One of the most famous - as well as one of the most expensive - wines in the world, Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s history dates back to 1235, by which time, it is believed, the vines were already planted and thriving. Nearly 1,000 years later it still retains the name of its then-owner Gombaud de Lafite. It wasn’t until 1868 that the Rothschild’s came to become the Chateau’s owners, after it was sold at public auction in Paris - and it remains in their hands today.
Producing an elegant Paulliac wine, Chateau Lafite is renowned for its characteristic blend of rich dark fruit with spicy, savoury and earthy notes of cassis, tobacco, and truffle. The 2016 earned sterling reviews, with James Suckling scoring it a perfect 100 and speculating on its standing as “Perhaps the greatest Lafite since the legendary 1959”.
This exceptionally rich, thick Lafite came in with the highest level of natural alcohol (13.5%) ever achieved at Lafite Rothschild. To put that in its proper context, the 2009 and 2005 were 13.3% and in the hottest Bordeaux summer ever recorded in over 200 years, the 2003 achieved 12.8%. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot, all harvested between October 9 and 14, the 2010 exhibits an extraordinarily dense colour, an unctuous texture and sweet blackcurrant fruit intermixed with graphite, charcoal and truffle notes. A director Charles Chevalier told me, between July and the October harvest, Bordeaux had its driest weather since 1949, but it never got excessively hot. Hence the tiny berries, freshness and extraordinary precision of Lafite Rothschild. This superb effort will undoubtedly shut down slightly once it is bottled despite a pH of 3.8. It needs no building up because much of Lafite Rothschild has now become an obsession with the wealthy Chinese and most of it will undoubtedly be consumed before it ever hits its prime. Ideally, it should be cellared for 10-15 years and drunk over the following 50+ years. 98-100 points, The Wine Advocate (2011).
Almost black in colour, this stunning wine is gorgeous, rich and dense. It's grand and powerful, with a strong sense of its own importance. The beautiful tannins and the fragrant blackcurrant fruits are palpable. It's a great wine, with huge potential. (2013)
The 2010 Lafite Rothschild, a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot... achieved relatively high alcohol of 13.32%, according to administrator Charles Chevalier. The wine is very impressive, not as fleshy, flamboyant and massive as the 2009, but nevertheless, a big, rich, full-throttle Lafite-Rothschild meant to age a half-century or more. Deep purple, with notes of white chocolate, mocha, cedar and charcoal as well as hints of vanillin and creme de cassis, the wine is full-bodied yet has that ethereal lightness that makes it a Lafite. Rich, with good acidity, precision and freshness, this is a slightly zestier version of the 2009 as well as more restrained and structured than that particular vintage. It will need at least 10-12 years of cellaring and keep for 50+ years. The Wine Advocate (2013).
Pauillac is Bordeaux’s most acclaimed appellation, the only one with three Premier Cru properties: Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour. These and other Pauillac chateaux produce robust, full-flavored and long-lived red wines made from Cabernet-based blends. Though winemaking techniques and microclimates vary throughout Pauillac, producing some variations in style, classic Pauillac wines have juicy flavours of blackcurrant and cedar, often with coffee, chocolate and graphite notes. Pauillac, part of the Médoc region on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, has gravelly and well-drained soils that force vines to grow long and strong roots. Struggling a bit for water, the vines produce grapes with high tannins and concentrated juices. Nearby rivers and the Atlantic Ocean modulate temperatures, preventing the grapes from ripening too quickly. Such grapes make powerful wines that may age and improve for decades. However, in Pauillac, as in other old-world wine regions, some winemakers are working to develop softer red wines that maintain the local wines’ traditional substance and flavours, but are more approachable immediately upon release.