Château Lafite Rothschild 2018 (Pre-Arrival)
• Domaine: Château Lafite-Rothschild
• Appellation: Pauillac
• Classification: First Growth, 1èr Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Baron Eric de Rothschild, chairman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR), described Château Lafite Rothschild as a viticultural tour de force with the power to, “turn bare earth into heaven.” After managing the portfolio of family wine estates for 42 years and overseeing significant expansion across the globe (including new vineyards in Chile, Argentina, and China), Baron de Rothschild transitioned the leadership of the family business to his daughter, Saskia de Rothschild, in 2017. The château has been owned by the same branch of the Rothschild family since 1868. 2018 marks the family's 150th anniversary as owners. With over 150 years steeped in rich history, Lafite Rothschild is a place where man and nature work together in perfect harmony to produce wine that continues to captivate wine drinkers around the globe.
The late American president Thomas Jefferson was reported to have visited the estate and been a lifelong consumer of its great wines. As a President, he had a penchant for the finer things in life and spent $10,000 on his wines one year -- that's the equivalent of 1 million dollars today. A hefty amount of that purchase consisted of wines from Château Lafite Rothschild and the other great First Growth, Château Haut Brion. Naturally, his extravagent lifestyle led him into debt and towards the end of his life he was practicaly penniless. His biggest regret? That he couldn't drink the wines from Château Lafite Rothschild anymore.
Lafite Rothschild has an illustrious past, with references to its exalted wines that date back to as early as 1234. The chateau rose to prominence in the 17th century, largely due to contributions of Marquis Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur. Known as, “The Wine Prince,” the Marquis de Ségur improved the viticultural techniques at Lafite and introduced the wines to royalty at the court of Versailles. The excellence of the wine was undeniable, and soon Lafite Rothschild’s Grand Vin became known as the wine of kings.
Lafite Rothschild cemented its reputation when it was recognized as one of the First Growths of the 1855 Classification, earning it much-deserved prestige on a global scale. As the years progressed, new innovations improved the viticultural process on the estate. Dairy cows were introduced to organically fertilize the property, and the estate built its own cooperage for making barrels to age the wines to perfection. At Lafite Rothschild, tradition marries artistic innovation and the result is great wine for generations.
The wines of Lafite Rothschild possess an excellence that transcends beyond their pedigree. The strength of these wines lies in their versatility. They are fresh, vibrant, and drinkable even when they are young and deviate from the more austere Bordeaux style that favors raw power. With that in consideration, these wines have the potential to evolve beautifully for decades to come.
"The 2018 Lafite Rothschild is blended of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.5% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot and has 13.3% alcohol. Deep purple-black in color, it needs a fair bit of swirling to unlock intoxicating scents of blackcurrant cordial, baked plums and black cherry compote with an undercurrent of dark chocolate, licorice, cast-iron pan, cedar chest and fertile loam, plus a waft of pencil lead. The delicately crafted, medium-bodied palate is dripping with class, featuring layers of mineral-laced black fruits and exquisitely ripe, singularly Lafite tannins, finishing with epic length and depth. This simply stunning, delicately crafted expression of 2018 with its singularly evocative imprint of Lafite will require a good 7-8 years in bottle, then should continue to inspire awe over the following 40+ years." Lisa Perotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (3/31/21 End Of March Issue) Rating: 100, Drink: 2028-2068
"This is silky and delicious and juicy, not something you can often say about a Lafite En Primeur sample but before you even get close to tasting the wine you can feel the layers building.It has the precision, the freshness and the sense of effortless elegance that Lafite always conveys with lots of power and depth, deep black fruits on the nose and a mix of spices from rosemary to saffron on the palate.
Is it better than the 2016? It’s hard to say at this stage but it certainly feels its equal, although differently constructed and unlikely to take as long to come around - think 10 rather than 14 years before reaching its drinking window.
It's worth adding that very few wines have been so unmarked by the extremes of the vintage, or as technical director Eric Kohler puts it; 'Even after 25 years of working at Lafite I continue to be full of admiration for this terroir. Other plots that we own reacted to the heat at times, but Lafite just kept sailing on as usual" - Decanter, Rating: 98-100
"A very compact and linear Lafite with a fantastic mouthfeel of intense but ever so refined tannins that draw a straight line through the middle of the wine. It’s full-bodied yet compact with complex character of plums, blackcurrants, cigar tobacco, cedar and hints of hazelnuts and coffee. Salty. Orange zest at the end. Delicacy with power. Richness with softness. Glamorous. Lasts for minutes at the finish." - James Suckling, Rating: 99-100
"The 2018 Lafite Rothschild is blended of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.5% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot and has 13.3% alcohol. The Merlot was harvested September 17-24, the Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested September 25 to October 5, and the Cabernet Franc was harvested on September 24. It has a deep purple-black color and then WOW—what a nose. It comes sashaying out of the glass with bags of grace and perfume, revealing notions of lilacs, red roses, fragrant soil, cinnamon stick and Morello cherries with a core of blackcurrant cordial, fresh black plums, redcurrant jelly and tapenade plus a waft of iron ore. Medium-bodied, the palate has wonderful, tightly wound layers of black, red and blue fruits intermingled with floral, earth and mineral notions and a rock-solid frame of the most finely pixelated tannins you can possibly imagine. Anyone who wants to see what I mean when I babble about the Lafite tannins needs to try this benchmark. The finish goes on, and on, and on. If this wine doesn’t get Bordeaux lovers hearts' racing, nothing will." - Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/23/2019, Bordeaux 2018 Issue), Rating: 98-100
WA Critic's Field Notes:
“2018 was like a difficult child to begin that turned out to be a genius,” Lafite’s Technical Director Eric Kohler informed me, hardly able to contain his excitement about this vintage. “The finish to this vintage was so perfect in terms of maturation!”
“It started out really wet—more wet than rainy,” Kohler continued. “On the Right Bank and Sauternes, they got more rain. Same with Margaux. There was a lot of mildew pressure. Here at Lafite, the pressure from the mildew was lower than the Right Bank or Sauternes. We lost less than 5% here. We are close to organic with our farming, but not entirely. We were able to control the situation.
And then from mid-July it became very dry and very hot. This was the hottest summer since 2003. Of course, it was not as extreme as 2003. This is why the potential of the terroir was very important. What is a great terroir? It is a terroir that can compensate for the excesses of the vintage. The terroir must have the capacity to behave like a sponge—to retain or give water. The sponge of clay that we have at Lafite regulated the excess of the vintage. This year instead of the humid wind from the west we got a dry wind from the northeast. So, there was no risk of botrytis as harvest approached. 2016 and 2018 are like two brothers, the former easier to manage, the latter more trouble and potential excess, but very great in the end."
Kohler also commented, "Duhart-Milon does not have the clay/water holding capacity of Lafite, but a little rain at the end of August/beginning of September got the vineyard through. The Merlot performed very well—Duhart-Milon might just have better terroir for Merlot than Lafite. Duhart-Milon is very opulent this year. For the dry whites, it was a very hot summer and so maybe the dry whites will not be so aromatic."
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