Just before Christmas, I went back to my dearest Bordeaux and organized a visit to Château Lafite-Rotschild for my dad and me. I’ve wanted to visit a First Growth for so long and one of the best things about working in the wine trade is that you can have access to the amazing Châteaux!
Nestled between Château Mouton Rothschild and Cos d’Estournel, the Château itself is gorgeous to look at. The vineyards surrounding the property span more than 100 hectares and are carefully looked after.
For a bit of history, the Château first belonged to the Segur family before being bought in 1868 by Baron James de Rothschild. The Rothschild family owns others Châteaux in the area, including neighbouring Château Duhart-Milon in Pauillac, Château Rieussec in Sauternes and Château l’Evangile in Pomerol. I could go on and on about the Rothschild family history which is amazingly interesting but that will have to be the topic of another blog post. An interesting fact that I learned during the visit is that their coat of arms, which represent five arrows, is each a symbol for the five sons that were scattered around Europe to look after the Rothschild’s Empire.
One of them was James, owner of Château Lafite – Rothschild at the time, whose descendant Eric de Rothschild now manages the Estate.
The visit started with a discovery of the soil and the vineyards, which to my surprise are much vaster than I thought. The vineyards in the hills around the Château are mostly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. Their grapes to the West, as well as a few hectares in Saint Estèphe, are used to produce their second wine Carruades de Lafite.
After this our guide showed us the barrel rooms. The first room was filled with wooden vats, especially made for the Château. The grapes from each plot of land are fermented in separate vats, and left there for up to 25 days. In order to modernize the infrastructures and ensure perfect fermentation, they built a Merlot room with concrete tank a few years ago. The design of the tanks is quite unusual as there is no separation between the tanks, just a long concrete wall with a tap. When fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred into barrels. While visiting we saw the 2013 barrels, made specifically for Lafite-Rotschild, in-house with their own cooperage. I was quite surprised as it is something that most domaines outsource, but our guide explained to us that they want to have control over the barrel quality as it does influence the wine. This means they have complete control in the winemaking process – from the vineyards to the final bottles. I guess it’s a question of finance as well as they change barrels every year for the Grand Vin.
Towards the end of our visit we passed through a large hallway with cellars on each side, containing old vintages. No need to say that it was very tempting! Unfortunately none is for sale (not that I would have that kind of money anyway) and it is only reserved for parties and special occasion for the Rothschild family.
To finish the visit, we tasted the delicious 2001 vintage of Château Lafite-Rotschild in their famous and incredible cellars rooms, designed by the architect Ricardo Bofil. Circular and inspired by Greek theatre, it is really gorgeous and hosts opera and others artistic performances from time to time.
After this great experience at Château Lafite-Rotschild, I’m already on the hunt for another 1st Growth to visit! Who is it going to be next?