5* Michael Broadbent
Tasted in six occasions. Variable, mainly because of provenance, storage conditions and cork failure.; and possibly because Lafite at the time sold mainly in bulk, relying on either the various négociants to do the élevage and bottling, or, having sold on in barrique, for their overseas customers to bottle – not any Tom, Dick or Harry, but dependable importers and merchants.
First tasted at Dr Marvin C Overton’s tasting of Lafite, representing every decade from the 1790s to the 1970s. with high fill, its aprearance was warm and attractive, not deep; the bouquet opened up in the glass magnificently. A rich, full flavoured wine, its life-supporting tannins and acidity still in evidence. I gave it a rare 20/20.
In the early 1980, an exciting Réserve du Château, its overripe gibier (gamey) bouquet like an old cedar box – or singed hair. ‘Over the hill’, it cracked up but was fun while it lasted. Skipping over the ullaged and oxidised, including a very disapoiting bottle at Lloyd’s Flatt’s marathon (116 vintages of Lafite, 1784 to 1986), an excellent magnum, recorked at the château in 1991: still very sweet, rich, good flavour and length, delicious. Last tasted in ‘flight’ 5 of Hardy Rodenstock’s wine weekend, Sept 1996.
The Château Lafite estate run by the Rothschilds is, with its 100 hectares of cultivated land, the largest of the main Pauillac vineyards.
It is located in the highest part of the area and the view from its château, with its conical towers that appear on the label, takes in the banks of the River Gironde, which flows nearby. The wines are a blend of four different varieties of grape – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Lafite matures slightly earlier than other Premier Cru wines in the region on account of the generous amounts of Merlot used, and it is this that also makes the wine more delicate and subtle than those wines which are completely dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Lafite has a soul, a beautiful, generous, kindly soul. Lafite turns bare earth into heaven. Lafite is harmony, a harmony between man and nature, because without our magnificent winegrowers, nothing would be accomplished.”
Baron Eric de Rothschild
Of the five Premier Cru wines in the region, Château Lafite to my mind has managed to produce the year’s best wine in many of the top years in 1900th centrury. The times I have spent in the company of a 1934, 1953, 1959, 1982 and 1986 have been unforgettable. And it was then that I always remembered how many wine critics fondly describe Lafite as ‘the perfection of elegance’.
Vineyard soil: fine gravel mixed with aeolien sands on a bedrock of tertiary limestone
Production area: 103 ha
Grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%)
Average age of vines: 30 years
Harvest method: hand picked
Winemaking: the vinification is nowadays done with all the sophisticated instruments which modern oenology has created. Fermentation takes place in large oak vats in which the musts remain for 18 to 25 days.
Ageing: the wines are aged entirely in new barrels for 18 to 24 months. During this time,the wine is racked 7 times and is fined with the whites of 6 eggs per barrel. Only certain vats are selected to make the Grand Vin, Lafite. The others are used to make the second wine of Lafite, the “Carruades de Lafite”.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|6 433€ +28.4%||5 009€ +25.6%||3 988€ -9.2%||4 390€ -24.6%||5 822€ +39.3%||4 178€ -20.1%||5 231€ +160.4%||2 009€ -24.0%||2 645€ +43.4%||1 844€|