Château Lafite-Rothschild is a powerhouse in terms of brand and reputation and presently commands the highest prices amongst its first growth peers. Lafite is the largest of the First Growths, both in area and production, and occupies the northern tip of Pauillac close to the border with Saint Estèphe in the Médoc.
Evidence of the existence of winemaking on the site of Lafite dates from the 14th century and records of the wine itself go back to 1641. In the 18th century Chateau Lafite was a strong favourite at Versailles court. It became known as “The King’s Wine”. Madame de Pompadour, the famous favourite of the king Louis XV had Lafite served at her legendary supper receptions.
At the 1855 Bordeaux Classification Chateau Lafite was ranked as First Growth. In 1868 the property was purchased by Baron James de Rothschild, a member of the famous banking family. Eric de Rothschild presided over the Chateau since 1974 until recent years, when Saskia de Rothschild replaced her father.
The vineyard covers 112 hectares and is well-drained and well-exposed, with soil made up of fine deep gravel, mixed with aeolian sand on a subsoil of tertiary limestone. The average age of the vines is 39 years old, however the vines younger than 10 years are not used in the grand vin.
The winemaking approach here is mostly traditional, based on strict control of yields, manual harvests, and numerous tasks that are carried out by hand all through the year. The grapes from each plot are fermented in separate vats to preserve the identity of the terroir. The wine spends 18 to 20 months in 100% new barrels, all of them coming from the Domaine cooperage, with a special “toasting” suited to the characteristics of the wine.
The grand vin is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon (80 to 95%), with some Merlot (5 to 20%) and small additions of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The Chateau’s second wine, Carruades de Lafite represents a superb expression of the Lafite terroir and has earned a following of its own. The blend contains a higher percentage of Merlot which makes it more approachable in youth.
Within the Pauillac appellation, Lafite is often considered the most elegant, feminine wine when compared to the masculine Latour and the exotic fruitiness of Mouton Rothschild. Since the 1980s, Lafite has produced great vintages on a regular basis and has become the favourite wine of Asia. Used as a good luck charm during business transactions in China, this iconic wine will continue to dominate the market for years to come.