The new second label from the high flying Smith Haut Lafitte is produced from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. One would quite rightly expect something good from one of the region’s most meticulously run estates; hailing from the auspicious 2010 vintage. And indeed the Petit Haut Lafitte is rather magnificent. Initially it is somewhat reserved, but after a little aeration, perfumed notes of bright cherries, loganberries and cassis mingle with savoury aromas of tobacco and even a hint of cigar smoke. As with most 2010s, there is good tension, with ample concentration, lots of dense, sleek fruit, but the acidy always retains a sense of vibrancy and energy. This is already demonstrating the hallmark of a very fine claret, but we recommend laying a few cases down for five to eight years to see this exquisite wine at its best.
Daniel and Florence Cathiard have taken this Pessac estate to the next level. The wines here outshine many of the top names from the more fashionable communes and are challenging the likes of Haut Bailly, La Mission and even Haut Brion for supremacy in the Graves. Their 2009 received a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker and we think the 2010 is even better. The style is pure seductive fruit and a silky texture; the quality is exceptional. Kudos to Daniel and Florence for turning this good, but slightly underperforming estate into one of the finest in Pessac Leognan.
The region has one first growth, Château Haut-Brion, whilst other renowned Chateaux currently doing well are La Mission-Haut-Brion, Pape-Clément, Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Haut-Bailly. Soils are gravely and well-drained and the plantations are similar in proportion to those of the Médoc, consisting mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The region is also well known for its long-lived whites that can be varying blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon oaked or unoaked. The most lauded are Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Brion, Pape-Clement, De Fieuzal, and Laville-Haut-Brion.