1868 Baron James de Rothschild purchases Château Lafite, 1st growth wine classified in 1855.
On 8 August 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite, which was under public sale as part of the Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe succession (see history of Château Lafite Rothschild for the preceding period). Just 3 months after the purchase, Baron James passed away, and Lafite became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond. The estate then included 74 hectares of vineyards.
1870 An exquisite vintage year during Médoc's "golden age"
As if the soil were infused with the era's feeling of prosperity, the 1868 decade 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 vintage, continued for another fifteen years after Château Lafite's purchase.
1900 Two truly exceptional vintages emerge from a troubled era
The late 1800's and the early 1900's were turbulent. The grapevines suffered both a phylloxeric crisis and mildew. The situation was made worse by organized fraud, which took a toll on the major vintages, as did World War I, the Great Depression, and France's occupation during World War II. Particular exceptions to this dark period include vintage years 1899, 1900, then 1926 and 1929: all of the highest quality. It was during this period that Barons Edouard, Robert, James and Maurice de Rothschild succeeded their fathers at the head of Château Lafite.
1946 The Rothschild family entrusts Château Lafite to Baron Elie de Rothschild
A new generation of Rothschilds inherited Château Lafite: 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 hard labors of renewal, but the Bordeaux grapevines 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.
1962 Purchase of Château Duhart-Milon, 4th growth wine classified in 1855, Pauillac.
Owned by the Castéja family for more than a century, Château Duhart-Milon suffered successive inheritances which led to the parceling of the vineyards and a decline in the wines' quality. When the Rothschild family purchased it, the property featured only 17 hectares of vineyards. To restore Château Duhart-Milon to its former glory, massive works were undertaken. The vineyards were nearly fully reintegrated and replanted, and new chais and tank rooms were installed at Pauillac.
1974 Baron Eric de Rothschild takes over Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)
Baron Eric, nephew of Baron Elie, took over the management of Lafite and has been active in making it an exceptional estate. He extended DBR expertise to new properties by renovating exceptional estates and châteaux. The changeover was hailed by several fabulous vintages, including 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.
1984 Purchase of Château Rieussec, 1st growth wine classified in 1855 & Sauternes
After meeting various fortunes throughout the numerous changes in owners over two centuries, Château Rieussec set out to lead the Sauternes vintage lists as soon as DBR began management. To express its potential, draconian measures were undertaken for an enhanced selection at all levels. A new chai was also built in order to prolong the wines' aging in barrels, and has been used since vintage year 1989.
1985 First pictures of Château Lafite Rothschild entrusted to a photographer
In 1985 Baron Eric put into place an artistic project which associates Lafite with talented photographers including 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. Daniel Vignat, former creative director of Publicis, assists Eric de Rothschild in this endeavour.
“Obviously, Chateau Lafite wine needs no publicity; this nectar of the gods speaks for itself! But combining art with this brilliant image is captivating. We have been doing it for more than 20 years, calling on many “dinosaurs” but also on some of the great upcoming young talent. And we are continuing to do so with unbridled enthusiasm.”
1987 Inauguration of a new cellar at Château Lafite Rothschild
Built under the supervision of Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, the new cellar is underground and circular, with a vault supported by 16 columns, giving the structure a majestic and airy style. The cellar holds 2200 barrels. Its construction took two years and the displacement of some 10,000m3 of earth. "Cellar 2000" is used for ageing second-year wines. The central portion is occasionally used for wine tastings and fine dinner receptions. The cellar, which is the first in the world to break away from a traditional linear organization, has sparked much admiration in the form of many new projects using this circular storage which is very functional for the work in the cellar.
1988 Acquisition of Vina Los Vascos, Chile
DBR broke new ground in winemaking by purchasing Vina Los Vascos (founded around 1736) from a Chilean family. The vineyards were reorganized to produce fine wines, as part of the DBR philosophy: replant gradually, modernize the bodega, and meticulously respect quality practices. The goal was to create an exemplary estate in the Chilean landscape, featuring excellent ground-climate conditions and unfathomed potential for vineyards.
1990 Purchase of Château l'Evangile, Pomerol
Owned by the Ducasse family for over a century, Château l'Evangile has a fabulous location between Château Petrus and Château Cheval Blanc. DBR has fostered a finer selection of wines, and has created Blason de l'Evangile as a second wine. A restoration project and renewal of vineyards has been in progress since 1998. The total renovation of the tank room and the cellar finished in 2004 completes the new configuration of the estate.
1993 Distribution of Château Peyre-Lebade, a Haut Médoc Bordeaux wine
Purchased by Baron Edmond de Rothschild at the same time as Château Clarke, Château Peyre-Lebade is located in the heart of Listrac-Médoc. It heralds both steadfastness and renewal of soil dear to DBR, since the grapevines have been present for centuries and is being revived by both vineyard renewal and modern installations. Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, son of Edmond, has managed the operation of the vineyards in this same tradition since 1997.
1995 Development of the Bordeaux Collection
Along the lines of "Reserve des Barons”, DBR decided to propose different appellations to customers and friends, in a spirit of tradition similar to the Château's own wines. The project led to Réserves Pauillac, Médoc and Bordeaux. Since 2000, our teams have selected blended wines, Légende and Saga, with this same philosophy. They are part of DBR's longstanding tradition in quality, selection, and ageing.
1998 Caro Project, Mendoza, Argentina
The Bodegas Caro project has united DBR and the Catena family, a pioneer in quality Argentine wines, in producing a fine blend of two emblematic grapes: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are being made from the Catena family's finest vineyards, the best in the region, and the first wines have been marketed by DBR since late 2002 (2000 vintage).There are two wines in the range: Caro and Amacaya.
1999 Aussières Estate, Corbières, Languedoc
The project was to revive the Aussières Estate, one of the most beautiful Narbonne estates. This 600 hectare estate in the Narbonne district was abandoned for 4 years. 160 hectares of grapevines are being replanted at the rate of around 40 hectares a year, mostly with traditional Corbières grapes: Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. The entirely renovated cellar has been operational in the heart of the Aussières vineyards since 2003. The first wines have been marketed by DBR since 2005 (2003 vintage).
2000 A legendary and very promising vintage, preview of the upcoming decade
The turn of the century went over smoothly, given the fine vintages that are currently aging in DBR chais and cellars. Among them, 1990, 1995, 1996, and 2000 and some of the others will mature into renowned vintages.
2003 An exceptional vintage marked by drought, heat and early ripening!
In Bordeaux, the rainfall in the first 8 months of the year was two–thirds less than the average over the last 30 years. Temperatures, with peaks at 40°C were much higher than in 1893, a year which was considered to be exceptionally hot. Harvesting began on 25th August at Rieussec, 1st September at l’Evangile, 5th at Duhart, 8th at Lafite, sweet whites from the 17th and after a superb month of September, harvesting ended on 1st October. The 2003 harvest will go down in history! The wines from this atypical vintage stand out with their richness, depth and smoothness with very rounded tannins.
2004 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 to better judge whether they can be used in the Grand Vin after fermentation. Once fermentations are 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.
2005 LAFITE 2005 : A vintage of exceptional quality
For the third consecutive year Europe witnessed drought, but the temperatures remained reasonable and ripening was slow, uneventful and complete. The result satisfied the most demanding winegrowers with small quantities, high degrees of alcohol and perfect plant health. A truly superb harvest producing very concentrated wines and very rich tannins. A very great vintage for laying down and which has seduced wine lovers.
2008 Establishment in Penglai, China
DBR (Lafite) has decided to develop a quality vineyard in China with the CITIC group. Out of the many regions visited, the peninsula of Penglai, province of Shandong, proved to be the most promising area for producing a great wine, in terms of its climatic and geological conditions.