Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: Château Lafite Rothschild
Château Lafite-Rothschild has produced pure, classical Pauillac in 2013. It’s very high in Cabernet Sauvignon [98%] which makes it a little more austere on the palate, but there is obvious gravity and intensity here too, if also plenty of sappy acidity. It will need a bit of time to knit together. Certainly it speaks of the vintage. Château Duhart-Milon is a good effort. There is a slightly earthier note [which recalls their 1997] but also blackcurrant and graphite tones. There is a lttle dryness to the tannins and plenty of sappy acidity. Likewise Carruades de Lafite is similarly styled, if slightly looser on the finish. There are more plummy fruit tones [29% Merlot] and the wine is softer overall. Again 2013 freshness comes through in the vibrant acidity.
Charles Chevallier, Lafite’s director, was philosophical about the vintage and honest about the genuine problems they faced, especially the potentially ‘explosive’ rot on the Merlot as the vintage approached [with lightening speed]. You can’t escape the vintage character in the wines, Chevallier wouldn’t want to [nor could he] but in the long run both Lafite and Duhart will provide classical Pauillac in the glass, though perhaps without the mid-palate richness of recent years. They will be aromatic and vigorous for sure, like a bright, sunny day in March, but also likely have a certain austerity too – such is 2013.
The cool start to the growing cycle was particularly pronounced at Lafite in 2013. Bud-break was late and flowering delayed by three weeks compared to the fifty-year average here. The cool and wet weather during flowering led to coulure and millerandage and yields were correspondingly reduced. Summer started with a bang in late June, lasting the month of July and August. From mid-September things became ‘challenging’ – rain alternating with sun and the increasing humidity threatening botrytis in a major way. Charles Chevallier describes the vintage ‘as a race with no time to warm up’, with a desperate search for pickers [alongside everyone else] to try and bring the harvest in as soon as possible.
At Lafite, the Merlot, was picked between September 30 and October 7, while the Cabernet Sauvignon was brought in 3-12 October. At Duhart the Merlot was harvested 1-7 October and the Cabernet from 4-14 October.
In terms of release prices in 2013, the wines were amongst the most successful in terms of trade, precisely because they priced with the market in mind. Lafite itself came out first amongst the premier grand crus [and early too, 16 April, 2014]. They dropped the price 14% on 2012 at 288 euros a bottle ex-negociant. Liv-Ex reported this was comfortably the cheapest Lafite on the market. Subsequently as the 2013 en primeur campaign progressed it emerged how successful this pricing strategy was, in what has turned out to be a very disappointing campaign.
The following wines were tasted at Château Lafite-Rothschild on Tuesday 1/4/14.
Château Lafite Rothschild, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac
Deep centre core; colour tight to the rim; deep and clean; purity; blackcurrant; graphite; quite strong aromatically; bold in scope on the palate [98% Cabernet this year] but tannin a little on the austere side on the finish; needs to settle; overall palate quite tight and sappy at present. Obvious gravity but fruit is tight and intense and pretty sappy. Elements are there. Tannins a little austere. The vintage speaking… [98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot]. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92+
Château Duhart-Milon, Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac
Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; little earthier on the nose; quite tight though; blackcurrants and graphite on aeration; some freshness on the nose; cool entry; quite tight; some chew to the tannins; lacks the gloss of the better vintages phenolically speaking; little dryness; some sap and acidity on the end; lacks a bit of generosity on the finish but will doubtless fill out more during elévage. [80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot]. Drink 2018-2030. 88-90+
Carruades de Lafite, Pauillac
Deep-ish colour; purple at edge; attractive plum and blackcurrant aromatics; layers; little menthol; structured palate with grip and material; needs to settle; vintage comes through; though good-ish purity; some chew on the finish and perhaps a little loose. Acidity quite spiky. Good-ish. [64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot]. Tasted at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. 87-89
Tags: Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2013, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carruades de Lafite, Charles Chevallier, Chateau Duhart Milon, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Grand Cru Classé, Merlot, Pauillac, Premier Grand Cru Classé