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  • Country ranking ?

    1 157
  • Producer ranking ?

    55
  • Decanting time

    2h
  • When to drink

    now to 2025
  • Food Pairing

    Turbot à la truffe

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The Story

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”.

 

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Vintage 1983

Bordeaux / If 1981 was forgotten after 1982, the 1983 was completely overshadowed by 1982, although the harvest was large and of high quality everywhere in Bordeaux. Too much humidity brought about by heavy rains impeded production in many places. In Margaux, some of the wines were even better than in 1982. For example, Château Margaux announced that their 1983 surpassed the 1982. One of the best-ever Palmers was Palmer 1983.

The best wine of the vintage was however Le Pin – no doubt. It is a real bargain, not only for quality, but also for price at 950 euro a bottle, compared with Le Pin 1982 at 4,500 euro in 2015. Cheval Blanc also succeeded fabulously. Yquem started a new ascent this year. Graves got hit by hail storm yielding a small crop and basically non-existent anymore.

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Average Bottle Price

2023 2020 2015
490€ +10.6% 443€ +38.4% 320€

This data comes from the FINE Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions in 20 countries. The average prices from each year have been collected since 1990. This chart plots the index value of the average price of the wines.

Tasting note

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Written Notes

Château Lafite 1983. Ruby, thin brick rim. Scented, lovely depth, bright, nuanced, floral, layered, beautiful nose, ripe yet very low tuned in a way, refined and discreet. 
Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, anise, spices, blackberries, some spices, detailed and layered, balanced, such finesse, long finish. Superb!
 

  • 96p

A cold and wet spring, during which the vine fell behind. But as from June came one of those miraculous summers that make the greatest vintages. Around the September equinox, storms brought fears of rot, because the grapes had suddenly swollen and we were worried that the skins would burst, especially for the Merlot. Bacchus, however, merciful to the winegrowers, sent them a magnificent period of weather, allowing for a dream harvest without a rainy day, which lasted from 30 September until after mid October.
The first of a trio of wines – 1983, 1985 and 1986 – served blind. Struck by a leafiness on the nose that I associate with some of the less successful 1985s at this stage in their lives I foolishly plumped for 1985 when it was clearly the least impressive of the trio and I had no memory of Lafite 1983. The wine was certainly polished, light sweet and open – and now a bit skinny. There are probably enough pointers there too have steered me to 1983 but the most recent 1983 I tasted was Ch Margaux which was of course famously successful in this vintage. This Lafite 1983 was pretty but was losing fruit. It had Lafite class but needed drinking.

  • 90p

The 1983 Lafite-Rothschild is a vintage that I used to taste regularly, but now, not for a few years. I love it whilst my neighbor is less impressed, that being Saskia de Rothschild. "What a lovely Lafite!" I exclaim trying to persuade her and failing miserably. Blackberry, melted tar, a touch of truffle mixed with dried blood, secondary aromas lending real complexity and personality. The palate is underpinned by a crisp line of acidity, touches of tobacco, morels and smoke emerging towards the second half. I am impressed by its energy after 35-years and the persistence on the finish. It always was one of the best First Growth behind Château Margaux and I suspect that remains the case. Tasted at the Lafite-Rothschild 150th anniversary dinner at the estate.

  • 94p

Finally, the 1983 is beginning to shed its tannin. The wine exhibits a deep ruby/garnet color with only a slight lightening at the edge. The intoxicatingly perfumed nose of lead pencil, pain grille, red and black fruits, minerals, and roasted herbs is provocative.. In the mouth, it displays considerable body, plenty of power and afleshy, sweet, rich midpalate. Long, elegant, plump, and surprisingly fleshy, this outstanding example of Lafite seems largely forgotten given the number of high-quality vintages during the golden decade of the eighties. Anticipated maturity: now-2030

  • 93p
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Information

Origin

Pauillac, Bordeaux

Vintage Quality

Above Average

Value For Money

Poor

Investment potential

No Potential

Fake factory

None

Glass time

1h
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