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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…
The 2009 growing season benefited from beautiful summer and autumn weather (warm and sunny in the daytime, cool at night) conducive to good vine development and, later on, ripening. Accumulated temperatures were similar to 2005 and the water balance resembled 2000… In short, weather conditions were very favourable to making great wine.
Our non-interventionist approach to viticulture, maintaining shadow above the fruit by removing unproductive side shoots proved its efficiency in a year such as this by protecting the fruit from excessive heat while ensuring good ventilation and healthy ripening. The grapes were picked in excellent condition: ripe, aromatic, and complex.
The white wine harvest began with Sauvignon Blanc on 7 September. Sugar levels were good (13.5% potential alcohol) as was acidity (pH of 3.3). We picked the grapes in several passes, helped in part by satellite photos that gave us a very useful overview of ripening patterns: The harvest is now even more finely-tuned. We only harvested in the morning because the cool temperatures helped to retain our white wine grapes' full aromatic potential. The harvest came to an end on 23 September 2009 with the picking of beautiful Sémillon grapes.
2009 Smith Haut Lafitte blanc has an attractive brilliant yellow colour. The nose is quite delicate with floral overtones. Its full aromatic potential is released with aeration, revealing hints of yellow fruit (vineyard peaches, apricot), flowers (honeysuckle, broom flowers), and a touch of flint. The wine starts out straightforward on the palate, filling out to become rich and powerful (this is undoubtedly a food wine). The aftertaste is delightfully flavoursome, with yellow fruit (mango, apricot, and candied pineapple), sweet spice, and gunflint. The finish is quite long and delicious, and the wine is altogether rich and savoury.
Much like 1947, 1961 and 2005, 2009 is a year of almost overly (for Bordeaux) flamboyant and opulent wines with high maturity and low acidity. The tannins are exceptionally ripe, while the wines are quite voluptuous in style. The Left Bank recorded more hours of sunshine than legendary vintages such as 1947 and 1982, and the grapes had higher sugar concentrations than in 2003 and 2005. The key was significant diurnal temperature variations that allowed the grapes to withstand hot daytime temperatures. An exceptional vintage on all levels.