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Launch of the book The Château Lafite: The Almanac

Today, the Almanac of our 150 years at Château Lafite as a family is released.  I hope you’ll take pleasure in discovering the images, facts, memories and anecdotes we found for each of our vintages. Together, they tell the endearing story of an estate and of the large Lafite family. It’s a story we have written throughout the years with those who came before us and it will continue with those who will succeed us. Thank you to all those who opened their heart and memories to help compile it.  Let’s meet again for Volume 2 in 2168!


The management at Château Lafite is to be completely shaken up next year with Baron Eric de Rothschild being replaced by his daughter Saskia de Rothschild and CEO Christophe Salin giving way to LVMH’s Jean-Guillaume Prats.

In a statement released by the first growth today (16 November), it was announced that by March 2018 the transitions from Eric to his daughter Saskia and Salin to Prats will be well underway.

Eric de Rothschild, now 77, will hand over the chairmanship of Domaines Baron de Rothschild to his daughter who has been co-director of the group for the last two years. A graduate of HEC Paris and Columbia University she started her career as a journalist at the International New York Times on the paper’s Paris and West African desks.

She will be the second female head of Bordeaux’s five grand cru estates, the other being Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Château Margaux.

Meanwhile, with regards the day-to-day running of Château Lafite, Prats will take over as president and CEO.

After 14 years running Château Cos d’Estournel, he has been president and CEO of the Moët-Hennessy’s wine division since 2013.

The longstanding president Salin will move into a role as senior advisor of the group to ensure a smooth transition.

Eric de Rothschild will remain a managing partner of Lafite. He commented: Christophe Salin and I have spent more than thirty years working together on the management of Lafite and the domaines and I am extremely grateful for what he has achieved during this period. We are happy to welcome a new tandem, which will lead the group to new heights and ensure that we continue to make great wines. That’s what we do best!”



In 2017, Lafite through the lens of Assaf Shoshan

Assaf Shoshan was born in 1973 in Jerusalem. He lives and works between Paris and Tel Aviv. A photographer and videographer, Assaf Shoshan explores a world in which boundaries endlessly appear and disappear, a world in which time is experienced differently. His portraits and landscapes reveal an enigmatic atmosphere, suffused with mystery and the unreal.

The Utopia of Movement is a series of landscape photographs taken during four seasons at Château Lafite, at the invitation of Eric de Rothschild.

For the first time, his work does not include traces of human activity, thereby invoking a new, more ambiguous temporality, without no hint of duration. Similarly, he examines movement rather than expectation. For in nature there is stasis, no stability; and yet at the same time, everything occurs at its own speed.  

Shoshan was resident at the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici between 2013 and 2014. His work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums in France and in Europe, including the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Macro (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Rome, and the Lambert Foundation in Avignon.


Lafite illustrated by Pentti Sammallahti



A Finnish photographer, Pentti Sammallahti was born in 1950 in Helsinki into a family of craftsmen. His grandfather was the Swedish photographer Hildur Larsson. P. Sammallahti developed an interest in photography and printing very early in life and presented his first one-man show in 1971. Becoming a teacher at the same time, he shared his passion for photography with the students of Lahti Art School and then at the Helsinki School of Art and Design. 


Pentti Sammallahti 1


He achieved recognition when he won the Finnish national photography prize at the age of 25; he won it again in 1979, 1992 and 2009.

In 1991, the granting of an art teaching scholarship enabled him to leave teaching and devote himself to his work. The 1990s thus marked a turning point in his career. It was then that Pentti Sammallahti began to travel and exhibit his work all over the world. In 1996, he organized his first exhibition in France at the Finnish Institute.

Beyond his photo reportages, Pentti Sammallahti also attaches great importance to photographs as a “concrete object” and has published more than forty books or portfolios of “Opus.”

His work is both striking and universal, and for Baron Eric de Rothschild it was obvious that he should be invited to Château Lafite Rothschild. In his photographs of Lafite he creates a blend light and darkness, in which he manages to capture the château’s beauty and spirit.



Check the authenticity of your bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild and Carruades de Lafite.

In order to guarantee the authenticity of our bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild and Carruades de Lafite, an authentication seal has placed on all capsules of bottles labelled since February 2012.

The seal consists of a unique “bubble code” that cannot be reproduced, which is associated with an alphanumeric code.

The implementation of this system is part of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)’s commitment to the prevention of counterfeiting in an efficient way and to providing consumers with high quality support.

Read more at: http://www.lafite.com/en/chateau-lafite-rothschild/#sthash.rwfH8GjD.dpuf




Château Lafite Rothschild At the end of 1756, the Duc de Richelieu, the nephew of Cardinal Richelieu, founder of the French Academy, returned home to Paris victorious from a long military campaign. King Louis XV rewarded his achievements by appointing him Governor of Bordeaux in perpetuity. The Duc de Richelieu, a life long lover of the wines of Burgundy, did not rate Bordeaux wines very highly. So he took with him to Bordeaux the best Chambertin and Clos de Vougeot wines from Burgundy for himself and his entourage.


This did not please the high-ranking vintners of Bordeaux, and they sneakily got Richelieu to drink their wines with Burgundy labels on the bottle. When Richelieu’s own personal physician introduced him to the Château Lafite wines, saying they were an elixir that gave a man vigour, his taste in wine began to gradually lean in the direction of Bordeaux. After he had been Governor for 25 years the Duc de Richelieu received an invitation from the King to go to Paris. When at the palace reception the King kindly remarked that he looked 25 years younger than when he was appointed governor, Richelieu solemnly declared: “Your Majesty, I must tell you that I have discovered the secret of eternal youth - Château Lafite.”



Origins and the Ségur family

While the first known reference to Lafite dates to 1234 with a certain Gombaud de Lafite, abbot of the Vertheuil Monastery north of Pauillac, Lafite’s mention as a medieval fief dates to the 14th century. The name Lafite comes from the Gascon language term “la hite”, which means “hillock”. There were probably already vineyards on the property at the time when the Ségur family organised the vineyard in the 17th century, and Lafite began to earn its reputation as a great winemaking estate. Jacques de Ségur was credited with the planting of the Lafite vineyard in the 1670s and in the early 1680s. In 1695, Jacques de Ségur’s heir, Alexandre, married the heiress of Château Latour, who gave birth to Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur. The wine histories of the fiefs of Lafite and Latour were thus joined at the outset.

From the early 18th century, Lafite found its market in London. It appeared in the very official London Gazette of 1707 as being “sold at public auctions in the City of London, after being offloaded from foreign merchant ships seized by British corsairs as well as by the vessels of the Royal Navy” (the era was in the grip of the Spanish War of Succession). The London Gazette described the Lafite wine and its counterparts as “New French clarets”. Between 1732-1733, Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister, purchased a barrel of Lafite every three months. It was only much later that France began to take an interest in Bordeaux’s red wines.


The King’s Wine and the Wine Prince

From 1716, Marquis Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur consolidated Lafite’s initial success. He improved the winemaking techniques and above all enhanced the prestige of fine wines in foreign markets and the Versailles court. He became known as “The Wine Prince”, and Lafite’s wine became “The King’s Wine”, with the support of an able ambassador, the Maréchal de Richelieu. In 1755, Maréchal de Richelieu was appointed Governor of Guyenne, and consulted a Bordeaux doctor, who advised him that Château Lafite was “the finest and most pleasant of all tonics.” On Richelieu’s return to Paris, Louis XV told him, “Maréchal, you look twenty-five years younger than you did when you left for Guyenne.” Richelieu responded “Does his Majesty not know that I have discovered the Fountain of Youth? I have found Château Lafite’s wine to be a delicious, generous cordial, comparable to the ambrosia of the Gods of Olympus.” Soon, Lafite was the subject of much discussion at Versailles, honoured as it was by the King’s high approval. Everyone sought to procure Lafite’s wines. Madame de Pompadour had it served with her supper receptions, and later, Madame du Barry made a point of drinking “only the King’s Wine”.

The Marquis did not have any sons, and his property was divided between his four daughters. Lafite was thus separated from Latour, despite its remaining in the family and being governed by the same steward until 1785. Lafite was inherited by Count Nicolas Marie Alexandre de Ségur, the son of the Marquis’ oldest daughter, who had married a cousin, Alexandre de Ségur, who was provost of Paris. In 1785, the anonymous author of a memoir on the “Lafite Seigniory” spoke of the “finest vineyard in the world”. Things did not turn out so well for the Count de Ségur, though. With outstanding debts, he was forced to sell Château Lafite in 1784. As a relative of the seller, Nicolas Pierre de Pichard, the first president of the Bordeaux Parliament, used the “kinship rights” legislation to purchase the estate.


Thomas Jefferson

On the eve of the French revolution, Lafite was at the height of its winemaking legacy, as witnessed in the exceptional writings of Thomas Jefferson, future President of the United States. While serving as ambassador for the young United States Republic to the Versailles Court, this multifaceted individual – farmer, businessman, politician, lawyer, architect, diplomat and founder of the University of Virginia – acquired a passion for winemaking and thought about developing it in his own country. He stayed in Bordeaux in May 1787, five days was enough time for him to visit the major Chartrons merchants and gather a mass of information that he would report in his travel memoirs. He detailed the hierarchy of the growths, highlighting those that would go on to be the four leading wines. Château Lafite was among them. Jefferson remained a steadfast customer of Bordeaux’s wines until the end of his days.

The Ségur family’s stewardship of Lafite ended brutally with the execution of Nicolas Pierre de Pichard during the chapter of French history known as “the Terror”, on the 12th Messidor of year 2, under the short-lived Republican calendar (30 June 1794). In the lobby of Château Lafite is an ancient poster announcing the public sale of the property on 12 September 1797. The estate was then described as “the leading Médoc wine, producing the finest wines in all of Bordeaux”. The purchaser, Jean de Witt, was a Dutch citizen, who was soon forced to sell Lafite to three merchants, who were also Dutch. After Jean de Witt’s short ownership, Château Lafite hosted a remarkable line of stewards, whose greatest was Joseph Goudal. Goudal was masterful in his supervision of the estate in the early part of the 19th century. As of 1800, the three owners were Baron Jean Arend de Vos Van Steenvwyck, Othon Guillaume Jean Berg and Jean Goll de Franckenstein.


The Vanlerberghe mystery

In 1818, the new owner of Lafite was Madame Barbe-Rosalie Lemaire, whose husband was Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe, a leading grain merchant and supplier of Napoleon’s armies. A mystery came about upon the death of Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe, when Mme Lemaire officially sold the Lafite estate to the British subject Sir Samuel Scott in 1821. Scott and his son would effectively manage the estate until 1867. In reality, Samuel Scott Senior and Junior were only representatives of Aimé-Eugène Vandelberghe, son of Madame Lemaire and Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe. During the inheritance of Aimé-Eugène Vanlerberghe in 1866, the title was produced to prove the deceased’s ownership of the property. After a half-century of secrecy, the name Vanlerberghe would be written into Lafite’s history of owners. In this period, vintages that made history include: 1795 and 1798, of outstanding quality, 1801, 1802, 1814, 1815 and especially 1818.


The 1855 Classification

In 1815, Mr. Lawton published an initial classification of Médoc wines in his brokerage house log. It was apparently an accurate assessment, as it was very similar to the 1855 classification. Lafite was already at the top of the list: “I ranked Lafite as the most elegant and delicate, with the finest fruit of the three (leading wines).” He added that “its wines are the most superb in all of Médoc.” The 1834 vintage was particularly successful, as was 1841, and especially 1846. The vintage rankings of the Universal Paris Exposition in 1855 officially gave Lafite the rating as “Leader among fine wines”. This ranking would be the benchmark for a new and astonishing era of success for Médoc vineyards. The period’s finest vintages include 1847, 1848, 1858, 1864, 1869, 1870 and 1876.


Baron James de Rothschild

On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite.

On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite.

On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite, which had been placed under public sale through the inheritance of Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe. Baron James, who was head of the French branch of the Rothschild family, passed away just three months after purchasing Lafite. The estate then became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond. The estate then boasted 74 hectares of vineyards. As a sign welcoming the new owner, the vintage produced in 1868 went down as a record on several counts. It was the highest priced wine of its vintage year (6,250 of that period’s francs, or 4,700 of today’s euros the ‘tonneau’ of 900 litres). This early wine’s high price would remain a record for the entire century, before being far surpassed at the end of the 20th century. Fortunately for Barons Alphonse, Gustave, and Edmond de Rothschild, the “golden age” of Médoc would go on for another fifteen years after the purchase of Lafite.

The end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century were turbulent. The phylloxera crisis and mildew severely impacted the vineyard. Then came World War I and the Great Depression which led to a freefall in prices. Suffering heavily from mildew, Château Lafite Rothschild took measures and declassified certain vintages from 1882 to 1886, and also 1910 and 1915. Bottling at the Château was also implemented for more effective combating of fraud. During World War I, the estate was severely impacted by the draft and by supply restrictions. The Great Depression of the 1930s would also be painfully felt in the vineyard, with the market riding a sustained low, and an unprecedented financial crisis that led to a reduction of vineyard area. A few exceptions to this dark period include 1899, 1900, 1906, then 1926 and 1929, which are of excellent quality.


World War II and occupation

World War II caused an ordeal in a different league, with the June 1940 defeat leading to the occupation of the Médoc. A German garrison was stationed for the entire length of the occupation at Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild. The Rothschild family properties were confiscated and placed under public administration. To avoid German greed, and through the care of provisional administrators, the winemaking estates were finally dismissed in 1942 to serve as agricultural vocational schools. The shortages and restrictions were made worse by requisitions and veiled ransacking of ancient vintages: these were painful blows to the Château. The Barons de Rothschild recovered possession of Château Lafite Rothschild at the end of 1945, and Baron Elie was responsible for re-establishing the estate’s successful operation. A series of excellent vintages in 1945, 1947, and 1949 gave strength to the reconstruction effort.


Baron Elie led a programme to restore the vineyards and the buildings, and to fully restructure the property’s administration. He took practical steps, like adding a herd of dairy cows in the 1950s in order to use the fields below the château as a supply of organic fertilizer. Baron Elie was a major shaper of events in the difficult reconstitution of the fine wine market. He was an active member of “tasting” events in London, and one of the founding members of the Bordeaux wine guild, the Commanderie du Bontemps of the Médoc, in 1950. The very fine 1955 vintage was evidence of the wine’s rebirth, but the Bordeaux vineyard suffered terrible frosts in February of 1956 before producing a new cycle of exceptional vintages in 1959 and 1961. The 1960s rounded out the renaissance with new markets, particularly in the United States. Prices rose, do in part to a healthy rivalry between Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild.


Baron Eric: renewal

After the 1973-1976 mini-crisis that hit Bordeaux, the recovery was confirmed by the very fine 1975 and 1976 vintages and the management of Château Lafite Rothschild by Baron Eric de Rothschild, Baron Elie’s nephew. Baron Eric’s management of the estate made strides forward with a search for excellence and the gradual addition of a new technical team. In the vineyard, replanting and restoration work was mirrored by re-a evaluation of fertilizing and reduced herbicide treatments. In the cellar, a stainless steel vat complex was installed alongside oak vats, and a new circular ageing cellar was constructed under the supervision of Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. This new design style was acclaimed for its innovative character and uncompromising spirit, and can hold 2,200 barrels. In the same artistic spirit, in 1985 Baron Eric began a tradition of inviting fine-arts photographers to photograph Château Lafite. These include such artists as Jacques Henri Lartique, Irving Penn, Robert Doisneau, and Richard Avedon. He also extended the horizons of the Domaines through new acquisitions both in France and abroad. Very fine vintages for the 80s and 90s decades, were notably 1982, 1986, the trilogy 1988, 1989 and 1990, and then 1995 and 1996, these were greeted with soaring prices.


There was a remarkable series of vintages, helped by rather dry weather during the growth season. Among them, 2000, 2003 (the heat wave year), 2005, 2009 and 2010 will reveal their splendour with age! The turn of the century went smoothly with some very promising vintages ageing in the cellars. This cautious optimism is based on the ongoing search for excellence that is so much a part of Château Lafite Rothschild’s history.




The reputation of Lafite as a large viticultural estate was first established with the Segur family, starting with the planting of the Lafite vineyard in the 1670’s and in the early 1680’s by Jacques de Ségur. The estate then was passed on in the Ségur family, and following that it changed ownership several times. On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite, which had been placed under public sale. 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. 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



The grapes from each plot are fermented in separate vats in order to preserve the identity of the terroir on which the grapes have ripened. At Lafite, tradition and technical progress go hand in hand, fermentation takes place in two vat rooms: one with traditional large oak vats, and the other with modern stainless steel vats, with integrated cooling/heating rings and automated centralized temperature control.

Upon completion of alcoholic fermentation, the cuvée-wines are tasted before being drawn off to the fine wine vats. The free run juice and the pomace are separated and the pomace is pressed independently in order to extract the “press wine”. A second fermentation phase, called malolactic fermentation, takes place in vats before the wine is transferred into barrels by batches.

In 2010, Lafite further refined its vinification procedures with the construction of two vat rooms consisting of several dozen smaller-sized vats. A Merlot vat room (with concrete tanks ranging from 50 to 125 hl) in order to make wine with an extra level of care from all the various plots of Merlot. A divisional vat room (with stainless steel vats ranging from 30 to 70 hl) dedicated to malolactic fermentation (secondary fermentation) in order to continue plot selection all the way through the vinification process for any batches of Cabernet or Merlot that require it.

All of the barrels come from the Domaines cooperage, with a special “toasting” during manufacturing suited to the characteristics of the wine. Several tastings from each vat are carried out to make the selection for the Grand Vin. Blending takes place after the first racking of the barrels in March. Then the ageing phase of the wine begins in the cellar, which takes between 18 and 20 months. During this period, the cellar master racks the wines regularly in order to clarify them. Four to six lightly beaten egg whites are added to each barrel, which absorb floating particles and pull them down to the bottom of the barrel. The wine is then ready for bottling, which takes place in June.

Château Lafite’s circular cellar room was constructed under the supervision of the architect Ricardo Bofill and inaugurated in 1987. Intended for the ageing of wines in their second year, it is characterized by its unusual octagonal shape and an arch supported by 16 columns. It can accommodate up to 2,200 barrels.



Inside information

"For many years we have been asking talented photographers to produce a portrait of Château Lafite Rothschild. The results of this artistic association are captivating."

Baron Eric de Rothschild

2008 - Paolo Roversi

Born in 1947 in Ravenna in Italy, Paolo Roversi is one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world.
His elegant style, which is both gentle and strong, is influenced by his Italian and Parisian background.
It is either poetically coloured or in well controlled black and white. Roversi likes to mix the past and the present…


Working with a 20/25 and a Polaroid allows him to take intelligent and changing pictures. Using the 20/25 he can position himself beside the camera and not behind, which helps him to relate better to the famous models he has photographed. The critic Gabriel Bauret wrote of his sensitive and delicate images ‘they have the elegance and courtesy of their creator’.



2 different wines with 179 vintages

Winemaking since 1234

  • Baron Eric de Rothschild

    “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. "
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