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Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

lafite-cropped.jpgIn 1855, when the famous Classification was released, Lafite-Rothschild was placed at the very top.  Conjecture remains as to whether it was considered ‘first among firsts’, in alphbetical order (with Haut-Brion added at the end as it was the exception from outside the Medoc) or in geographical order.  Whatever the rationale for its placement at the head of the list of first-growths, none today would argue with its deserving place given its quality and reputation, not to mention current secondary-market dominance (due in large part to Chinese adoration, which in turn is linked to its historical placement...).

Lafite for me embodies supreme elegance, whilst combining impressive power and structure.  Some historical vintages of Lafite are considered to be amongst Bordeaux’s greatest, such as the legendary, near-mythical 1811 and 1870 vintages.   Yet it is also true that for much of the 20th century, certainly prior to 1982 and excepting 1959 and 1953, that Lafite made far too many mediocre, poor and occasionally terrible wines.  Thankfully this is definately an anomaly that, irrespective of why it occurred, has ceased.  


There are 104 hectares of vines at Lafite-Rothschild in 77 distinct parcels (including six in the commune of St.-Estèphe, but permitted to be included in the grand vin and described as Pauillac), planted to an approximate mix of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  Much of the land in front of the Château is considered too poor for quality viticulture, and there are several ornamental ponds as well as a private garden there.  It takes around 300 pickers some 15-20 days to harvest the property, with an additional 20 people staffing the sorting tables.

Lafite is located on the northern border of Pauillac, adjacent St.-Estèphe (separated by a small creek), and is becoming increasingly segregated for security reasons from the public.


lafite-charles-cuvellier.jpgThere are 29 wooden casks and 20 stainless steel vats of varying capacity (between 120hl and 260hl) at Lafite, where the wine spends around three weeks undergoing primary and malolactic fermentations.    The wine is then transferred into barrel - 100% new for the grand vin - where it spends around 18 months in oak, racked every three months.  Either five or six egg whites are used to fine the wine prior to being bottled unfiltered.

Each of the first and second-year barrel rooms hold up to 2,000 barrels.

There are some 80,000 older bottles of Lafite in the cellars, including six of the 1787, which are generally recorded every 25 years or so, with the same vintage where possible, and with ‘one drop of SO₂’.