The 2021 Smith Haut Lafitte was picked from September 22 to October 14, and matured in 60% new oak. It has an open, expressive bouquet of blackberry, freshly rolled tobacco and subtle crushed rock aromas, well-defined though obviously not as flamboyant as the previous three vintages. The palate is medium-bodied, fresh and mineral-driven, with fine tannins, a touch of chalkiness, and hints of seaweed on the estuarine finish, even though it lies a few kilometers from the Gironde! Classic in style, and maybe a little austere for some on the finish, yet it feels long in the mouth. Fabien Teitgen and his team have overseen a superb Smith Haut-Lafitte, even though I suspect that it will not reach the heights of the 2010 or the 2016.
Drink 2026 - 2050
Neal Martin, vinous.com, (May 2022)
Skilful winemaking on display here, sculpted flavours and textures, a sense of momentum and push-and-pull through the palate. Quince, white pear, mango, nectarine, peach, with savoury white tea, liqourice, mandarin peel and lemongrass, all delivered with pummice stone minerality. This has complexity and poise, and is along the wines of the vintage. Harvest September 2 to 20.
Drink 2023 - 2032
Jane Anson, janeanson.com (May 2022)
Dark crimson. Some ripe red fruit on the nose. Polished tannins and there is energy here. This sample seems to have a more convincing core than yesterday’s sample tasted at the château. Good level of interest and detail here. Even if the level of acidity is higher than usual and the tannins obviously took some taming. Sweeter than some.
Drink 2028 - 2042
James Lawther, jancisrobinson.com (May 2022)
A brilliant wine, the 2021 Smith Haut Lafitte offers up aromas of blackberries, violets, coniferous forest floor and dark chocolate. Medium to full-bodied, velvety and seamless, it's deep and impressively multidimensional, with good concentration, beautifully refined tannins and notable purity of fruit, concluding with a long, penetrating finish. The fruit of a severe selection, this blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot is testament to the Cathiard family's unwavering commitment to quality.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (Apr 2022)
Lots of clove, black-licorice and cigar-box character. Already perfumed. Medium body with fine, chalky and precise tannins. Lead-pencil shavings. Well framed and structured with a fresh, lengthy and spicy finish. Extremely long and intense. 63% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 3% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. From organically grown grapes.
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (May 2022)
About this WINE
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Château Smith-Haut-Lafite has been transformed during the last decade from being a perennial underachiever to being one of the leading estates in the Graves region.
For many years it was owned by the Bordeaux négociant Eschenauer - in 1990 it was bought by former Olympic skiing champion, Daniel Cathiard. He cut down on the amount of chemicals and herbicides used in the vineyards, and fully modernised the winemaking facilities. The proportion of new oak barrels used in the maturation process was increased and a trio of eminent oenologists (including the ubiquitous Michel Rolland) were hired as consultants.
The 55 hectares of vineyards are located on a gravel ridge to the east of Château Haut-Bailly. The red wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Merlot (35%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats and the wine is then matured in oak barrels (50% new) for 15-18 months. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the classed growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.
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.