Château Lafite Rothschild, 1er Cru Classé, Pauillac, 1996

  Château Lafite Rothschild

"Tasted three times since bottling, the 1996 Lafite is unquestionably this renowned estate’s greatest wine since the 1986 and the 1982. As I indicated last year, only 38% of the crop was deemed grand enough to be put into the final blend, which is atypically high in Cabernet Sauvignon (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot). This massive wine may be the biggest, largest-scaled Lafite I have ever tasted. It will require many years to come around, so I suspect a lot of us past the age of fifty might want to give serious consideration as to whether we should be laying away multiple cases of this wine. It is also the first Lafite to be put into a new engraved bottle (designed to prevent fraudulent imitations). The wine exhibits a thick-looking, ruby/purple colour, and a knock-out nose of lead pencil, minerals, flowers, and black currant scents. Extremely powerful and full-bodied, with remarkable complexity and for such a young wine, this huge Lafite is oozing with extract and richness, yet has managed to preserve its quintessentially elegant personality. This wine is even richer than it was prior to bottling. It should unquestionably last for 40-50 years. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2050. The wine of the vintage?"

100/100 - Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, April 1999

Contains Sulphites.

About Château Lafite Rothschild

Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Première Cru Classé, is revered throughout the wine-drinking world: a modern-day phenomenon, a super-brand, one of the best investment vehicles over the past decade. And lest we forget, maker of some of the modern day era's most distinguished, impressive, classic wines, anywhere on the planet.

Lafite was well-loved in the British market throughout the 17th century and a favourite amongst many notable dignitaries including Robert Walpole. Through this time the estate belonged to the Ségur family, who also owned Calon Ségur, Phelan Ségur and for a short time Mouton. With such a wine-making dynasty at the helm it is no surprise that the reputation of the estate grew.

By the time of the revolution, the estate was in the hands of a Ségur descendant, Nicolas Pierre de Pichard; however, the guillotine cut short his reign and ended the family's involvement. A string of owners followed, and at the time of the 1855 Classification, Lafite was owned by a Dutch family and under the management an English bank. The Vanlerberghe descendants elected to sell their holding in 1866 to a rather more famous banking empire, the Rothschilds, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The estate today comprises 103 hectares of vines at the northern tip of the Pauillac commune and even a few vines in the commune of St Estèphe. Baron Eric de Rothschild also acquired neighbouring estate, Duhart Milon in 1962. This 4th growth had been in a state of decline for decades; the vineyards had been devastated by phylloxera and oidium, whilst war and depression had hindered any attempts to encourage much needed investment. Now under the Domaine Baron Rothschild banner, Duhart Milon enjoys an elevated position amongst the classified wines on the Medoc, both by association with Lafite and Carruades, but also by a new-found reputation as one of the top performers in Pauillac.

So what is the appeal of these wines? In truth, we will probably never know. This is not meant as a snub, far from it, the wines are exceptional, but what makes Lafite the most sought after First Growth? Why does Carruades frequently trade for more than Haut Brion? Why have most vintages of Duhart Milon trebled in price in the last year? Well, the answer is demand. We can't explain why Lafite is so popular in China, it just is. This formidable trio have and continue to lead the way and there are no signs that their dominance will be threatened.

Appellation: Pauillac

The Cabernet Sauvignon domanates the appellation, in fact some might justifiably call Pauillac the most classical expression there is of Cabernet based Claret. It is sandwiched between St-Julien to the south and St-Estèphe to the north, a stone’s throw from the Gironde Estuary. The excellent drainage of the intensely gravely soils are the key to quality, producing some of the world’s most long-lived wines. The First Growths of Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild are found here, while other great Châteaux include Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Pontet Canet, Lynch-Bages and Grand-Puy-Lacoste.

Grape Blend: Cab. Sauvignon | Merlot | Cab. Franc | Petit Verdot

The full complement of permitted Bordeaux varieties (excluding the rarely used Carmenere & Malbec) and the classic left bank Bordeaux blend. The Cabernets and Merlots usually dominate the blend with small percentages of Petit Verdot blended in for colour, structure and complexity. Several producers outside of Bordeaux have tried to emulate this with a Bordeaux style blend of their own, a particularly successful example being Cain Cellars in the Napa Valley and their splendid Cain Five.