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Château Latour 2012 released as first new vintage in eight years

The Bordeaux first growth has released its Latour 2012 wine, marking the first ‘new’ grand vin to go on sale in almost a decade following the estate's departure from the en primeur system.

Latour 2012 was released this morning (27 May), making it the first Château Latour grand vin to emerge from the estate’s new policy of launching wines when it considers them ready to drink, outside of the Bordeaux en primeur system.

The release, delayed by around two months due to the coronavirus crisis, was priced at £350 / $380 per bottle ex-Bordeaux. UK merchants were selling Latour 2012 at £2,100 per six bottles in bond, or up to £4,200 for a 12-bottle case.

‘This price tag puts it amongst the most affordable Latour vintages available on the market – alongside the 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008,’ said Liv-ex.

It is also the youngest Latour grand vin on the market, and the 2012 was rated 97 points by Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent, Jane Anson.

Ella Lister, founder and CEO of analyst group Wine Listerreported that around 6,500 12-bottle cases’ worth had been released.

Before UK merchant prices began to emerge this morning, Lister said in a note that a price equivalent to £350 per bottle in bond would be ‘a no-brainer, given the pristine storage at the Château, as the “ex-château premium” (anywhere up to 20% usually) is essentially waived here (presumably in the context of the current crisis)’.

Prior to the the original release date of 18 March, some merchants in the UK and US had told Decanter.com that they expected Latour 2012 to find buyers – if the estate priced carefully in the context of both macroeconomic pressures.

Today’s Latour 2012 release price appeared to be broadly in-line with their expectations (see below for more details), but it is early days and the wider economic outlook has become more uncertain in recent weeks.

Latour also released the 2014 vintage of its second wine, Les Forts de Latour, at £140 / $150 per bottle ex-Bordeaux. Liv-ex said it was being sold in the UK for between £1,650 and £1,680 per 12-bottle case in bond.

‘It’s an important moment at Latour,’ Château Latour’s president and CEO, Frédéric Engerer, told Decanter.com at a tasting of the Latour 2012 earlier this year.

‘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.’

Editing and additional reporting by Chris Mercer

Original story on Latour 2012 release schedule

Published on 28 February 2020 

The Bordeaux first growth has confirmed it will release Latour 2012 next month, marking the first ‘new’ grand vin to go on sale in almost a decade.

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

Latour 2012

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.’

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