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Each Château has its own style. What would be, according to you, the specificities of Château Smith Haut Lafitte White?
About our style, I would say that either you love our wines or you hate them. But be careful, if you do love them, it is for life… Our style is quite special, even paradoxical.
We have 90% of Sauvignon Blanc in our blend, however this proportion is almost unidentifiable on a blind tasting because of the age of our vines, the slopes ploughed by horses for more than 14 years on which they grow, the north exposure and all these details producing late maturity that will give our wines expression and complexity.
We also have a secret weapon: 5% of Sauvignon Gris. This forgotten yet complex grape variety brings different levels of aromas: first grapefruit, then peach, apricot and flowers, and a fresh minerality at the end. This kind of grape variety helps as well the wine age beautifully, adding spicy notes on the finish.
Which vintage of your Château white wine do you prefer?
This question is indeed very difficult... We often think that the latest babies are the best... If you ask my husband Daniel, he will choose 2010 and 2011, sharp as diamonds, of great precision, with high levels of acidity and freshness, very pure fruits, faithful to our terroir of Günzian Gravel... If you ask me, I prefer 2000, 2005 and 2009, because these vintages have a rare structure with great density and roundness in the palate. On blind tastings, almost nobody can recognize its 90% of Sauvignon Blanc. I find very interesting to compare our Château Smith Haut Lafitte white with a carafe of Bâtard-Montrachet of the same vintage for instance. The 2009 is very promising; it has a lot of everything and nothing of excess…
2001 Vintage/ Comments from Fabien Teitgen, Technical Director at Château Smith Haut Lafitte
After a wet, mild winter, bud break took place normally and regularly in the last week of March. The cool weather in April slowed down vine growth considerably. The very low temperatures at the end of the month made us afraid that frost might strike, but this fortunately did not come to pass.
The vines began growing vigorously during the hot, sunny weather in May and June, largely making up for the slow start to the year. Flowering took place one week later than in 2000. This occurred homogeneously during hot, sunny weather. August was very dry and hot, especially towards the end of the month. This brought on a quick, evenvéraison (colour change). Both the red and white wine grapes ripened at an excellent rate.
In keeping with our efforts to pick the fruit at optimum ripeness, the white wine grapes were harvested one week later than the previous year.
The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were picked from September 7th to September 21st 2001. It was necessary to go through the vines several times to select the ripest bunches. The
average potential alcohol level was nearly 13°. There was also good acidity, averaging 5 g/l (with variations depending on which vineyard plot the grapes came from).
Fermentation in barrel (50% new oak) went very well. The wines were then aged on their fermentation lees and stirred with a stick (bâtonnage) once a week to bring out their richness and intrinsic elegance.
The 2001 white wines are well-balanced, full-bodied, and rich. They have ripe fruity aromas (peach,apricot), as well as hints of citrus, aniseed, and Muscat. They are very smooth and well-balanced on the palate.
Grape varieties : 90 % Sauvignon Blanc / 5 % Sauvignon Gris / 5 % Sémillon
Yields : 34 hectolitres per hectare, before a selection was made of the grand vin
Fermentation in barrel : 50% new barrels, 50% used for one previous vintage
Ageing for 12 months on the lees with regular bâtonnage (stirring with a stick)
Best enjoyed between 2003 and 2013
Bordeaux / The year 2001 is known as the year of the winegrowers. The whole of Bordeaux suffered from a lot of rain and the resulting noble rot. Sauternes has been producing its best wines for decades, and there is good reason to talk about the Sauternes revolution. The best wine of the year is clearly Yquem. Parker's hundred-point Yquem sold for 300 euros en primeur, and today the price is 600 euros per bottle.
For red wines, the year was difficult. Cabernet Sauvignon, thanks to its thicker skin, did better than Merlot. The cold, rainy and cloudy growing period caused the grapes to ripen too slowly. The areas had to work more intensively. The grapes were rather small and produced concentrated wines. Latour can be considered the best buy. Good buys also include Ausone, Pétrus and Le Pin.
Sauternes Vintage Report: Rapid appearance of botrytis on ripe grapes, rich in sugar. Ideal October: brief rainstorms, high temperatures, windy and sunny afternoons. Very sweet but balanced wines with pronounced noble rot and remarkable complexity. A memorable year and very uniform success for all liqueurs.