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Château Lafite-Rothschild


Address: 33250 Pauillac


What can one say that hasn’t already been said about Lafite? It was the first of the firsts, being the chateau that led the 1855 classification by price. Until recently it remained amongst the priciest wines in the world and has extraordinary brand recognition the world over. As a wine Château Lafite-Rothschild is not necessarily the most powerful of the Pauillac first growths, tending more towards balance and elegance, but does produce sublime Bordeaux, and demonstrates that power is not always the key to greatness. The 2005, much heralded, is truly exceptional. The 1996, very different in style, is its equal. Great things here in 2009, Lafite’s then director Charles Chevallier described it as a ‘very great vintage’ in the making. It looks every bit as good as the 2005 when first tasted in spring 2010. The wine has since put on more weight in bottle and is one of the greatest wines of that brilliant vintage. 2010 also looked very strong when shown en primeur. 2011 has received a varied reception though I thought it delivered extremely well in that tricky vintage. 2014 also looks to be special. The speculation and investment that drove the price of Lafite-Rothschild into the stratosphere peaked in 2011. Prices have dropped back considerably since then [by more than 50% – so it is now a relative bargain] but Lafite still remains one of the world’s most  sought after wines. Second wine Carruades de Lafite is no slouch either, as these days 40-60% of Lafite’s production makes its way there, depending on the vintage. Carruades was quite exceptional in 2009 and 2010. Shrewd buyers should really look out for Pauillac sibling Duhart-Milon. This delivers Lafite-like polish and elegance at a fraction of the price.  Recently Lafite 2014 and 2016 are beauties. Lafite now under the directorship of Eric Kohler, with Charles Chevallier retiring in January 2016. 

Vineyard/Terroir: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Average age of the vines is 45 years.

Winemaking/Elévage: 18-24 day fermentation and maceration in both wooden and stainless steel tanks. Sixteen to twenty months barrel ageing with 100% new oak.

Tasting notes:

  • 2016 Opaque at centre; colour tight to the meniscus; earthy purple; wonderful blackcurrant fragrance; real depth and delicacy; cool; quite taut to start with and needs to unfurl in the glass; graphite; blackcurrant; lovely texture again to the tannins; real depth to the fruit; wonderful length. Lots of delicacy here. Very long. Knocking on the door of 2009, 2010 and 2014. Time will tell. [92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot]. Tasted 3/4/17. Drink 2023-2046. 97-100
  • 2015 Mid depth; purple edge; mineral tones and cool blackcurrant aromatics; some graphite and spice; elegant aromatics; quite compact on the palate; measured style; fruit a bit tight and the acidity showed through on the day. Tannins are fine but considerable. A degree of freshness on the finish – almost grippy. Will put on weight during elévage I hope. [91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot]. Drink 2023-2035. Tasted 4/4/16. 93-94+
  • 2014 Deep and dark; fresh looking at edge; opaque centre; purple at edge; very ripe blackcurrants and cassis notes; graphite; intense cassis infact; sublimated blackcurrants and cassis; plenty of flesh on the palate; focus; some oak to integrate but lots of blackcurrant fruit and cassis again; structure evident beneath; excellent purity and length; very long palate impression. This is concentrated Lafite, sublimated even. In the realm of the great years. [second sample showed similar characteristics – very concentrated blackcurrants; cassis]; exceptional stuff. [87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 12.6 degrees alc, harvest 22-27 September for Merlot and 29 September-8 October for Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 2 October and Petit Verdot 10 October]. Drink 2022-2035. Tasted 30 March, 2015 at Lafite. 95-97+  
  • 2013 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+
  • 2012 Deep and saturated; tight to the rim; very deep and layered on the nose; quite packed with aroma; usual core of blackcurrant fruit; cassis; coffee beans and an earthy note too; concentrated palate and pretty tight; clearly lots of material and density and grip on the end. That earthy note again. Usual Lafite paradox – fleet of foot but full in flavour. Very good in vintage context, though they have the financial luxury to make the hard choices necessary to do so. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.5% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot. 94-96
  • 2011 Deep and dark centre; vibrant earthy purple meniscus; brilliant seam of pure blackcurrant fruit on the nose; very precise and intense; spot on Pauillac; very precise Cabernet; graphite; cool and fresh; very attractive blackcurrant flavours on the palate with much polish; dense and cool, layers here and great harmony on the palate. Little bite on the finish but harmonious, focused and wonderfully measured. Great length. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot 12.7% alc Tasted 6/4/12 at Lafite. 94-96+ 
  • 2010 Deep and glossy; very attractive blackcurrant and lead pencil tones; spot on and very fluid; some spicy qualities to the blackcurrant fruit; nice weight on the palate; lovely seam of blackcurrant fruit; elegant yet concentrated; inky notes; real length on the finish. Drink 2018-2040. 96+ MW Institute Nov ’14 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; the most saturated of all the wines shown; thick in the glass; creamy blackcurrant aroma – very enticing and succulent; very deep nose but also very fresh; some summer pudding along with some graphite; sweet entry on the palate, sublimated, with some oak but soaked in blackcurrant fruit; real density and length; layers and layers; more strength it feels than 2009; great concentration and very well balanced by freshness. Very, very long and remains vibrant. [87.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.8% Merlot, alc 13.5] 98-100/100 
  • 2009 Mid depth; deep centre; very precise and elegant aromatics: blackcurrants, lead pencils and tobacco leaf – very refined indeed; blackcurrant fruit with depth and extract; surprising power here – real density and chew; tannins very ripe and harmonious; lovely blackcurrant fruit – real purity. Great length. Very fine indeed. This is more controlled than the flamboyant primeurs offering but there remains something magnificent about this wine. Perfect for me. Now the Chinese appetite for the wine has abated somewhat it’s available at a Tesco-like discount [half price] on a few years ago. Drink 2016-2045. 100. MW Institute Nov ’13 [Earlier note] Deep, dense colour, tight to rim. Lovely nose; wonderful pent up blackcurrants; glossy; cassis and yet more sublime blackcurrants; also graphite, minerals, incredibly deep, this nose is perfection. Palate of purity, brimming with blackcurrants; essence of wine here; sweet ripe fruit; velvety tannins – elegance and intensity. Perfectly balanced. Not the merest hint of over-extraction. On par with 2005. 100/100 1st April 2010.
  • 2008 Deep looking; blackcurrant aromas with lead pencil; leaf and undergrowth note  palate nicely taut with elegance; nice texture here like Duhart; very focused and rather classic; blackcurrants, some leaf and graphite tones again; structured palate with quite chewy though ripe tannin on the end. 96/100 MW Insttute Nov ‘12
  • 2007 Deep looking; pretty saturated in colour; cooler and calmer than Mouton; very pure blackcurrants here alongside the tell-tale lead pencil/graphite accent; layers and depth here; leafy and tobacco on further aeration; lots of harmony and typicity here; pure blackcurrant fruit on the palate, very clear and precise flavours; a little austerity to the tannins but lots of material and extract perfectly focused. Very good length too. Excellent effort in this tricky vintage. 95+/100 MW Institute Nov ‘11
  • 2006 Deep red, maybe a fraction less intense looking than the Mouton, more redder at edge; resin and intensity on the nose at first; powerful and dense but not the exotic and flamboyant wine that is Mouton; intense blackcurrants and cassis; very well integrated with the oak, seamless, some espresso and coffee bean here too; feels very intense, concentrated and pent up; palate equally intense, with blackcurrants and cassis, good density and not a trace of hardness despite the concentration; blackcurrants, lead pencil, leafy tobacco notes; very nicely done and tannins polished and ripe. Good length here, pretty weighty feel [for Lafite] with tannin and extract on the finish. Currently not as flamboyant or as exotic as Mouton. 96+/100 MW Institute Nov ‘10
  • 2005 Deep and saturated in colour; tight to the rim; legs; fabulously sexy nose of ripe fruit, perfume, tobacco and leaf, extremely vibrant; wonderfully integrated oak with sweet blackcurrant fruit; very intense, and very sexy and attractive; has all the hallmarks of this great vintage – perfume, intensity and balance; great depth to the wine on the palate; real intensity here; very long. Later even more perfumed on the nose; lots of extract on the palate but wonderfully soft and ripe tannins. 89% Cab, 10% Merlot and 1% Petite Verdot. Fabulous and near perfect. 98-100  Dec ‘09
  • 2004 Deep red/black; earthier than the ’05; more high toned and elegant; blackcurrant; none of the opulence of the previous wine; some meaty qualities; less explosive and complete by comparison but still very good; palate very fine and elegant; lacks body [vintage] and finishes a trifle short. Later the wine opened out further; layers to the nose revealed; good blackcurrants and fine tobacco; layers also to the palate; less immediately appealing than the 05 but actually an extremely good wine in a more elegant, cooler vintage. 92+/100 Dec ‘09
  • 2002 – Red black; some graphite and blackcurrant on the nose intense; quite elegant at first but opened up to reveal a meatier edge and stone/mineral quality along with rose petal; not at all bad. Palate still retains elegance and maybe lacks a little depth but fine. Only 33% of production made it into the Grand Vin. 90-92 Dec ‘09
  • 1999 – Deep red black; some maturity on the nose; blackcurrants; feels ‘drier’; some earth and meaty notes; palate well balanced with layers; maybe a trifle short at the back end but this is fine wine – elegant and intense. 92-94+ Dec ‘09
  • 1997 – Mid red/black, some looseness at the rim; graphite and pencil; some game and more roundness to the nose; open fine palate; reminds me a little of a Grange des Peres tasted a day earlier though the estate would doubtless be horrified at the comparison. Elegant wine but without the layered quality of ’05 and ’96. 88-90 Dec ‘09
  • 1996 Dark black and still tight to the rim; backward looking; long legs; deep and brooding nose; very ripe here; minerals and stone fruits; streak of green coffee beans; lead pencil; later opened up to classic Pauillac, graphite, blackcurrant tobacco and fine herbs; very intense and pent up palate; layers of flavour; powerful blackcurrant fruit with some roast meats. Very good precision on the palate with real intensity here; sappy, good grip and balancing acid. Tannins ripe but of the year. Strong wine. 96-98+ Dec ‘09
  • 1995 Black red; little looser at the edge than the ’96, blackcurrant and pencils at first; some leaf and tobacco; ripeness here as the wine opens up; very elegant and precise palate with good grip, structure and layers of flavour; attractive and fine. Good stuff; lighter than I’d imagined and some way behind the ’96. 92 Dec ‘09
  • 1990 Red and mature at edge; slightly dusty nose which lacked interest initially; mature notes but not fantastically complex; some blackcurrant; palate sweet and quite ripe but lacks the intensity and grip of the ’96. Eclipsed by other wines in that vintage. Disappointing considering the vintage. 88-90 Dec ‘09
Carruades de Lafite, Pauillac
  • 2016 Mid depth; spicy plum notes; coquettish and pretty; some Cabernet cassis alongside the black fruit Merlot tones; cherry; vibrant; deep palate with very fine length; nicely textured tannin; tight to begin with but opens up during the tasting; lovely extract; beautiful Carruades. Succulent. Textured. Vibrant. [49% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot]. Tasted 3/4/17. Drink 2021-2036. 93-94+
  • 2015 Mid depth; purple edge; fraction looser at the rim than Lafite itself; fleshy aromatics; plump Merlot; fuller than the Duhart; palate a little grippy with acidity; extract and matter but little dumb on the day. [57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted 4/4/16. 89-91+
  • 2014 Deep and healthy looking; vibrant edge; perfumed and rich aromatics; nicely composed; blackcurrant fruit; some fatness; plumpness from the Merlot; cool entry to the palate; blackcurrants and plums; very nicely done and proportional; wet rocks and some minerality too; softness and delicacy but also balance and quilibrium; length too. Little oak on the finish currently. [58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 13% alc]. Drink 2019-2030. Tasted 30 March, 2015 at Lafite. 91-93
  • 2013 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
  • 2012 Mid depth; fresh looking; pretty and perfumed; ripe, quite layered; blackcurrant and black cherry notes; menthol too; feels quite tight on the palate with grip; bite; good-ish length; delicacy here and fairly early maturing. Cabernet Sauvignon 53%, Merlot 42%, Cabernet Franc 3%, Petit Verdot 2% 12.7% Alc. 90-91
  • 2011 Lots of depth; purple at edge; tight to rim; blackcurrant, cassis and black cherry notes; quite open; lovely clean and pure palate with nice harmony; depth but surprisingly supple [much more Merlot than the grand vin]. Delicacy here. Not forced or pushed. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Franc 2.5% Petit Verdot 12.7% alc. Tasted at Lafite. 91-92+
  • 2010 Deep and dense; legs; purple meniscus; lovely ripe blackcurrants, cassis, very fresh; some menthol; cream and blackcurrants with a minerality too; density too; very ripe; lots of ripe succulent blackcurrants on the palate; seems denser than last year; good chew and grip here. Very good length and finish. Excellent. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42.5% Merlot, 5.1% Cabernet Franc, 2.4% Petit Verdot, alc 13.5] 94-96+/100
  • 2009 Deep, intense, tight to rim, lovely depth, very fine and intense; blackcurrants, cassis, wonderful ripeness, excellent; very velvety palate, terrific lightness of touch; gentle extraction and great precision; soft ripe tannins, very round and quite profound. Good length. Excellent. 92-94/100 1st April 2010.
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