Latour 2012 is set to be released on 18 March and sold entirely through ‘a small group of 30 négociants on the Place de Bordeaux’, revealed Frédéric Engerer, Château Latour’s president and CEO, at a tasting premiere held in London yesterday (26 February).
He did not disclose pricing details for the 2012, which will be the youngest Latour grand vin on the market.
The Pauillac estate left the Bordeaux en primeur system after the 2011 vintage and has subsequently held new wines back in its cellars.
However, while the 2012 release might raise anticipation among collectors, the fine wine market is also facing a series of challenges, including US tariffs, which have heightened buyers’ sensitivity to price.
‘We’re coming back’
‘It’s an important moment at Latour,’ said Engerer. ‘After eight years of frustrations from our négociants, with little wines to sell and of course no en primeur, we’re finally coming back with a full or complete introduction.’
Joining the release of Latour 2012 will be the 2014 vintage of the estate’s second label, Les Forts de Latour, as well as the 2015 vintage of its third label, Pauillac de Latour.
For the first wine, Engerer said 2012 ‘is the ideal vintage to re-start [releasing] in terms of balance.
‘Our philosophy has always been, “let’s try to introduce wines that are starting to be ready for drinking”. For Latour, eight years is still very young but in this case the 2012 matches quite well with this philosophy.
‘Should we have started with the 2013 rather than the 2012? Probably in terms of concentration, but in terms of vintage appeal, as a ‘back on the market vintage’ I don’t think it would have been a wise move, so we decided to start with the 2012.’
Bordeaux endured a notoriously difficult vintage in 2013, albeit many critics were pleasantly surprised by the quality of small amounts of wine made by the top châteaux.
How much Latour 2012 will be released?
Latour has re-released older vintages since leaving the Bordeaux futures system, but Engerer said ‘the 2012 grand vin release will be the largest in terms of volume’ since leaving en primeur.
However, he said the estate would also hold back stock for future releases, in-keeping with tradition.
He did not specify exact figures, but he added that, following the 2012 release, the estate ‘will return to a normal crop’, offering roughly 70% of the 10,000 cases produced each year to the place.
Merchant reaction in UK and US
Buyers at some merchants said that pricing on Latour 2012 would be particularly important in the context of market challenges.
‘I think in terms of the wine’s maturity it is a good time to release,’ said Thomas Parker MW, buyer at Farr Vintners.
But, he said it was a tricky time for the fine wine market in general, highlighting macro-economic pressure from Coronavirus, US tariffs, Brexit and recent political unrest in Hong Kong.
‘I hope the Château will take into account the prices of vintages like 2006, 2007 and 2008, which are comparable quality-wise and all available in the UK for roughly £4,500 per dozen in bond.’
If UK merchants were able to sell the 2012 at around £4,000 per 12-bottle case in bond, ‘this would make it the cheapest available Latour on the market and give people a real reason to buy’, he said.
In the US, recently-imposed import tariffs on French still wines may affect sales.
‘Without the tariff there would be interest for sure,’ said Clyde Beffa Jr, co-owner and wine buyer at K&L Wine Merchants. If the price is right, US-based buyers could still show interest, because the wine is from a good vintage and has never been released, he added.
Liv-ex cofounder Justin Gibbs highlighted that its Liv-ex 50 index, which tracks prices of the five first growths – Latour, Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion – was down by 6% in the past two years.
However, Latour has fared slightly better than the other four, even though its recent back-vintage releases have not always garnered great enthusiasm.
‘Due to the excitement of a new Latour vintage, the 2012 release is certain to generate some excitement. Price, as ever, will be crucial.’
Latour release strategy
Going forward, Engerer suggested that future releases may not follow chronological sequence. ‘Will we change the order over the years to come? Probably. For 2016 and 2017? Maybe. All options are on the table.’
Since 2013, Latour has released back vintages of both the grand vin and second label.
In 2016, its release of the 2000 vintage first wine and Les Forts de Latour 2009 was met broadly positive reactions, despite the wines being priced above the market.
In 2018, Les Forts de Latour 2012 became the first release of a wine made after leaving the en primeur system, providing a test of demand.
About the vintages
Blend: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.5% Merlot, 0.5% Petit Verdot.
The 2012 vintage was ‘hectic’, according to Engerer. It was marked by considerable spring rainfall followed by significant summer drought but despite heavy rainfall during the harvest grapes ripened and remained in very good condition.
Pauillac de Latour 2015
Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.
A vintage of contrasts with hot and dry periods (June and July) mixed with extremely wet months (August and September). It was ‘a combination vintage – warm and wet’, especially during the harvest ‘which diluted a little bit the beautiful, rich, sensual fruit’, said Engerer.
Les Forts de Latour 2014
Blend: 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot.
The 2014 growing season was ‘complicated’, notable for its early start followed by a slow summer thanks to heavy rain and low temperatures. September was one of the hottest and driest over previous decades encouraging even ripening and a stress-free harvest resulting in wines with ‘elegance and freshness’.
And finally: The Bordeaux 2019 vintage
Speaking about the 2019 vintage ahead of this year’s en prmieur tastings at the beginning of April, Engerer said: ‘You’ll enjoy the 2019s more than the 18s. Both were warm years but the 18s were more concentrated. 2019 is more zen, there’s more freshness and more fruit.’
Top Bordeaux 2017 wines – re-tasted after bottling
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Source: Georgina Hindle