Acquisition of Château Lafite, ranked as a Premier Cru Classé in 1855, by Baron James de Rothschild
On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite, which was under public sale as part of the Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe succession. Baron James passed died just three months after the purchase, and Lafite became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond. The estate then included 74 hectares of vineyards.
A remarkable vintage during the "golden age" of the Médoc
As if the soil were infused with the era’s feeling of prosperity, the decade following 1868 left a rich legacy of remarkable vintages, particularly 1869, 1870, 1874, 1875, and 1878. Fortunately for Barons Alphonse, Gustave, and Edmond de Rothschild, the “golden age” of Médoc, heralded by the 1855 classification, continued for another fifteen years after the acquisition of Château Lafite.
Two exceptional vintages in the midst of a troubled period
The late 1800s and the early 1900s were turbulent. The grapevines suffered both a phylloxeric crisis and mildew. The situation was made worse by organized fraud, which took advantage of the most famous wines, World War I, the Great Depression, and finally France’s occupation during World War II. Special exceptions to this dark period include the vintages of 1899, 1900, and then 1926 and 1929: all of the highest quality. It was during this time that Barons Edouard, Robert, James and Maurice de Rothschild succeeded their fathers at the head of Château Lafite Rothschild.
The Rothschild family entrusts Château Lafite to Baron Elie de Rothschild
A new generation of Rothschilds inherited Château Lafite Rothschild: Barons Guy, Alain, Elie, and Edmond. After the difficult decades following the turn of the century, and the painful period of World War II, Baron Elie de Rothschild was entrusted with the recovery of the Estate. Vintages 1947 and 1949 were rays of hope amid the labours of renewal, although the Bordeaux vines suffered from frost again in February 1956. Nonetheless, the recovery went on and gave rise to a new era, heralded by the exceptional vintages 1959 and 1961.
Acquisition of Château Duhart-Milon, ranked a Pauillac 4th Cru Classé in 1855
Owned by the Castéja family for more than a century, Château Duhart-Milon suffered from successive inheritances which led to the division of the vineyard and a decline in the wines’ quality. When the Rothschild family purchased it, the property only had 17 hectares of vines. Massive works were undertaken to restore Château Duhart-Milon to its former glory. The vineyards were nearly fully reintegrated and replanted, and a new winery and cellars were installed in Pauillac.
Baron Eric de Rothschild takes charge of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)
The fifth generation of the Rothschilds to manage Lafite, Baron Eric, Baron Elie’s nephew, has been active in his quest for excellence. He extended DBR (Lafite)’s expertise to new properties with the restoration of some exceptional estates and châteaus. The changeover was hailed by several fabulous vintages, notably 1975, 1976, and 1982. Baron Eric was part of the fifth Rothschild generation to inherit Château Lafite, along with Barons David, Edouard, Robert, Nathaniel and Benjamin de Rothschild.
First portrait of Château Lafite Rothschild by a well-known photographer
In 1985 Baron Eric initiated an artistic project which has associated Lafite with talented photographers such as Jacques Henri Lartigue, Irving Penn, Robert Doisneau and Richard Avedon. Every year an artist is given “carte blanche” to create an illustrated greeting card. The collection was completed retroactively from 1975 to 1985 and the number of artists who have participated is now more than 30.
Acquisition of Château Rieussec, ranked as a Sauternes Premier Cru Classé in 1855
Having endured various changes in fortune with a succession of owners over two centuries, Château Rieussec had its ambition to lead the wines of Sauternes restored with its acquisition by DBR (Lafite). To express its potential, rigorous measures were undertaken both in the vineyard and in the winery, with meticulous selection, construction of a new barrel room, and more renovation work in 2000 in an ongoing quest to improve quality.
Inauguration of a new cellar at Château Lafite Rothschild
Built under the supervision of Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, the new maturing cellar is underground and circular, with a vault supported by 16 columns, giving the structure a majestic, airy style. Its construction took two years and involved the removal of 10,000 cubic metres of earth. The cellar holds 2200 barrels and is used for ageing second-year wines. It was the first in the world to break away from the traditional linear organization.
Acquisition of Viña Los Vascos, Chile
The name “Los Vascos” comes from “Les Basques” and refers to the origins of the former owners who planted the first vines in around 1750. In 1988, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) took over the reins with a view to producing fine wines. Since then DBR (Lafite) has undertaken a major renovation programme involving the construction of the bodega and the enlargement of the vineyard.
Acquisition of Château L'Evangile, Pomerol
Owned by the Ducasse family for over a century, Château L’Evangile has a fabulous location in Pomerol. DBR (Lafite)’s influence has seen more refined selection for the Grand Vin, and the creation of Blason de L’Evangile as a second wine. A restoration project and partial renewal of the vineyard has been in progress since 1998. The total renovation of the vat room and the cellars in 2002 completed the property’s new configuration.
Development of the Collection
In 1995 DBR (Lafite) began producing Bordeaux wines by selecting the region’s most representative appellations: Bordeaux, Médoc and Pauillac. In a continuation of the “Réserves des Barons” tradition, the Collection is presented under the Saga, Légende and Réserves brands with a view to offering wines with immediate charm
Bodegas Caro, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Caro is the fruit of a partnership with the Catena family, a pioneer in high quality Argentine wines. This was not only a partnership between two families but also between two iconic grape varieties: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are being made from a selection of the finest vineyards in the Mendoza region.
Domaine d'Aussières, Corbières, Languedoc
The project was to revive the Domaine d’Aussières, one of the most beautiful and oldest properties in the Narbonne-Languedoc region. The property, which covers almost 600 hectares, has undergone a wide-ranging restoration programme, with the gradual replanting of the 167 hectare vineyard and renovation of the winery.
Premises in Bordeaux
Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) opened offices in Bordeaux. They are located in the heart of the Chartrons district, the historic centre of Bordeaux’s wine trade, at numbers 40-50 of the Cours du Médoc.
Inauguration of the new cellar at Château L’Evangile
The vat room and the cellar were completely rebuilt to be more suited to plot selection. The grapes from each plot can be separated in small batches so that its suitability for inclusion in the Grand Vin can be assessed after fermentation. Once fermentation has finished, the wine is placed in oak barrels in the underground barrel-ageing cellar where it is aged for 18 months. Particular care was given to the aesthetic aspects with strong exterior colours and contrasting dark colours inside which lend an intimate style to the beautiful circular cellar.
A vineyard in Penglai, China
In 2008 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) joined forces with the national Chinese group CITIC with a view to creating a vineyard in China. Of all the Chinese regions that were studied, the Shandong peninsula proved to be the most promising for the production of fine wines both from the point of view of climate and geology. This region already has a long wine-producing tradition, and a vineyard was planted on high quality sloping ground. The Shandong region is about forty minutes south of Penglai, and the vineyard is in the heart of a protected area of 377 hectares.
A new generation
Baron Éric’s daughter Saskia de Rothschild, aged 30, took over the reins at Domaines Barons de Rothschild in 2018 and represents the 6th generation of the family at the head of the winemaking properties.
Joint manager of Château Lafite for two years at her father’s side, she has been involved in the management and technical supervision of the Estates since 2008.
She is also pursuing the artistic initiative, with the Château welcoming photographic artists in residence, and is paying particular attention to enhancing the heritage and know-how of the properties.