Château Lafite Rothschild is the result of a rare harmony of nature, which it alone controls and which continues to be created from vintage to vintage, for over a thousand seasons.
On the plateau of Lafite’s mythical gravel, the men and women who work in the vineyards are the ones who pass on wine-growing traditions. And for over one hundred and fifty years, with the arrival of Baron James, the same family has taken turns to deliver a single message: That of precision and resilience in the face of the master strokes that the sky writes on its lands.
“Lafite remains unyielding, yet delicate, and subtle.”
In this eternal beginning anew, in this inconstancy of nature that writes a different destiny each year, Lafite remains unyielding, yet delicate, and subtle. It has the nature of the wise, unchanging like its eternal gravel. For if it is still there after a thousand seasons, its roots and soul will tell us that it is already writing its future.
The vineyard of Château Lafite Rothschild comprises three main areas: The slopes around the Château, the Carruades plateau to the west and a 4.5-hectare lot in the neighbouring township of Saint-Estèphe.
The surface area is 112 hectares. The soil is made up of fine, deep gravel mixed with windblown sand on a well-drained, and well exposed tertiary limestone subsoil. The grape varieties grown here are Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
A historical element, the Lafite cedar has passed down through the years and seen generations of winemakers hand over the baton and perpetuate the tradition.
This cedar tree has protected the Château for nearly 300 years. It seemed eternal but today, its descendent, replanted in the same place at the beginning of the new millennium, has become the Lafite Cedar. It, however, left its mark. For here, everything is a matter of transmission, the vines and the men passing on a message to each other over the years, through their roots, and their stories.
When the Pyrenees and the Massif Central were formed two million years ago, the Dordogne and Garonne rivers each carried in their wake alluvial deposits that over the centuries would accumulate, giving way to soils made up of gravel. Those soils dating back to the quaternary era have made of Pauillac a mythical terroir capable of withstanding the most extreme conditions, even in these days of climate change.
Its gravel and clay contents regulate the water that floods or dries out, absorbing, soaking, supporting, tightening, or loosening, easing, and freeing, to nourish, without excess, the soil that it is part of.
Four hundred years ago, the farmers already knew that a few steps away, the subsoil was different and that just a little farther, its texture is lighter and even finer. It’s precisely there that a ridge formed – which the locals referred to as ‘La Hite’ in their Gascon dialect – and later gave its name to Lafite.
This is where the first stones were laid, where winegrowers’ houses were built, and where they understood that something out of the ordinary would happen.
Over the years, the house facing this hill grew bigger and a wisteria vine climbed up its walls to watch the passing of generations of families for whom the conservation of this ecosystem has always been the ultimate priority.
150 years ago, Baroness Betty, wife of Baron James, planted the huge oak trees that separate our vineyard from the marshes. They, their children, and grandchildren, as well as the families of winegrowers who joined them, worked painstakingly to protect this flawless creation bequeathed to them by nature. They took great care to preserve this microcosm made up of woods and marshes, flora, and fauna in the midst of which the vines of Château Lafite Rothschild flourish in this almost wild osmosis.
“Lafite has a soul, a beautiful, kind, and generous soul. Lafite turns the land into a dream. Lafite is harmony, harmony between nature and man because, without our wonderful winemakers, nothing would be done.”
Baron Eric de Rothschild
As an ultimate witness of this protected land, some vines still gracefully boast their 140 years of ungrafted life. They escaped the phylloxera which however did not spare any other! This unerring section of the vines continues to elude its winegrowers, the very same who, from one vintage to the other, shape, protect, and cherish it in an attempt to refine this perfect composition that awes them time and again.
It is perhaps not by chance that Lafite naturally earned the “First of the First” designation at Napoleon III’s Universal Exhibition. It will not be a coincidence either, when others will speak about it long after us…
Each barrel is tasted individually and only the best are selected for the final blend. After blending, the wine is aged in new oak barrels for 15 months. Fermentation takes place over 15 days at a controlled temperature of 18°C.
For the Grand Vin Château Lafite Rothschild, only vines older than 10 years are used. Although each vintage is unique, there is usually a large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, then Merlot, with a small contribution of Petit Verdot.
Carruades de Lafite
Sourced from vines that grow between woods and marshes in a protected setting, on a rich gravel soil of two thousand years, Carruades de Lafite grows like a promise. The plateau of Carruades and its mythical terroir of deep clay gravel was acquired at the end of the 19th century. It was then a wine in its own right, and the fruits of its plots were vinified separately to produce Carruades de Lafite.
Over the years, the grapes of Carruades, proving the extraordinary quality of this terroir, revealing the talent inscribed in their veins, have joined the blend of the Grand Vin of Château Lafite Rothschild. The name of Carruades then came to baptize the bottles of a promising new blend.
It became Carruades de Lafite one more time.
The origin of its name comes from the “plateau des Carruades,” the name of a group of plots of land adjoining the ridge of Château Lafite Rothschild.
Carruades de Lafite is made using traditional Bordeaux winemaking methods. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out in oak, cement, and stainless-steel vats.
Light pumping over facilitates the extraction of tannins and colour, and is carried out according to the characteristics of each vat. Total maceration takes roughly 20 days.
Following malolactic fermentation, the wines are transferred into French oak barrels made by the “Tonnellerie des Domaines” cooperage in Pauillac for an ageing period of approximately 16 months.
For Carruades de Lafite, only vines than 10 years of age are used.
Although each vintage is unique, there is initially a higher proportion of Merlot, then Cabernet Sauvignon, and sometimes a touch of Cabernet Franc.
Carruades de Lafite has characteristics similar to those of the Grand Vin, with its own personality linked to a higher proportion of Merlot and specific lots destined for the production of Carruades.
It carries within an incipient power one can only guess and a hope that has barely been revealed by the winemakers who accompany it, year after year.
For the time being, it is Carruades and it is writing its story… But the Men who make it know that it is the first of a great work that they are composing together.