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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”.
1966 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux for very classic and delicate wines. However, the year started out as anything but promising. The major rainfall that started at the end of June continued into July, but the hot start to August dried the soil and the weather gradually improved toward autumn, until it was nearly perfect for the harvest.
These wines share a truly classic, graceful and high-quality character so typical of Bordeaux wines, thus making them elegant and well balanced. Today many of these are still good. If carefully stored, many of the best wines may still mature, but the following rule of thumb should be observed: drink or sell them off immediately. In our opinion, this is one of the finest vintages that can be purchased today. Nearly all the AOC wines are still in excellent condition, and the top examples, such as the Palmer, Latour, Haut-Brion, Lafleur and Pétrus, are excellent. There is a wide selection of nicely priced First, Second and Third growth wines on the market. For example, the Cos d’Estournel, Calon-Ségur and Lynch-Bages offer an exceptional price-quality ratio. As a rule, a one hour decanting is sufficient.
Price trends for this vintage no longer show any significant upward movement – the increase in price over the past ten years has been around 55%. The rise in price will continue alongside the maturation of top wines perhaps until 2010, when any wines still surviving should be removed from the cellar and sold or drunk immediately.