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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…
2011, A climate with temper. The vintage 2011 can be analyzed dividing the year into two opposite weather phases that were determinant for the white grapes characteristics:
• First period: in advance compared to regular Bordeaux standards, the warm and dry weather induced an early vintage with harvest starting on the 18th of August.
• Second period: a summer with a quite low temperature average that allowed a slow maturation of the grapes preserving their natural acidity.
These two phases were the key to the vintage for vine-growers and winemakers who took great care of the grapes in the first period and waited for perfect slow maturation in the second period. Harvests of the whites started very early on the 18th of August, with beautiful sunny days and went on for 3 weeks. We waited patiently for the perfect balance of the grapes, hand-picking in the cool mornings, batch by batch within plots, according to the maturity. We then cooled down the grapes to gently press them under neutral atmosphere (without oxygen contact) to preserve their freshness. Our focus is on respecting the grapes in every step of the vinification. The result is spectacular. Smith Haut Lafitte white 2011 is one of the best wines we have ever produced: a rare perfection in the crystal-clear balance of this wine.
The 2011 vintage is not easy to handle.
Smith Haut Lafitte not only makes great white and red wine from Bordeaux in Pessac Léognan, they are also at the cutting edge of technology. They were one of the first Bordeaux wine producers to begin using optical sorting, which came in handy with the difficult 2011 Bordeaux harvest. Fabien Teitgen, long-time general manager, joined us for a long detailed conversation about what happened at Smith Haut Lafitte for the 2011 Bordeaux vintage.
“In my opinion, 2011 is balanced with a low pH and a medium alcohol level. So for those who picked at the right time, their wines will be balanced, with good concentration and good freshness. This vintage is not so easy to handle. »
Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe, began its 2011 Bordeaux harvest on Monday, September 5.
Jean Guillaume Prats told us that 2011 set a modern record for an early start to their harvest at Château Cos d’Estournel. He added: “It was the second earliest harvest on record. To find an earlier date, we had to go back to 1893! » Although the precise date to begin picking was not set in stone, the original plan was not to begin their Bordeaux harvest on September 5. But due to a ferocious storm that swept through the region, the massive 2011 Bordeaux storm hit the northern Médoc, any hope of waiting has gone out the window. “We had initially planned to start around September 9, with the young vines. After the storm, we gave ourselves time over the weekend to assess the situation and make the appropriate decision: wait and see how it will evolve in the coming days depending on the weather. We are “lucky” that this vintage is extremely early. The damage in terms of phenolic maturity of the grapes should be very minor. If it was a later year, like 2008, 2009 or 2010, the effects would be much worse.
" said Prats
The day starts before sunrise
Château Haut Brion and Château La Mission Haut Brion began harvesting their young Merlot vines on August 29. It’s early for the First Growth domain. To give you an idea of when Haut Brion started picking its young Merlot vines in 2010, September 8. In this vintage, the harvest continued until October 9.
Between the two properties of Pessac Léognan, with red and white grapes to pick, they have a busy schedule. Harvesters begin their day working on the grapes for their Bordeaux white wine, often starting their day before sunrise.
Jean-Philippe Delmas explains why they harvest early in the morning: “The goal of picking white grapes early in the morning is to ensure that the fruit stays fresh. This helps the berries retain their unique, fresh flavors. This year, we picked our white grapes between 7 a.m. and noon. The reason is that at this time of the day, the skin is dry. There is nothing left of the dew of the night. »
Château Lafite Rothschild began harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon from their northernmost plots, located not far from Château Cos d’Estournel, on Friday September 2. 2011. This is one of the first harvests recorded for the property. You will read quotes from many Bordeaux wine producers that 2011 Bordeaux, for many châteaux, will be their earliest harvest on record since 1893! However, producers located in certain districts of Bordeaux have brought forward their harvest calendars even earlier than expected.
Due to the enormous deluge and rain in the northern Médoc, centered near the border of Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, to avoid possible rot problems, many châteaux in this vicinity decided to start picking sooner than they had originally planned. The most notable property is the famous Premier Cru, Château Lafite Rothschild. It is possible that the storm, which dropped half an inch of massive rain in a twenty-minute period, caused flooding in Lafite Rothschild's cellars.
“With our 2011 harvest, we harvested earlier because the cultivation of the vines was earlier than usual, due to the very hot spring. But the ripening weather conditions in summer were cool and cool, so the wine is of a cooler style than a late vintage. The pleasant weather conditions at the end of August and September were very good for phenolic maturity.” Fabien Teitgen from Château Smith Haut Lafitte.
Bordeaux 2011 /The earliest harvest recorded since 1893