The 1999 Lafite Rothschild is entering adolescence and beginning to show very well after an hour in the decanter, offering up aromas of rich dark fruit mingled with cigar box, loamy soil, spices and subtle animal top notes. Medium to full-bodied, muscular and concentrated for the vintage, with lively acids and still rather youthfully assertive tannins, it's a fine effort that would rate higher if it displayed greater aromatic purity.
Drink 2009 - 2039
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (February 2022)
A fine vintage for the end of the millennium, barely disturbed by a few drops of rain during harvest. The previous winter had been mild during most of the decade, followed by a beautiful spring and early flowering. There was a heatwave in July and until mid-August, wet days with sparse sunshine, but fortunately, from 15 August until the rainy harvest.
At the time, we were already talking about global warming because the average dates for flowering and harvest in the 1990s were about ten days ahead of those in the 1970s.' This often-overlooked vintage (generally for Bordeaux) contained all four grape varieties planted at Lafite: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Eric Kohler told us that this is true of only four of the 24 vintages he has been involved with.
Mid crimson/garnet. Such perfume and Lafite aroma! No apparent sweetness but natural lift and delicacy. Racy Lafite character on the palate; this dances. Real class with some velvety texture and a bone-dry finish. Very clean and pure. It reverberates on the end – thanks to the Indian summer, we were told. This was chosen for the 150th celebration tasting because it has started to open out since 2016.
Drink 2017 - 2035
Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com (May 2018)
1999 was a more challenging vintage, but this is a classic Pauillac at 20 years old, and we should expect it to stay on its plateau for the next 20-30 years. You can feel the edges of a more aged Cabernet beginning to creep in as cigar box and gentle tobacco notes, but there is still dense but savoury fruit on display, with authentic elegance and finesse to the tannins.
Showing great harmony, this is where the beauty of Lafite is on display - you can find many excellent 2009 and 2010s, but not so many beautiful '99s. All four grapes - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc - are in the blend here, which happens only once every ten years. This vintage demonstrates that Lafite still doesn't need concentration to be something incredible.
A mixed year weather-wise, with a good spring followed by a rainy summer until mid-August when the sun returned. There was a wonderful Indian summer, and then a few raindrops again during harvest sped things up. These challenges, says Baron Eric, meant that they forgot about it for a good 15 years, as the wine was highly closed, but around three years ago, it started to open back up. This is ready to be enjoyed.
Drink 2018 - 2030
Jane Anson, Decanter.com (May 2018)
About this WINE
Château Lafite Rothschild
The iconic Château Lafite Rothschild was classified as a first growth in 1855 and has been in the Rothschild family since 1868. Today, Lafite is headed up by Saskia de Rothschild, daughter of long-time steward Baron Eric de Rothschild.
Château Lafite Rothschild is an iconic first-growth property in the Pauillac appellation of Bordeaux, France. It achieved its top-tier rank in 1855 and has been in the Rothschild family since 1868. Today, Lafite is headed up by Saskia de Rothschild, daughter of long-time steward Baron Eric de Rothschild.
The property is located at the northern tip of Pauillac, separated by St Estèphe by marshland and the Jalle de Breuil stream. Two areas of the vineyard are particularly notable: the gravel plateau, which is the heart of the grand vin; and the Plateau de Carruades, from which Lafite’s second wine takes its name. The vineyard is planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), along with Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (2%).
A new cellar was completed here in time for the 2011 harvest, with a combination of stainless steel and concrete tanks, of varying sizes. The barrels come from Lafite’s own cooperage, located not far from the property.
In addition to its 110 hectares of vines, the estate has 300 hectares of woods and marshes. The team consider this to be an integral part of the ecosystem.
Pauillac is the aristocrat of the Médoc boasting boasting 75 percent of the region’s First Growths and with Grand Cru Classés representing 84 percent of Pauillac's production.
For a small town, surrounded by so many familiar and regal names, Pauillac imparts a slightly seedy impression. There are no grand hotels or restaurants – with the honourable exception of the establishments owned by Jean-Michel Cazes – rather a small port and yacht harbour, and a dominant petrochemical plant.
Yet outside the town, , there is arguably the greatest concentration of fabulous vineyards throughout all Bordeaux, including three of the five First Growths. Bordering St Estèphe to the north and St Julien to the south, Pauillac has fine, deep gravel soils with important iron and marl deposits, and a subtle, softly-rolling landscape, cut by a series of small streams running into the Gironde. The vineyards are located on two gravel-rich plateaux, one to the northwest of the town of Pauillac and the other to the south, with the vines reaching a greater depth than anywhere else in the Médoc.
Pauillac's first growths each have their own unique characteristics; Lafite Rothschild, tucked in the northern part of Pauillac on the St Estèphe border, produces Pauillac's most aromatically complex and subtly-flavoured wine. Mouton Rothschild's vineyards lie on a well-drained gravel ridge and - with its high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon - can produce (in its best years) Pauillac's most decadently rich, fleshy and exotic wine.
Latour, arguably Bordeaux's most consistent First Growth, is located in southern Pauillac next to St Julien. Its soil is gravel-rich with superb drainage, and Latour's vines penetrate as far as five metres into the soil. It produces perhaps the most long-lived wines of the Médoc.
Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Ch. Latour, Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Ch. Pichon-Longueville Baron, Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ch. Lynch-Bages, Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Ch, Pontet-Canet, Les Forts de Latour, Ch. Haut-Batailley, Ch. Batailley, Ch. Haut-Bages Libéral.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.