The Journal / Body

2023: Taking the Bull by the Horns 

In our Bordeaux vineyards, 2023 began with rain, and that was very reassuring! The legendary drought of 2022 was still on everyone’s minds, and the 500 millimeters of water we received between the end of the harvest and spring did our reserves a world of good.

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Photographs: Charlotte Dumas

The vines budded rather late in Pauillac, between April 5 and 19. The rainy spring, with its regular downpours, meant that we had to spray our vines every week in May. Organic viticulture has become our way of life so the teams at Lafite, Duhart-Milon, L’Evangile and Rieussec were able to sharpen their observation and reaction skills once again in the face of this capricious vintage. At Paradis Casseuil, in our Entre-deux-Mers vineyards, it rained almost twice as much as elsewhere causing a more critical situation.
Flowering started in mid-May for a vintage that first took us back to the great Bordeaux classics. Early on, the vines showed promising yields and gained vigor. At the end of June, the sum of average daily temperatures surprised us: it was close to that of 2022, but with much more precipitation. We endlessly tracked down powdery mildew and couldn’t wait for the véraison to save us! July and August remained wet: a drop-by-drop vintage, punctuated by the sound of thunderstorms bursting everywhere…

In between the drops, we managed to organize our now legendary triathlon! Baron Éric’s backstroke took him a cross the Piqueyrot lake and Kevin won the individual race with an extraordinary performance.
Our Long Dai vineyards in China were not spared from the rain, and a powerful storm hit us at the end of August. At Aussières in the Corbières, it was the exact opposite: not a drop of water on the horizon, and the vines once again reminded us of their ability to draw on their reserves to produce a crop.
In the southern hemisphere too, extreme events followed one another: at Bodegas CARO, we had to contend with a late frost wave which fortunately did not affect the quality of the vintage, very promising and balanced. At Los Vascos, the vintage also looked promising with a cooler-than-usual end to summer, but we were hit by major flooding a few months later, caused by torrential rain.

So this year, nothing normal… And we believe, we’ll get used to this.

The end of the summer in Bordeaux was punctuated by two successive heatwaves, one at the end of August and one in the first days of September. Temperatures soared to unprecedented levels. The vines were not used to this kind of phenomenon occurring so late in their cycle. We tracked their reactions to understand how they were coping in order to take the right harvesting decisions.
On August 21, we star ted harvesting our dry whites at Rieussec, and the Duhart-Milon whites ten days later in Pauillac.

At the beginning of September at L’Évangile, we cut the first Merlots and on 7 September at Lafite the young plants were picked. When it comes to harvest dates, we sometimes have the impression that we’re cutting too early… or too late? We have our doubts and talk a lot amongst ourselves, plot by plot.

Our Aussières and Paradis Casseuil grapes reached maturity soon after, as did Long Dai despite the year’s heavy rainfall. A few weeks later, at the beginning of October, we met there to celebrate the 15 years of our Chinese vineyard. At the same time in Rieussec, botrytis finished its magical action revealing a wonderfully concentrated nectar.

We love this vintage: its atypical character doesn’t lean towards heat, and it tells the story of collective decisions. The wines are tasting great, and we can’t wait to defend them in a particularly fragile market.

The geopolitical situation in our world and the alarming news of global warming cannot make us give up. In 2024, more than ever, we have to share our stories, and wines that we put our souls into. They are the witnesses of their territories, tell who we are, and our human and environmental convictions.
We are in the process of B Corp certification, an international benchmark for environmental and social responsibility, which forces us to act beyond our words. We are proud of our team, who work day in, day out with a deep awareness of the long-term protection issues that we will have to tackle in our industry.
In 2024, we’ll be travelling north, guided by the Northern star of the Kimmeridgian terroirs of the William Fèvre estate. We look forward to learning from this new territory of Chablis and sharing these new lessons with all of you.
But we never forget our roots in the Médoc, represented this year by our “sea cows,” immortalized this year in the Lafite marshes, where they have lived in freedom for over ten years.
Once again this year, we have sadly lost friends: our special thoughts go to Jean-Michel Cazes, a beloved neighbor and true friend from the Médoc who helped us in our journey here more than anyone else.

For 2024, we wish you a year filled with freedom, peace and dialogue.

Saskia de Rothschild

Every year for over thirty years, a photographer has been invited to take up a photo at Lafite. The images he or she produces are used for our greetings card. In 2023, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas has been chosen.

Discover her Views of Lafite.

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