is one of the most renowned wine properties in the Médoc
. Owned by
Baron Eric de Rothschild
and Lafite Rothschild is also one of the
largest Médoc estates.
The vineyards of Ch. Lafite are found at the northern tip of the Pauillac
below the boundary with St.
. There is evidence of an estate on this site as far back as the
14th century, and of exports of wine to the UK in the early 17th century. The
current owners, the Rothschilds of the famous banking dynasty, bought the
property in 1866, but this is a different brand of the family from that which
purchased Ch. Mouton-Rothschild. For many years the Rothschilds’ control
of Lafite was very much exercised at a distance, compared to the hands-on
influence of Baron Philippe at Mouton, but since the Second World War this has
changed somewhat, with the current owner, Eric de Rothschild, presiding over an
extensive programme of investment in both vineyard and cellar.
With a base largely of gravel the vineyard is unsurprisingly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon
(71%) with the balance
(25%) Cabernet Franc
(3%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Grapes are
hand-harvested, and vinified parcel by parcel. Fermentation takes place in
stainless steel vats, after which the wine is run off into barrels, 100% new
for Lafite itself, a mixture of new and one-year-old barrels for the second
The Grand Vin volume varies greatly according to the vintage, but is frequently
less than half the total crop, and is usually no more than 20,000 cases. The
second wine, Carruades de Lafite
, has a slightly higher percentage of
Merlot than Lafite and is in consequence more approachable in youth. Up to
30,000 cases are made. Wine deemed not worthy of inclusion in Carruades is sold
off as generic Pauillac.
Throughout the 20th century Lafite was dogged by periods of inconsistency,
often producing sublime wines but also failing to live up to its billing in
other years. Since 1994, however the estate has been under the control of
, and he has brought about not just an admirable level
of consistency but has also been responsible for some truly brilliant wines
often vying for the title of “Wine of the Vintage”.
In style thw wines of Lafite are often described as having a perfumed
elegance and finesse,
to contrast with the more masculine power and
structure of Latour
or the more
exotic and intense flavours of Mouton
What is sure, however, is that at its best it represents a hedonistic
experience for the consumer, and has the ability to age, in great years, for
minimally 50 years and often longer.