Wine: Best Wines: Château Lafite-Rothschild


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Château Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac, Bordeaux) - Premier Grand Cru Classé

The history of Château Lafite-Rothschild was marked by two families: the de Segur family, from whom the vineyard’s notoriety originated and the Rothschilds. Château Lafite was first mentioned in 1234 and it served as the “King’s wine” in the 18th century. Louis XV was introduced to Chateau Lafite by Maréchal de Richelieu who referred to Lafite as “The Fountain of Youth”, which soon also received the King’s approval. Madame de Pompadour had this superb French red wine served at her small evening receptions, and later, Madame du Barry. In 1855, the vintage rankings of the Universal Exposition in Paris officially gave Lafite the rating as “Leader among fine wines”. This ranking was to be the benchmark for a new era of success for Médoc vineyards, which is one of the wine-growing areas of the Bordeaux region. In fact, both the sub regions Pauillac and Margaux belong to the Médoc area (see introduction on the other 'Premier Cru Classe' Bordeaux red wines). 

On 8th August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased the Château Lafite estate, which had been put up for public sale and the vintage of that year was excellent. Baron James, who was head of the French branch of the Rothschild family, however, passed away just 3 months after purchasing Lafite. The estate then became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond. The estate then boasted 74 hectares. Since the mid-1970s Château Lafite-Rothschild is now run and owned by Baron Eric de Rothschild and is one of the most renowned wine estates in the famous Médoc wine region, which is about 40 kilometers north-west of the city of Bordeaux. The Château Latour vineyard belongs to the Pauillac appellation (i.e. sub area), which is located only 300 meters from the Gironde river and which gives the wine all its uniqueness.

With 95 hectares these days, Château Lafite-Rothschild is one of the largest Médoc estates. Depending on the vintage, the Château Lafite-Rothschild wine is made of the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (80-95%), Merlot (5-20%) and Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (0-3%). There was an exception in 1961 and 1994 when the Château Lafite-Rothschild was made 100% of Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is the most prestigious grape of the Médoc region and has a typcial taste of blackcurrants. Typically, the wine will mature during a period of 18 to 20 months in new oak barrels. The vineyards lie on deep gravel beds (up to 5 meters thick) over marl and limestone. Annual production of the Château Lafite-Rothschild is between 15,000 and 25,000 cases. About 10,000 bottles from the estate are used for a second wine label called 'Carruades de Lafite'. 

Of all the Médoc Grand Crus, Château Lafite-Rothschild can be the most fascinating and difficult to understand. It is said to possess the most exquisite bouquet of any Médoc wine. It has the elegance, balance and harmony that epitomizes the best a red Bordeaux wine, or claret, can offer. However, it should be noted that due to weather conditions not all vintages are equally good. Outstanding vintages to drink or for investment since 1945 are: 1945, 1947, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Address (also for Guided Tours):
Château Lafite-Rothschild
Fax: +33-5-5659 2683
website: www.lafite.com

Opening hours: By appointment only, with a minimum of two weeks advance notice necessary. Groups are not allowed to be larger than 15. Only individual tours are possible, joining of other groups not offered. For professionals: 9:00am and 10:30am and for individuals: 2:00pm and 3:30pm. The tour of the wine-making facilities and the tasting afterwards are free of charge. There are no direct sales at the vineyard. However, if you contact the local Tourism and Wine Center they will provide sales information. Château Lafite-Rothschild is closed during all holidays from August until the end of October as well as on bank holidays.

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