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News

The finest wine ever made by proprietors Daniel and Florence Cathiard, the 2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte exhibits an opaque blue/purple color in addition to a glorious nose of acacia flowers, licorice, charcoal, blueberries, black raspberries, lead pencil shavings and incense. This massive, extraordinarily rich, unctuously textured wine may be the most concentrated effort produced to date, although the 2000, 2005 and 2010 are nearly as prodigious. A gorgeous expression of Pessac-Leognan with sweet tannin, emerging charm and delicacy, and considerable power, depth, richness and authority, it should age effortlessly for 30-40+ years. Bravo!"

Robert Parker: 100 points

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History

The noble Bosq family started growing grapes here as early as 1365. The property was purchased in the 18th century by Scotsman George Smith, who gave the estate its present name. He also built the manor house and exported his – by now famous – wine to England on his own ships. 

In 1842, Mr. Duffour-Dubergier, Mayor of Bordeaux and an enthusiastic winegrower, inherited Château Smith Haut Lafitte from his mother and brought the wine up to great growth status. Impressed by Smith Haut Lafitte's excellent quality, the Louis Eschenauer company distributed the wine all over the world starting in the early 20th century, deciding to buy the estate in 1958. After the Eschenaueur period came to an end, a great deal of money has been invested in the estate, particularly on the construction of a superb underground cellar holding over 1,000 barrels. 

In 1990, Daniel Cathiard fell in love with the property and joined the list of prestigious owners, firmly intending to further enhance Smith Haut Lafitte's tradition of excellence. He combined the most modern winemaking techniques and age-old methods: organic compost, small wooden vats, ageing on the lees in barrel, etc. Famous around the world for its wonderfully elegant red wine and the sophisticated bouquet of its white wine, Smith Haut Lafitte undoubtedly deserves the special care that is lavished on it.

 

Daniel Cathiard is perhaps best known as a former ski champion – he was a member of the famous French Olympic team including Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Perillat, and Léo Lacroix. Jean-Claude, a great lover of fine Bordeaux, was the first person to sign the visitors' book at Château SMITH HAUT LAFITTE.

After the death of his father in 1970, Daniel found himself running the family's small supermarket chain. Within 20 years, he had transformed it into the tenth largest mass distribution group in France, with 15 hypermarkets and 300 supermarkets.

At the same time, he launched and developed a chain of sporting goods shops – Go Sport – in France, Belgium, Spain, and California. His group employs some 9,000 people. Daniel met his wife Florence while on the French Olympic ski team in 1965. She then worked with him managing Genty and Go Sport for ten years before launching her own advertising firm, later becoming Vice President of McCann Europe in 1985.

 

In 1990, Daniel and Florence sold all their business interests to buy Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Over a two year period, they invested massively in renovating both the winery buildings and the 18th century manor house built by George Smith, where they decided to live and to devote their energy to their newfound passion: making outstanding white and red wines. Florence has written a book entitled Art de Vigne (“Art of the Vine”) published by Editions de la Martinière-Aubanel

The couple's two daughters have created their own businesses with their respective husbands:
- The elder daughter, Mathilde Thomas-Cathiard, manages Les Laboratoires Caudalie, www.caudalie.com, with her husband Bertrand. Caudalie specialises in beauty and health care products made with polyphenols from grape seeds. These are distributed in over 20 countries.

- The younger daughter, Alice Tourbier-Cathiard, and her husband, Jerome, manage two hotel complexes, Les Sources de Caudalie, www.sources-caudalie.com, and Les Etangs de Corot, www.lesetangsdecorot.com. They also have plans to open other “boutique hotels”.

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Vineyards

Our appellation has such a strong personality that it has given its name to our region: THE GRAVES.

These graves, or gravelly soil, consist of layers of alluvial, sandy, and stony soil deposited on a limestone subsoil by tumultuous rivers and glaciers during the Quaternary Period. This soil was later affected by erosion.

At Smith Haut Lafitte, we have a rare example of a croupe, or rise of Günze gravel. 
This is thick and ochre-coloured, reflecting its high iron oxide content. This soil is perfect for growing wine grapes because it is well-drained, meagre, warm on the surface, and cool as well as humid deep down (thanks to clay and limestone) This means that the vines grow slowly and have naturally low yields, and that the grapes ripen slowly and fully (the wet soil deep down regulates water supply and makes for good, even ripening).

 

In parts of the vineyard where there is a higher proportion of clay and the vineyards are north facing, we planted white wine varieties to maintain their aromatic potential during hot, dry weather. We planted Cabernet Sauvignon on dryer, more gravelly soil, because this variety needs more encouraging to ripen. We have thus adapted the optimum grape variety to each plot to make the most of our fine Günz gravel terroirs.

" It is a special privilege to live in the middle of your own vineyard. I am very proud of my collection of semi-precious stones I have found while walking or cycling. I even came across a prehistoric hatchet and shells from the Quaternary Period"  Florence CATHIARD, Owner of Château Smith Haut Lafitte

 

Our grapes are entirely hand-picked, plot by plot, bunch by bunch, because this is still the best way to harvest quality fruit. All the bunches are harvested, examined, and sorted by one of our workers, and then put into small crates.

These are then directly transported to the cellars at Smith Haut Lafitte. The fruit is not put into large hoppers and great care is taken not to bruise the 10 kg of grapes in each crate prior to arrival at the winery. The grapes are removed delicately by hand and then gone over carefully once again on a sorting table.

At this stage, the white wine grapes go directly into a pneumatic winepress. The red wine grapes, on the other hand, go to be destemmed, and then onto the second sorting table (manned by 10 to 12 workers) in order to remove anything other than grapes.

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Winemaking

As for the white wines, we also focus the same meticulous, almost fanatical attention on winemaking: 
The way we sort the grapes is an excellent example of our respect for the ripe fruit throughout the winemaking process.

 

Putting into vat: The whole, uncrushed berries are taken to the appropriate vat via a small 3 hl mobile vat. The grapes fall into the vat by gravity flow, yet another example of the estate's emphasis on quality: The fruit is treated totally gently this way.

Pre-fermentation maceration: when the grapes are put into vat, we lower the temperature for cold maceration prior to alcoholic fermentation. This is ideal for bringing out colour and aromas.

Fermentation: Alcoholic fermentation begins spontaneously thanks to indigenous yeast. This yeast “eats” the sugar and transforms it into alcohol, carbonic gas, and heat. The solid matter rises and forms as cap at the top of the vat. The temperature also rises at this time. The art of winemaking consists of maintaining the right temperature and contact between the cap and the juice.

 

"I can indeed choose a pressing method which is soft and long-lasting, an extraction of the juices under low pressure, without risking oxidation and thus we are able to extract all the qualitative potential of our grapes." Fabien TEITGEN, Technical Director

 

Post-fermentation maceration: The vats are kept at a temperature of 28°C and left on the skins as long as it takes for the wine to form its tannic structure and acquire the right degree of richness. We monitor how maceration is going by regular tastings.

Running off and pressing: We run off the free run juice (part of which goes into new oak barrels), separating it from the solid matter in the vat. This is then used to make the press wine. “We put the wine into barrel at an early stage when it is ‘still warm’. This definitely enhances the interaction between the wine and the oak. This is better integrated and more understated as a result.”

Barrel ageing: The secondary, or malolactic fermentation takes place partly in vat, and partly in barrel. This is essential for stabilising red wines.

We keep the wine on its lees for the few first months of ageing and decide what winemaking operations to do based on weekly tastings. We rack the wine very little.

« When we monitor the extraction with precision, we don't need to proceed to multiple rackings (soutirages) because we don't have any bad tannin to remove. Therefore we preserve the full potential of the wine. » Fabien TEITGEN, Technical Director

Bottling: We bottle our fine red wine after 16-18 months ageing in an oxygen-free atmosphere to maintain ageing potential.

 

 

GRAND CRU CLASSE DE GRAVES (Graves great growth) in the PESSAC LÉOGNAN appellation

10 000 cases (red wine), 3 000 cases (white wine) 5 500 cases of second wine: Les Hauts de Smith and Le Petit Haut Lafitte (Export)

78 hectares (67 producing red wine and 11 producing white wine)
Gravelly soil from the Gunzian (or Nebraskan glacial) period 
Cru Classé de Graves
35% Merlot / 55% Cabernet Sauvignon
9% Cabernet Franc / 1% Petit Verdot
90% Sauvignon Blanc / 5% Sauvignon Gris / 5% Sémillon 
101.14/3309 
Red wine: 38 ans / White wine: 40 ans
7,500 to 10,000 vines per hectare 
Grapes are hand picked into small crates 
Sorting both before and after destemming 
Putting the grapes into vat by gravity flow without crushing 
18 temperature controlled foudres (large wooden vats) for fermentation
28-30 °C
4-7 weeks 
18 to 20 months in barrel (60% new depending on the vintage)
Grapes are directly pressed
Cold settling in small stainless steel tanks
In barrel (50% new) 
12 months on the lees

 

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Inside information

The Bio Precision approach, native of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte, aims to match the most innovative viticulture and vinification techniques with the greatest respect of the living: the soil and the vine.

This method promotes the bio diversity and the balance of the vineyard ecosystem through hedge plantation, use of natural grass, production of organic compost or horse ploughing among other techniques. 

It focuses as well on preserving the genetic diversity of the vine and therefore the complexity of our wines thanks to vine graft, clone selection and rootstock mother vine on the “La Lande” island on the Garonne river. The entire team of Château Smith Haut Lafitte is dedicated to use the most up-to-date technology for the best expression and preservation of the terroir.

 

At Château Smith Haut Lafitte, we implement the traditional viticulture techniques such as earthing-up the vines or horse ploughing of the fragile and sharp plots of white vine. We totally banished any chemical product and favor organic methods to fight against the various dangers that threaten the vine: mating confusion of the grape berries moths with pheromones, use of the typhlodromus mites which are the natural predators of the red spider mites and prevention of the grey rot thanks to the bacillus subtilis that naturally prevents the development of the botrytis, among other processes.

We enhance the vine growing cycle with organic compost made of vine shots left over from pruning, grape pomace and manure from cows and horses. This natural fertilization system improves soils living quality. We strengthen as well the fauna diversity of the vineyard through a hedge plantation program of more than 500 meters per year and the implementation of several beehives.

 

At Château Smith Haut Lafitte, we harvest by hand and transport the grapes into small specially-designed 7 to 9 kg crates. 

The grape clusters go from the picker’s hand directly to the sorting table at the reception area of the vat room, unbruised and in perfect condition. We created and use as well ergonomic grape hods to improve the working conditions of pickers team.

To preserve the integrity of the grape berries, we use the destemming Winery system that gently shakes the clusters (by soft vibrations) and frees the berries from the stem perfectly. Then, the innovative optical Vistalys sorting, that we have employed since 2008, sorts the berries after taking and analyzing pictures of them according to determinated factors. Undesirable elements are of course removed (pieces of leaves, small green berries, etc.). After an ultimate hand-sorting control, we convey the meticulously selected berries by gravity to 80-hectolitre truncated cone-shaped wooden vats. In that way, we ferment healthy berries of optimum and homogeneous quality in separated batches that reflect the complexity of our terroir of günzian gravel.

 

At Château Smith Haut Lafitte, we produce our own young vines and rootstock mother vine on the La Lande island: a protected and closed environment on the Garonne river 10 minutes away from the Château. Therefore we preserve the genetic diversity of the vine and improve the complexity of our wines.

 

We are certain that a great wine comes from the perfect alliance between the vine and its terroir. An in-depth study of our vineyard measuring electric resistivity of the soil, carried out for more than 18 months, every 50 cm of every vine row, combined with a pedological study through soil samples analysis allowed us to build a precise map of the soils of the vineyard: the terroir. Therefore we adapt the vine culture to the characteristics of the soil within every plot of the vineyard.

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10 different wines with 117 vintages

Winemaking since 1365

  • Daniel Cathiard

    Owner
    "The first thing that I did when I arrived at Château Smith Haut Lafitte was to sell the grape harvesting machines."

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Domaine de Chevalier 2021- 80% C. Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% C. Franc and 5% P. Verdot. It's the first vintage with that much C. Sauvignon in the blend. 13% alcohol. Intense black- and redcurrants, crushed rocks, coffee beans, cigar box, graphite, fresh, fine structure and complexity. Persistent aftertaste. Splendid effort for the vintage. 94-95p.

4m 30d ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  17 wines 

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc 2021 / This has so much depth and power, with complex notes of flint, oyster shell, white pepper, dried mango, lemon, papaya, apricot stone and chalk. Medium-to full-bodied. Bright, yet creamy. It’s so long and concentrated. Wait and see. 90% sauvignon blanc, 5% semillon, 5% sauvignon gris. From organically grown grapes. 98-99

5m 13d ago

 Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  7 wines 

2020  Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc / With the pop of grapefruit, white peach, lemon peel, flowers, orange rind and honeysuckle in the nose, and a creamy, sweet, fresh, juicy, slightly honeyed, lush, white peach and citrus finish, you have all the ingredients needed for a luscious, white Bordeaux wine. The wine was produced from a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Semillon. 97  Pts

5m 17d ago

 Simone Hubert, Sommelier (France)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  20 wines 

1988 Bordeaux vintage tasting: Château Margaux 1988/Black fruits the nose has brooding richness the palate depth with black cherry and cassis backed by dark chocolate and liquorice. There is mid freshness balance the tannins integrated discreet but supporting. Depth of the fruit at the back the rich fruit gives way to freshness the finish is remarkably light and elegant.

5m 20d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW/BWW2022-Best Germany Wine Critic of the World, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  8 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  745 wines 

This years "en primeur" tasting seemed like a journey in time. Bordeaux is back to a more moderate alcohol level and the style is lighter and more elegant. One could say the wines are reminiscent of the 80s, however made with more experience and the modern techniques today. It is not a powerful vintage. The wines are elegant, however the well made ones have an excellent persistence, depth and length. They offer a convincing potential for a long ageing and promote elegance in Bordeaux again. It is a true vintage of terroir although there is a lot of talk about a vintners vintage. However, terroir was the decisive factor in 2021.


Professor Axel Marchal has presented the 10 key points of this vintage on the occasion of the Union des Grands Crus press tasting:


"1. The start of the growing season was marked by severe frost on the 7th and 8th of April.


2. Wet and gloomy weather in May slowed down the vine growth although a providential window of fine weather helped flowering unfold in ideal conditions in early June.


3. Thunderstorms in June slowed down the onset of water stress.


4: Cool, dull weather in July increased the threat of vine diseases.


5. Véraison (colour change) was observed in mid-August, while vine growth had not stopped yet.


6. Thanks to a cool summer, the dry white wines are brilliant, lively and aromatic.


7. The wonderful Indian Summer allowed the red grape varieties to ripen in ideal conditions and preserved aromas.


8. The Merlots are fresh and aromatic while the Cabernets from the finest terroirs are well-structured with good balance.


9. The development of Botrytis cinerea in Sauternes was delayed by the cool summer and eventually triggered by rainfall in mid-September.


10. Despite low yields, the botrytised sweet white wines are of excellent quality."


It will be exciting to see the evolution of this vintage which produced in many cases yields on a very low scale. Arguably it will be a vintage praised for it finesse in the future. A vintage rated on finesse and persistence rather than on sheer power and opulence.

6m 27d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines, Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Heitz Martha's Vineyard 1974. Still a big, powerful wine that sums up the richness of this perfect Napa vintage. It is densely fruity, spicy with an enormous black plum and minty fruit character to go with the acidity. It's concentrated while still showing such wonderfully pure fruit. This is a monumental, eternal wine!

7m 18d ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  15 wines 

I was so impressed with this super second wine of Blankiet Estate. Such a harmonious and volaptuous wine despite its young age and in terms of its price - this wine is true FIND! The wine is a blend of 51.5% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cab Franc, and 3.5% Petit Verdot. Deep, purple to garnet red colour. Intense nose with ripe brambles and cassis, refined toasty new oak aromas with mocha, cocoa, nutmeg and warm spicies. Full-bodied satiny texture with ripe fruitiness and extremely smooth tannins. Lingering warm and spicy finish with great harmony. Delivers great joy now but will reveal its true colours in next 2029-2034. Perfect match with roasted Pigeon served with parmesan and beetroot risotto. JL 96+p (3/2022)

8m 22d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  36 wines 

2019 Le Pin  /  Excellent density, liquid silk or liquid cashmere, long, sophisticated, decadent and kinky, and fantastic midpalate. Heavenly stuff. 99p

9m 26d ago

 Julia Harding MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Miraval's top wine Muse de Miraval Rosé 2020, made from selected best and oldest organic vineyards – Grenache and Rolle. Bottled in magnum only. Vinified in egg-shaped concrete tanks, a very small proportion aged in demi-muids.
Pretty salmon pink. Complex aroma of pretty peachy red fruits along with the merest hint of creamy oak influence. Rounded, very creamy in the mouth. Tastes surprisingly soft, almost flabby. Gentle tannins. Quite long but for me it lacks a backbone of freshness. Have I missed something? Packaging very ornate. (JH)

10m 25d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  6 wines  from  Château Smith Haut Lafitte . In a tasting of  22 wines 

2004 Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaires / Toasty and layered with wonderful depth and a long finish. This prestige cuvee offers wonderful concentration and is often under-valued in the market compared to its peers. Since 1983, the Blanc de Millenaires is only sourced from 5 villages of Cote de Blanc. 30,000 bottles made per year. Aged for 13 years on its lees and made only every 5-7 years.

1y 2d ago

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