Louis Latour, patriarch of Burgundy négociant Maison Louis Latour, passed away at the age of 83 in Beaune, France. The 10th generation in his family to run the historic company, which was founded in 1797, Latour was in charge from 1973–1999.
His son, and current president of Maison Louis Latour, is Louis-Fabrice Latour, who stepped into his father’s former role in 1999 and continued the family tradition of having a Louis in charge. Louis-Fabrice’s eldest son is also named Louis in preparation for the next-generation of leaders.
Born in Beaune, Burgundy, Louis Latour attended the elite Paris school Institute of Political Science, at the same time as the future French president Jacques Chirac. His education provided him a strong foundation to join the family firm in 1958. He quickly expanded the company during his time at its helm.
Latour took over control of Maison Louis Latour at a difficult time. In 1973 the dollar was devalued and ceased being the world’s currency peg, the Arab-Israeli war was followed swiftly by the oil crisis and on the home front, issues of vineyard inheritance created family disputes.
Not discouraged, Latour began to build the company again by reinforcing the export side of the business and rebuilding the family’s vineyards in Burgundy. The domaine now consists of 125 acres, many of which are Grand Crus and Premier Cru vineyards.
But even more than a businessman, Latour was a visionary. He saw the need for big Burgundy companies to look outside the limited space of Burgundy proper for vines. He set a pattern for the future by taking his beloved Chardonnay and Pinot Noir along in the expansion. His many achievements included a move in the 1970s to plant Chardonnay vines in the Ardèche region that is now a major component of the company’s fortunes. In 1984, he planted Pinot Noir further south, creating the Domaine de Valmoissine in Provence.
While increasing production, Latour looked to sales, establishing companies in his two principal export markets, the U.S. and U.K. Today, these countries lead the charge for Latour’s exports to 125 countries.
“[Latour] was a great man of Burgundy,” said his son Louis-Fabrice Latour. Not just because he ran the family company successfully, but also because he fully participated in the affairs of Burgundy, taking charge of the Fédération of Négociant. He even found time to write a book, which traced the history of Burgundy wine from the first century through the 20th century.
Louis Latour is survived by his wife, Ghislaine, four children and nine grandchildren.