Chateau Lafite Rothschild
|Listed Wines||Lafite Rothschild
Carruades de Lafite
|Owner||Domaines Barons de Rothschild|
|President||Jean-Guillaume Prats (CEO)|
|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||15-25,000 cases|
|Classification||1er Grand Cru classé|
|Second Wine||Carruades de Lafite|
|Interesting Fact||When the 1855 classification was made, Lafite was listed first among the four first growths earning the reputation ‘the first among the firsts’. This moniker has stood the test of time, with modern-day Lafite still commanding more demand and attention globally than it’s first growth counterparts.|
Is there a wine brand globally that is held in such high regard amongst oenophiles as Lafite-Rothschild. The name itself immediately evokes grandeur, synonymous with the pinnacle of winemaking that Bordeaux can offer. An aspirational label, one that all wine lovers, new or old, wish to own, visit and taste one day. For over 30 years Lafite went from strength to strength under the stewardship of Baron Eric de Rothschild, where he cemented the brand’s place at the top of the fine wine hierarchy. Ably assisted in the cellars by legendary winemaker Charles Chevalier, the duo delivered a legacy to be immensely proud of. 2017, however, marked a changing of the guard at this historic estate, with Baron Eric’s daughter Saskia de Rothschild taking over the helm as Chairman. At the same time, Jean-Guillaume Prats, an esteemed operator in both Bordeaux (from his time at neighbouring estate Cos d’Estournel) and the fine wine world (as the chief of LVMH’s international wine arm), became the new CEO replacing the outgoing Christopher Salin. Eric Kohler, also took over winemaking responsibilities from Charles Chevalier in 2016 when he became technical director. This triumvirate have overseen a quite excellent trio of vintages, since working together, pointing at an even more exciting future in the modern-era for this legendary estate.
In terms of the total number of ‘perfect-point’ awards from Parker, Lafite is second to none on the Left Bank and second only to Petrus in all of Bordeaux! Among the Old World wine regions, there are a handful of vineyards who will find their tasting notes embellished with the word ethereal. The aforementioned Petrus is one, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti another But even those prestigious names do not resonate amongst the wine world, nor do they echo across oceans, in the way Lafite does.
What is astonishing, is not the number of 100-point ratings the Grand Vin attains, but the consistency of the ratings – in the 16 vintages since 1995, Lafite has an average Parker rating of 96.5! And it’s not just Parker… James Suckling awarded 95.77 and the notoriously difficult-to-please Jancis Robinson rated an average of 18.27(out of 20) across the same period.
Through marriages, inheritances and sales, Lafite changed has hands numerous times over the centuries. Alexandre de Ségur and his son Nicolas-Alexandre were first responsible for the expansion of the vineyard- they maximised the pecuniary power of the estate in the early 18th century. The next generation of the Ségur dynasty was not quite as meticulous with its running of the Châteaux and between 1784 and 1816, the estate was up for sale no less than six times, before falling under the tenure of the Vanlerberghe family. During the half-century period under Dutch ownership, Lafite continued to rise in stature, with the 1855 Classification ranking Lafite as the top Médoc producer, until the death of Aimé Vanlerberghe just over a decade later.
Enter the Rothschilds and nearly a century-and-a-half of flourishing success for Lafite – though it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. The regime has overcome war and economic depression, in addition to the ‘Great French Wine Blight’, in the late-19th century, where more than two thirds of all French vines are estimated to have been destroyed. The estate was even occupied by German forces during WWII, but Baron Elie de Rothschild regained possession in 1945 and Lafite Rothschild has since gone on to attain 100-point Parker ratings for 9 different vintages.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pricing
Highest rated vintages for Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Tasted three times since bottling, the 1996 Lafite-Rothschild is unquestionably this renowned estate's greatest wine. As I indicated last year, only 38% of the crop was deemed grand enough to be put into the final blend, which is atypically high in Cabernet Sauvignon (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot). This massive wine may be the biggest, largest-scaled Lafite I have ever tasted. It will require many years to come around, so I suspect all of us past the age of fifty might want to give serious consideration as to whether we should be laying away multiple cases of this wine. It is also the first Lafite-Rothschild to be put into a new engraved bottle (designed to prevent fraudulent imitations). The wine exhibits a thick-looking, ruby/purple color, and a knock-out nose of lead pencil, minerals, flowers, and black currant scents. Extremely powerful and full-bodied, with remarkable complexity for such a young wine, this huge Lafite is oozing with extract and richness, yet has managed to preserve its quintessentially elegant personality. This wine is even richer than it was prior to bottling. It should unquestionably last for 40-50 years. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2050. The wine of the vintage?
A modern day version of the 1959 Lafite, the 2003 Lafite Rothschild was bottled in mid-May, 2005 after achieving 12.9% natural alcohol – hardly an astonishing figure given the vintage’s weather conditions. A combination of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, it represents a ripe version of the essence of Lafite-Rothschild. Dense purple-colored, with classic notes of graphite intertwined with melted licorice, creme de cassis, smoke, and flowers, it reveals extraordinary richness, opulence, power, purity, intensity, and viscosity. Whether this wine will close down or not is questionable as it is somewhat atypical given its sweetness and softness. Analytically, there are extremely high tannins, which I suspect will assert themselves in the future. Production in 2003 was less than half of normal. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2050.
The 1986 possesses outstanding richness, a deep color, medium body, a graceful, harmonious texture, and superb length. The penetrating fragrance of cedar, chestnuts, minerals, and rich fruit is a hallmark of this wine. Powerful, dense, rich, and tannic, as well as medium to full-bodied, with awesome extraction of fruit, this Lafite has immense potential. Patience is required. Anticipated maturity: 2000-2030. Last tasted 11/94
The main reason the 2009 Lafite Rothschild did not receive a perfect score is because the wine has closed down slightly, but it is unquestionably another profound Lafite, their greatest wine since the amazing 2003. Among the most powerful Lafites ever made (it came in at 13.59% alcohol), the final blend was 82.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot. The selection was incredibly severe with only 45% of the crop being utilized. A tight, but potentially gorgeous nose of graphite, black currants, licorice and camphor is followed by a full-bodied wine revealing the classic elegance, purity and delineated style of Lafite. It is phenomenally concentrated with softer tannins than the 2005, the 2003's voluptuous, broad, juicy personality, and low acidity. There are several vintages that I thought were a replay of their colossal 1959, most notably 1982 and 2003, but 2009 is also one to keep an eye on. It is still extremely youthful and seems slightly more backward than I would have guessed based on the barrel tastings, but it needs 10-15 years of bottle age, and should last for 50+.
Since I gave this wine a perfect score, I suppose some could see this as a downgrade. I found everything still there for a perfect rating, but I was just struck by how tight and backward the wine was. A blend of 93.3% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot, the wine still has a dark ruby/purple color and an extraordinarily youthful nose of graphite, black currants, sweet, unsmoked cigar tobacco, and flowers. The wine is rich, medium to full-bodied, but has that ethereal elegance and purity that is always Lafite. I originally predicted that it would first reach maturity in 2011, but I would push that back by 5-7 years now, although it has 50-60 years of life in front of it. Owners of this beauty are probably best advised to forget it for 5 years. Tasted next to a 1996 several days after the 2000 tasting, the 1996, which is a perfect wine, was far closer to full maturity than the 2000.
The 2010 Lafite Rothschild, a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot (a 3% difference from the barrel sample shown two years ago), achieved relatively high alcohol of 13.32%, according to administrator Charles Chevalier. The wine is very impressive, not as fleshy, flamboyant and massive as the 2009, but nevertheless, a big, rich, full-throttle Lafite-Rothschild meant to age a half century or more. Deep purple, with notes of white chocolate, mocha, cedar and charcoal as well as hints of vanillin and creme de cassis, the wine is full-bodied yet has that ethereal lightness that makes it a Lafite. Rich, with good acidity, precision and freshness, this is a slightly zestier version of the 2009 as well as more restrained and structured than that particular vintage. It will need at least 10-12 years of cellaring and keep for 50+ years.
A candidate for the -wine of the vintage,- the 2008 should have been purchased before it began to soar in value because of the significance of the number 8 in the Chinese culture (denoting good luck). Representing 40% of the production, this blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc offers aromas of high quality unsmoked cigar tobacco, lead pencil shavings, creme de cassis, earth, cedar and asphalt. Full, rich and stunningly concentrated, I doubt it is inferior to the 2010, just more classic as well as slightly more forward and a degree weaker in alcoholic potency (12.5% versus 13.5%). The 2008 should be relatively drinkable in 6-10 years as it is already showing remarkable complexity and breed, and will last for 30-35 years...at the minimum.
A blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Merlot, this wine represents only 34% of Lafite's total harvest. In a less than perfect Medoc vintage, it has been spectacular since birth, putting on more weight and flesh over the last year. This opaque purple-colored 1998 is close to perfection. The spectacular nose of lead pencil, smoky, mineral, and black currant fruit soars majestically from the glass. The wine is elegant yet profoundly rich, revealing the essence of Lafite's character. The tannin is sweet, and the wine is spectacularly layered yet never heavy. The finish is sweet, super-rich, yet impeccably balanced and long (50+ seconds). Anticipated maturity: 2007-2035.
This is a denser version of the 1990 that stylistically reminds me of what the young 1959 probably tasted like. Still backward with a deep ruby/plum color revealing only a touch of lightening at the edge, the wine offers up an extraordinary nose of caramelized herbs, smoke, cedar, pen ink, black currants, and earth. The gorgeous aromatics are followed by a full-bodied, plump, rich, fleshy wine with low acidity. With 6-8 hours decanting in a closed decanter, it will offer beautiful drinking, but it needs another 5-8 years to reach full maturity. It is capable of lasting 50-60 years. This classic Lafite is not as fat and concentrated as the 1982 Latour, nor as complex or concentrated as the 1982 Mouton Rothschild, but it is a winner all the same. Release price: ($350.00/case)
One of the fabulous surprises, although I had suggested last year that it could jump in quality, of my tastings, the 2006 Lafite Rothschild is a great, great wine made from a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. When I tasted it from barrel, it reminded me of their successful 1988, but it is dramatically superior to that vintage. Frankly, it may turn out to be as good as the 2005, which in all of Bordeaux is a far greater vintage than 2006. Lafite’s severe selection process (42% made it into the grand vin) resulted in a full-bodied wine boasting an extraordinary perfume of charcoal, truffles, lead pencil shavings, and sensationally sweet, ripe black currant and cedar notes. A wine of extraordinary intensity, texture, and depth with silky tannins as well as awesome concentration, this has turned out to be a remarkable Lafite Rothschild that should be drinkable much earlier than the 2005, but age for three decades. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2035+.