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 is a denser version of the 1990 that stylistically reminds me of what the young 1959 probably tasted like. Still backward with a deep ruby/plum colour revealing only a touch of lightening at the edge, the wine offers up an extraordinary nose of caramelized herbs, smoke, cedar, pen ink, blackcurrants and earth. The gorgeous aromatics are followed by a full-bodied, plump, rich, fleshy wine with low acidity. With 6-8 hours decanting in a closed decanter, it will offer beautiful drinking, but it needs another 5-8 years to reach full maturity. It is capable of lasting 50-60 years. This classic Lafite is not as fat and concentrated as the 1982 Latour, nor as complex or concentrated as the 1982 Mouton Rothschild, but it is a winner all the same. 97+ points, Wine Advocate (6/2009).
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.