Lafite & Duhart-Milon: so close, and yet different...

Interview with Charles Chevallier, Technical Director for DBR’s Châteaus in Bordeaux 
& Régis Porfilet, Vineyard Manager for Château Lafite Rothschild and Duhart-Milon

Given the proximity of the two properties, how can one explain the differences between the wines of Château Duhart-Milon and Château Lafite Rothschild?

Régis Porfilet (RP) – On the basis of a simple comparison of the distribution and quality of the soil, the two properties are very similar. And we have been applying the same technical procedures with the same team for more than ten years! We must therefore look for differences in other characteristics of the terroir and in observations of the vineyard on a day to day basis. For example, the grapes at Duhart-Milon tend to ripen a little later than those at Lafite.

Charles Chevallier (CC) – That’s nature… We try to understand it but we cannot change it.
There is certainly a difference in terms of the exposure of the plots. The vineyard at Lafite is south/south-east facing, while Duhart-Milon has a more north-westerly aspect, with the main slopes being exposed to the west. 
Also, Lafite is closer to the river while Duhart-Milon is on the edge of the Landes forest. Finally, the depth of the soil should be mentioned: the soil is deeper at Lafite than at Duhart. At Lafite, we have found roots that go down to a depth of seven metres! At Duhart, they stop at around four metres, which is still not bad.

Beyond these differences, what would you say characterizes the Duhart-Milon vineyard?

RP – Above all, it has a beautiful gravelly soil, like Lafite. And the vineyard is very homogeneous, from all aspects. It consists of a single island located on a hilltop of deep, very high quality gravel. In terms of age, the vines are more homogeneous than Lafite, since most of them were replanted in 1963. And it should be noted that, for some years, there have only been the two grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon (67%) and Merlot (33%).

What about the differences in the way the wines are made at Château Duhart-Milon and Château Lafite Rothschild?

CC – The main difference is at the maturing stage: the wines at Lafite are matured in 100% new oak barrels while at Duhart they are matured in 50% new barrels (and 50% in one-year-old barrels) in order to keep the best possible balance of tannins…

How would you characterize the style of Château Duhart-Milon’s wines compared to Château Lafite Rothschild?

CC & RP – Lafite is a complex wine with the potential to age for a very long time but, even in its earliest youth, it always presents a certain elegance and “grace” on the palate. 
Duhart-Milon requires more time before it is ready to drink due to its tremendously rigorous structure. This “historic” characteristic has been reduced in recent years through a fine tuning of procedures in the vineyard and the winery, but one still has to wait five to ten years before drinking the wine. It then develops a remarkable balance between freshness, complexity and elegance in which there is no doubt that the proximity of Lafite can be recognized.

Charles Chevallier et Régis Porfilet

Charles Chevallier et Régis Porfilet

Charles Chevallier