:
Grand Vin is what made and keeps Château Latour in the spotlight. A typical bottle contains a mixture of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and the remainder consisting of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Les Forts de Latour, the "second wine", is a bit different, being a mixture of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Each of these are produced in quantities that remain fairly consistent year-to-year—18000 cases of Grand Vin and 11000 cases of Les Forts de Latour. The "third wine", Le Pauillac, is not produced annually but is instead released sporadically. Vintages from 1974 and 1987 have been brought to market. There doesn't appear to be a general consensus (that I could find) as to when Le Pauillac would see another release.
The Château Latour bottle label, depicting a squat tower, is the trademark of the brand. The tower is located on the estate alongside the road to the château. This tower was built in the 1620s after the original was destroyed and was intended to be used as a pigeon roost. Its function now, however, is purely symbolic.
Given Château Latour's reputation, all of its vintages regularly sell out by the time production on the next year's batch is getting started. It is considered an investment wine—so expensive that its only real practical use is to buy it, hold onto it for a while, then sell it at gain—as it is far too expensive to be used as a casual wine, unless you're obscenely rich. For example, a six-litre bottle of Grand Vin from 1961 sold at auction in 2011 for £135,000(2011 UK pounds) to an anonymous bidder. 1961 was a rare vintage—it was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, rather than the 75% Cabernet Sauvignon/20% Merlot/5% remainder composition. Nevertheless, recent vintages can be affordable if you're eager to splash out on a really fine wine. Single 1.5L bottles of Grand Vin bottled within the last five years or so can be purchased for (usually) less than $1000, but after that, the prices skyrocket directly into the domain of investment wines. One current-year case will set you back approximately $11,000(2014 US dollars).
Anyway, Château Latour is a great example of a famous real-world wine. If you've spent any time watching TV or movies over the past 30 years or so, you'll hear about it whenever a high-class wine vintage is needed. Two specific examples I can think of are Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, in which the obese glutton Mr Creosote (played by Terry Jones) orders six bottles of Latour 1945 (the rarest and most sought-after vintage—not much was produced that year because of World War II) as a portion of his apéritifs prior to an enormous meal, and on an episode of The Simpsons, in which Cecil offers Sideshow Bob a drink from his wine cellar, listing, among others, a bottle of Château Latour 1982. "I've been in prison, Cecil," says Bob. "As long as it doesn't taste like orange drink fermented under a radiator, I'll be happy."
There have been some famous Latour drinkers, including more or less every monarch of France from the early 1300s up to the French Revolution in the 1790s. American President Thomas Jefferson, who spent a number of years as a United States Ambassador to France, also broadly praised it, and imported a lot of it to stock the wine cellar at Monticello. It really was the Bordeaux region's "killer app" for centuries and still maintains its top-shelf quality to this day. When you read or hear the word "Bordeaux", you'll probably either think of France or French wine—this is due almost entirely due to the "First Growth" wines that come from there. It made Bordeaux synonymous with fine wine.
Oh, and the other "First Growths", mentioned at the top of this writeup, are Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion and Château Mouton Rothschild. All of these are from the Bordeaux region of France.
I've never had Château Latour, of any vintage. I don't drink alcohol (by my own choice, for health reasons) but if offered the chance to try a Latour, I think I would jump at it. But since I don't have any wealthy friends or relatives, that chance will probably never come. It's not like you'll ever find it at the corner grocery or even many high-end wine shoppes. It's really that expensive. Ordering online or going to a five-star steakhouse may be able to satiate your desire for Latour, but it'll be a costly and probably delicious venture.
A note on diacritic characters: E2 doesn't really like letters with any sort of accent mark over, under, or stuck to the letter before or after it. This is because E2 doesn't use UTF-8 encoding for URLs, making the accented characters escaped, so â becomes something like %3D%5C%2Q if you look at it in the address bar at the top of your browser window. Thus, I've left the â out of the word Château so the URL doesn't look messy, but makes the title incorrect. I think I'll take easy-to-read over pedantic proofreading. I'm told that this
feature bug will be fixed Real Soon Now.
CHATEAU LATOUR (official site)
WP: Château Latour
Los Angeles Wine Company: Bordeaux Reds