Most wine enthusiasts will recognise Lafite Rothschild, one of Bordeaux's iconic five first growth clarets, but fewer will be aware that their reach goes far beyond this property in the Pauillac appellation on Bordeaux's left bank.
Vines have been grown here since the 17th century, and for a long time the estate was managed by the Ségur family. This included the Count of Ségur, also known as 'The Wine Prince', whose reputation saw the wines being enjoyed by the likes of Madame de Pompadour. The Ségur family held control until the late 18th century, after which the property passed through various families, until the legendary Rothschilds bought it in 1868.
This family has successfully kept standards exceptionally high despite various crises, such as the widespread devastation of Bordeaux vineyards caused by the phylloxera louse, and of course the two World Wars. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the Rothschilds also expanded their empire, purchasing several other Bordeaux estates including a second Pauillac property, Château Duhart-Milon, and Château Rieussec in Sauternes.
The Pauillac appellation's free-draining gravel is ideal for cabernet sauvignon, which makes up the estate's most significant plantings, although there is also a healthy portion of merlot, plus cabernet franc and petit verdot. Lafite owns 112 hectares of well-exposed vineyards in three distinct areas: on the hillsides surrounding the château, on the Carruades plateau to the west (giving its name to the property's second wine, Carruades de Lafite, although the grapes from this vineyard usually go into the grand vin), and a small amount in the neighbouring Saint-Estèphe appellation. Vines for the grand vin have an average age of 45 years, but the oldest plot in use was planted in 1886.
The vineyard team meticulously cares for the vines throughout the year, pruning, trellising, and de-budding, and monitoring grapes to ensure they grow to their fullest potential. Grapes are of course hand harvested, and vinified separately in precise parcels to achieve the finest expression of character. The grapes are fermented in wooden vats, before being moved into oak barrels that have been carefully toasted by the château's own cooperage. The grand vin spends 18 to 20 months in 100% new oak, whereas 80% of the second wine – Carruades de Lafite, a wine with a higher percentage of merlot – is aged in oak, only 10% of which is new. This second wine is deliberately made to be enjoyed younger.
The Rothschild family has also collaborated in various premium wine projects around the world, such as Los Vascos in Chile, Domaine d'Aussières in Corbières, Caro in Argentina, and most recently a premium vineyard site in Penglai, China.
With such strong contacts in the Pauillac appellation, the Rothschilds and their team – led by former technical director Charles Chevallier – were well placed to source and blend our Exhibition Pauillac.