Location and surface area of the Château Lafite-Rothschild vineyard
Fine wines only stem from the greatest terroirs and Château Lafite-Rothschild enjoys an exceptional location near the Gironde estuary.
Comprising a 112-hectare surface area that spreads over three large areas, the vineyards of this benchmark among the finest Pauillac wines extend from the slopes surrounding the château to the plateau of Carruades to the west, as well as a parcel located in the neighbouring commune of Saint-Estèphe.
What is the history of Château Lafite-Rothschild?
Origins dating back to the 17th century
Traces of a medieval seigniory hark back to the 14th century on the land of Lafite, whose Gascon name "la hite" means "the hillock". The winegrowing history of the estate commenced in the 17th century under the impetus of Jacques de Ségur, who started to plant the Château Lafite vineyard in the 1670s and early 1680s.
A major expansion in the 18th century
Alexandre de Ségur, son of Jacques, married the heiress of Château Latour in 1695.
Aware of the exceptional potential of this great Left-Bank terroir, their son, the Marquis Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur, increased the technical precision of the vinification process while promoting the excellence of his wines to the royal court of Versailles and beyond. The increase in trade with England enabled Château Lafite to rapidly develop its reputation across the Channel.
A symbol of rare quality and refinement, the estate's wines, known as "King's Wine", became particularly sought-after and Alexandre de Ségur was nicknamed the "Prince of Vines".
In 1784, his descendant, Count Nicolas Marie Alexandre de Ségur, was forced to sell the property. One of his relatives, Nicolas Pierre de Pichard, then First President of the Bordeaux Parliament, acquired the estate.
A major expansion across the Atlantic
The 18th century was a time of great expansion for the estate, particularly across the Atlantic, thanks to the laudatory writings of Thomas Jefferson. As the United States ambassador to France at the Court of Versailles and future President of the United States, Jefferson, who was passionate about winegrowing, gathered valuable information from Bordeaux merchants during a visit to Bordeaux in May 1787 regarding the first growths and their ranking.
An evolving estate between the end of the 18th and 19th centuries
The property remained owned by the de Segur family until 1794, when Nicolas Pierre de Pichard was executed during the French Revolution.
Described as "the premier cru of the Médoc, producing the premier Bordeaux wines", the estate was put up for auction on 12 September 1797. Acquired by a Dutch citizen, Jean de Witt, the property was quickly put up for sale again and then acquired in 1800 by three Dutch merchants, Baron Jean Arend de Vos Van Steenvwyck, Othon Guillaume Jean Berg and Jean Goll de Franckenstein, before changing hands in 1818.
During the Paris World Fair in 1855, the classification requested by Napoleon III consecrated Château Lafite as the "premier des premiers crus".
From 1868, the beginning of the Rothschild era
Following the public sale of the property, Château Lafite was acquired on August 8, 1868 by Baron James de Rothschild. Following his death three months later, the property, which then comprised 74 hectares of vines, was managed by his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond.
The period from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century was marked by a major economic and health crisis, as well as by the First World War and combatting wine fraud that affected the most famous Bordeaux wines.
During the Second World War, Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild were occupied by a German garrison, placed under public administration and then expropriated in 1942 before being temporarily transformed into agricultural schools. At the end of 1945, the Barons de Rothschild family regained possession of Château Lafite-Rothschild, whose management was given to Baron Elie.
The 20th century, gradual reconstruction and renaissance
Following these hard times, Baron Elie instigated an ambitious restructuring of the vineyards and buildings as well as the administration of the estate. A pioneer and visionary, he was also one of the major players in the progressive international revival of fine Bordeaux wines.
Iconic vintages punctuated this period (1945, 1947, 1949) before the market took off again in the 1960s notably thanks to the major increase of exports to the United States.
Baron Eric de Rothschild, Baron Elie's nephew, took over the running of the estate in the 1970s. Driven by a constant quest for excellence, he gave a decisive boost to the estate, through a renewed technical team, new practices in the vineyard and also the modernisation of the wine-making infrastructure. In 1987, the unusual octagonal circular cellar was inaugurated, built under the direction of the architect Ricardo Bofill, with a vault supported by 16 columns.
Over the years, Château Lafite-Rothschild is still an iconic reference that embodies excellence and refinement and is poised among the greatest wines of Bordeaux.
All there is to know about the terroir of Château Lafite-Rothschild
Location and exposure
Château Lafite-Rothschild watches over an exceptional 112-hectare vineyard within the Pauillac appellation, located near the Gironde estuary.
Geology: a gravelly soil ideal for the vineyard
This exceptional vineyard is planted on fine, deep gravel soils. Although sand is mainly present on the surface, the limestone nature of the subsoil ensures optimal drainage.
Climate: the advantages of a mild oceanic climate
Due to its geographical position near the estuary, the Pauillac appellation benefits from a temperate oceanic climate, characterised by mild, wet winters and relatively cool summers.
Although the Château Lafite-Rothschild vineyard is forty years old on average, the grapes from the young vines, which are around 10 years old, are not included in the Grand Vin blend. Since 1962, a joint team has been dedicated to the vineyards of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Duhart-Milon. Composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the vineyard is managed in a traditional manner, limiting chemical inputs and favouring low yields.
In order to enhance the identity and expression of each terroir, the harvest and vinification are carried out in a plot-by-plot manner. Since 2010, new cutting-edge infrastructures ensure the realization of a tailor-made vinification process. The alcoholic fermentation, carried out in traditional oak and steel vats, precedes an initial tasting and then a run-off into fine wine vats and the extraction of the "press wine". Malolactic fermentation is carried out in a special vat room before the different batches are placed in barrels, stemming from the Domaines Barons de Rothschild Cooperage. Several tastings are carried out in December before blending, which is carried out following a first racking in March. Once the blending is complete, the wine is aged for 18 to 20 months before bottling in June.
The style of Château Lafite-Rothschild wines
"Lafite has a soul, a beautiful soul, tender and generous. Lafite turns the earth into a dream. Lafite is harmony, harmony between nature and man, because without our wonderful winemakers, nothing would be done." (Baron Eric de Rothschild)
With its freshness, aromatic richness and density, Château Lafite-Rothschild expresses with both sophistication and elegance the identity of Bordeaux finest Left-Bank terroirs. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, depending on the vintage, this great Pauillac wine is aged for 18 to 20 months exclusively in new oak barrels.
Carruades de Lafite is the second wine of the estate. Its name refers to the "plateau des Carruades", a group of plots of land located near the château, acquired in 1845 and dedicated to the production of this wine. Seductive due to its aromatic purity and its delicacy, this second wine benefits from a 16 to 20-month ageing period, 80% of which is carried out in barrels (10% new).
Ageing potential of these wines
Indeed, the wines of Château Lafite-Rothschild display the depth of fine wines in their youth, the subsequent years enable them to develop subtle notes of cedar and spices, blending harmoniously with the floral delicacy of violets and the minerality of graphite. Elegant tannins and a silky structure like velvet, the unrivalled wines of Château Lafite-Rothschild travel through time with great class and elegance, a unique feature of Lafite-Rothschild wines.
For an optimal tasting experience, we recommend decanting the Château Lafite-Rothschild wines two or more hours before serving them at a temperature of between 16 and 18°C.