Château Lafite Rothschild unveils its 2018 Vintage
In Pauillac, the 2018 season started as a struggle: with its surprises, this anniversary vintage was a capricious child. The winter was one of the coldest since 2010; rain and violent showers continued incessantly through spring; and mildew attacked hard from May to July. But then, the weather turned around: with hot days, cool nights, and the right sprinkling of rain—the vines of Château Lafite developed perfectly into one of the most trouble-free harvest in recent years.
Unlike with typical vintages, the winemaking team was able to take their time and slowly choose when to pick each plot as grapes reached their optimal ripeness. This year’s surprise? The Merlots: very opulent and fruity that almost rivalled the Cabernets in terms of expression. But at the time of blending, a lot of debate came into play about their future and, in the end, the Cabernet Sauvignons won the match and only a few of the Merlot lots made it into the Grand Vin.
An outstanding vintage such as this owes nearly all to its terroir. 2018 was typically a year where alcoholic degrees rose in the region but the clayey, gravel soil of the Lafite plateau showed their capacity to regulate, providing balanced ripening conditions. In the end, the final blend didn’t exceed 13,3° and was determined, as usual, by tasting wines produced on each plot before an 18-month ageing period in French oak barrels (crafted at La Tonnellerie des Domaines, Lafite’s own cooperage in Pauillac).
As a way to fête the 150th anniversary of the Rothschild family’s acquisition of Lafite, chairwoman Saskia de Rothschild imagined a symbol playing on Lafite’s historic and centenary label, which has two women in the foreground looking into the distance. The hot air balloon chosen to disrupt the label was sketched by Black Adder, a creative duo of illustrators.
“We thought it would be a good idea to imagine something floating in the sky that the women could be gazing at,” Saskia says. “In 1868, hot air balloons were the absolute symbols of modernity and adventure. In 2018, we still see them fly but they have become the symbol of slowing down, of taking the time to move more steadily. With no rush. Just what we have been doing at Lafite for 150 years: steadily standing the test of time as we head towards the future.” The initials CL, 150 in roman numerals, were also placed in red on the shoulder of the bottle.
At the beginning of next year, Lafite will release 300 limited edition cases containing a magnum of the 2018 vintage and the book, “The Almanac,” published in December which looks back at 150 vintages of Lafite, and presents each one with climatic and historic notes and archival material from each specific year. “We built this book to tell the story of Lafite since the Rothschild family has owned it, but also to share more stories about the life of a vintage,” the chairwoman says. “We hope readers will come out of reading it with a better understanding of how a wine grows, from the soil to the vine to the bottle.”