Château Lafite Rothschild
Classification: First Growth
Château Lafite Rothschild lies in the village of Pauillac and takes its name from the Gascon term "la hite" meaning "hillock". The Château dates back to 1234 when it was owned by Gombard de Lafite. In the 17th century, the property of Château Lafite was purchased by the Ségur family, including the 16th century manor house that still stands. Marquis Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur consolidated Lafite’s initial successes in the 1700s. He improved the wine making techniques and above all enhanced the prestige of fine wines in foreign markets and the Versailles court. He became known as “The Wine Prince”, and Lafite’s wine became “The King’s Wine”, with the support of an able ambassador, the Maréchal de Richelieu.
In 1755, Richelieu consulted a Bordeaux doctor, who advised him that Château Lafite was “the finest and most pleasant of all tonics.” On Richelieu’s return to Paris, Louis XV told him that he looked 25 years younger than he did before he departed and Richelieu responded “Does his Majesty not yet know that I’ve at long last found the Fountain of Youth? I have found that Château Lafite wines make invigorating cordials: they are as delicious as the ambrosia of the Gods of Olympus.” This resulted in a wave of popularity for the wines of Lafite at the Court in Versailles – Madame de Pompadour had it served with her small evening receptions, and later, Madame du Barry made a point of drinking “only the King’s Wine”. Across the Channel Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister, purchased a barrel of Lafite every three months.
In 1868 Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite – the second branch of the Rothschild family to buy a Bordeaux Château (the first being Baron Nathaniel, who bought Château Mouton Rothschild in 1853). Today Lafite is owned by Baron Eric who began a tradition of inviting fine-arts photographers to photograph Château Lafite. These include such artists as Jacques Henri Lartique, Irving Penn, Robert Doisneau, and Richard Avedon.
The vineyards of Château Lafite covers 222 acres and is one of the largest in the Médoc and sits on the highest knoll of the Pauillac area. They comprise of 3 main plots: those around the chateau, those on the Carruades plain, and a tiny plot in St Estèphe. Some of the vines are 115 years old but the average age is 30 years. The soils are gravelly sand lying on a bedrock of limestone. The grapes grown are 71%Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.
The wines of Château Lafite Rothschild are full of finesse and elegance – more feminine than their Mouton cousins. They have notes of ripe black currant, almonds, spice, oak, violets and vanilla. The wines are silky smooth and well rounded with supple tannins . They have great potential for ageing and should be cellared properly.
Owner: Domaines Barons de Rothschild (also own Châteaux Duhart Milon, Rieussec, L'Evangile, Paradis Casseuil, Peyre Lebade and d'Aussières)
Château Website: www.lafite.com
Oenologist: J Boissenot