By Guy Collins
Bottles of Pauillac first-growth Chateau Latour from the landmark 1961, 1959 and 1945 vintages are going on sale at a Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. auction this month, according to its online catalog.
A single bottle of the 1961 vintage (lot 384), with the wine level described as “very high shoulder” and a nicked label, is estimated to fetch between $3,000 and $4,500, according to Hart. Two bottles of the 1959 (lot 583) carry a combined estimate of between $5,500 and $8,500 while a single bottle of the same vintage (lot 1605) is priced at between $2,800 and $4,200.
A single bottle of Latour 1945 (lot 1), also described as “very high shoulder” and with a bin-soiled label and slightly torn and corroded capsule and a slightly raised cork, carries an estimate of between $2,400 and $3,500.
The Latour website describes the weather in 1945 as being difficult at the start, with significant frosts on May 1 and 2, followed by very favorable conditions throughout the growing season and harvests. “After the war, the vineyard was nothing like what it is today: it had not been replanted, improved or fertilized and suffered from a lack of suitable treatments against various diseases,” according to the website. “At that time, the average yield ranged from 15 to 20 hectoliters per hectare, and this was mainly from old vines that produced comparatively little. Despite a difficult vinification, the resulting 54 barrels of Latour were rich and concentrated.”
1959 was described by Latour as having a warm, wet spring followed by very good weather in July and August, although a little too dry, and a warm, rather dry September. In 1961, May saw fine weather during the day with cold nights, until frost hit on May 29. The vine flowers were frozen and three-quarters of the harvest was lost. July and the first three weeks of August were overcast and cool, but continuous fine weather from Aug. 24 to Sept. 28 enabled the surviving grapes to ripen well. It describes both vintages as “exceptional.”
Latour traces its history back to the 14th century and began to seriously develop as a top-quality vineyard in the early 18th century under Alexandre de Segur, who acquired it, and later his son Nicolas-Alexandre, who Louis XV dubbed “Prince of the Vines.” Descendants of the Segur family continued to own the property until 1962, when it was sold to London-based Pearson, which owned 53% of the shares and Harveys of Bristol, subsequently acquired by Allied Lyons, which owned 25%. In 1989 Allied Lyons bought out Pearson to own 93% of shares, with the other 7% staying with the Segur family. In June 1993 the Allied Lyons majority stake was bought by the current owner, French billionaire Francois Pinault, through his holding company Artemis.
As with sales of all fine old wines, provenance and condition are key and can affect values. The sale is scheduled for Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 in Delaware.
By Guy Collins