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Château Smith Haut Lafitte white 2012 offers a bright, vibrant pale yellow colour with green hue. The first nose, quite discreet, offers delicate notes of white fruits and flowers. Through aeration the nose open up to become very expressive, complex, rich with an explosion of yellow fruits, peach, apricot, mango, citrus fruits (grapefruit), sweet spices, star anise and even a hint of caramel. This nose, both mature and refreshing, reflects perfectly the good weather conditions at the end of grape maturation. On the palate, the subtle balance between acidity freshness and fruit maturity appears clearly to give the wine a harmony of ripeness, richness, tension and vivacity. The attack is tense, then the mouth enlarges to become dense, more unctuous with a sense of fatness.
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…
2012: a vintage driven by reactivity
After a chaotic beginning of the vine cycle: early bud break and blockage in April (cold and wet); the vine found back a proper growing path with the beautiful weather conditions from May to September. However, the delay and heterogeneity undergone because of this difficult start of the vine cycle was to be felt all year long.
Once more, the reality of great terroirs, the efforts made in the quest for the balance between the plant and the soil, the vitality of the soils and the low yield reduced greatly theses gaps and induced a slow yet complete maturity of the grapes.
After some manual in-the-field sorting from the young vines (from the 4th to the 12th of September), the white harvest really started on the 13th of September. The decrease in temperatures and some rain episodes were necessary at the end of the maturation. This date is a crucial point in this white harvest. From this day on, we witnessed plots evolving very fast, going from a stage of clear under-maturity to a stage of proper beautiful ripeness, with crisps and aromatic berries in 48 and even 24 hours times. Therefore we had to show great reactivity to pick at the right time.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte white 2012 offers a bright, vibrant pale yellow colour with green hue.
The first nose, quite discreet, offers delicate notes of white fruits and flowers. Through aeration the nose open up to become very expressive, complex, rich with an explosion of yellow fruits, peach, apricot, mango, citrus fruits (grapefruit), sweet spices, star anise and even a hint of caramel. This nose, both mature and refreshing, reflects perfectly the good weather conditions at the end of grape maturation.
On the palate, the subtle balance between acidity freshness and fruit maturity appears clearly to give the wine a harmony of ripeness, richness, tension and vivacity. The attack is tense, then the mouth enlarges to become dense, more unctuous with a sense of fatness. And the acidity dimension comes back to add lightness and freshness on a very long finale that emphasizes this wine aroma complexity through yellow and white fruits, broom flower, spices, vanilla, stone flint… A very mineral mouth, undoubtedly marked by the terroir.
The 2012 Bordeaux vintage report.
The 2012 Bordeaux vintage is a year for vineyard management and workers. Call it a winemakers vintage, or change your tune and call it vineyard managers vintage. Either descriptor works perfectly. Wineries with the financial capacity to take the necessary measures in the vineyards during the season, coupled with the willingness to severely downgrade unripe grapes, will produce the best wines. Even then, it will be a difficult vintage with small quantities of wine. From start to finish, the 2012 Bordeaux vegetative season and harvest were stressful for the winemakers, the vines and with the grapes being vinified, the winemakers.
The 2012 Bordeaux vintage did not get off to a good start. After a cold winter and a wet spring, the April rains soaked the Bordeaux wine region. After the April rains, there were outbreaks of mildew, which required spraying. The month of May was warmer than April. Things calmed down a bit in June. All this resulted in late and uneven flowering. This resulted in small clusters of berries that ripened at different times, lowering quantities and requiring serious work in the vines and intensive sorting at harvest.
Although a growing season is never over until it is, uneven flowering never bodes well. Late flowering pushed back the entire vintage by 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the château. Generally speaking, late harvests are not generally a harbinger of good things to come.
If everything that happened up to the end of June didn't offer what happened next offered additional challenges with the 2012 Bordeaux vintage. After an average July, Bordeaux experienced a heat wave torrid weather and drought in August and September which stressed the vines, particularly the young vines. At one point, temperatures soared to 42 degrees Celsius, or 107 degrees! Other days crossed 100 degrees. It was extremely hot and dry. The vines stopped and the vintage was on track to be even later than expected. Towards the end of September, things improved with the much-hoped-for combination of warm days, cool nights and desperately needed rain, which helped nourish the vines. The first few days of October offered reasonably warm temperatures during the day, coupled with cooler weather at night for growers with Merlot ready to pick.
In the Médoc, you had to hurry and wait. Tom Petty could have exploded with “Waiting is The Hardest Part” because producers had to wait because Cabernet Sauvignon had difficulty maturing. It was already October. Conventional wisdom says that at one point there was little to gain by waiting and more to lose, so the 2012 Bordeaux harvest began to take place. Some estates began picking young Merlot in late September, but most held back until around October 1, and a few producers waited a week or more. Most growers brought in all their fruit by mid-October.
Pomerol is usually the first appellation to harvest, due to their Merlot dominated vines. It is interesting to note that the picking took place simultaneously on the left bank on October 1st. Many properties in Pessac Léognan started their harvest before Pomerol. Château Haut Brion began work on their young Merlot vines on September 17th and Château Haut Bailly was not far behind, with a start date of September 27th. Most castles were in the thick of things on October 4, although Domaine de Chevalier waited until October 8.
While the pleasant, cooler weather was initially forecast to continue, on October 8 things changed quickly when massive amounts of rain fell across the entire Bordeaux region. With accompanying temperatures in the mid-60s and higher in some areas, winemakers were concerned about the potential for Botrytis, due to the humid tropical conditions. At this point, the fruit had to be picked, regardless of the state of ripeness. Like last year with the 2011 Bordeaux vintage, maturation was uneven. It wasn't just the bunches that weren't ripening, individual grapes in bunches reached varying degrees of ripeness, making sorting more important than ever. Optical sorting was used more than ever with the 2012 Bordeaux harvest.