The famous winery is located in the north of the municipality Pauillac in the Médoc (Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux). Directly adjacent to it is Château Mouton-Rothschild, A first written mention was made in 1234, where a Gombaud de Lafite is mentioned, an abbot of the monastery of Vertheuil in the north of Pauillac. Lafite has been listed as a fief since the 14th century. The name "Lafite" is probably derived from the gascognic "la hite", which means something like "small mountain" or "hill". This is a clear indication of the gentle elevation on which the buildings of the estate stand. In the middle of the 16th century, it belonged to the nobleman Joseph Saubat de Pommiers. After his death, his widow Jeanne de Gasq married in 1670 the notary Jacques de ségur (+1691) from the famous noble family and introduced Lafite as a dowry. At that time, there were already small vine stocks, but only between 1670 and 1680 then vineyards were created on a larger scale. From a piece of land called "Clos de Mouton" then went later Château Mouton-Rothschild out. Son Alexandre de Ségur married Marie-Thérèse de Clauzel in 1695, the heiress of the Château Latour, At this time, therefore, three of the 1855 classified four Premiers Crus belong to the possession.
A productive winery is detectable since at least 1707, because it was a bottle with this Vintage designation found. By greatly improved winemaking techniques, there were the first successes from the 1720s. The Lafite wine was marketed abroad (especially England). He was also esteemed by the English Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), who ordered a barrel of Lafite (225 liters) every three months between 1732 and 1733. Only later he was also known in Versailles at the royal court. There is a nice story about how it came about. The marshal Richelieu (1696-1788) a doctor from Bordeaux prescribed the wine as "the best and most pleasant of all tonics" . After a long journey of the marshal King Louis XV. (1710-1774) after his return that Richelieu "looks 25 years younger than before his departure" . He remarked, "I found the famous fountain of youth. The wine of Château Lafite is a noble tonic, delicious and comparable to the Ambrosium of the gods of Olympus " . The King's mistress Madame Pompadour (1721-1764) presented the Lafite wine at her intimate dinners. And her successor Madame du Barry (1743-1793) preferred this wine.
The property of the Marquess Ségur was divided among his four daughters after his death in 1755, which separated Lafite and Latour but was still jointly administered until 1785. Lafite fell to the Comte Nicolas Marie Alexandre de Ségur, the son of the eldest daughter of the Marquis. This sold it in 1784 to his relatives Nicolas Pierre de Pichard (+1794), the first president of the Parliament of Bordeaux. Shortly afterwards, the estate was described in an essay as the "most beautiful vineyard in the universe". At that time, later US President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was ambassador to France, gathering information about Château Lafite, among others. Finally, the rule of the family Ségur over the estate with the execution of Nicolas Pierre de Pichard with the guillotine by the verdict of the revolutionary regime on 30 June 1794 came to an end.
The property was auctioned and acquired by the Dutch citizen Jean de Witt, who kept him only a short time. As a result, there was a permanent change of ownership, the owners from 1800 were Baron Jean Arend de Vos Van Steenvwyck, Othon Guillaume Jean Berg, Jean Goll de Franckenstein, Madame Barbe-Rosalie Lemaire (from 1818) and the banker Aimé-Eugène Vanlerberghe (ab 1821). However, the latter did not officially appear for tax reasons, but to the outside, this is the banker Samuel Scott. In this period falls the famous Bordeaux Classification in 1855, when the estate was ennobled as one of only four at that time as "Premier Cru". In the absolute (unofficial) ranking it was even at the top and was considered "the best location of the Médoc, which produces the best wine of the Bordeaux region". The "eternal rival" Château Mouton-Rothschild at that time only received the second rank "Deuxième Cru".
In 1868, as part of the succession of Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe the auction of the Château Lafite was announced. But at the first appointment on July 20, there was no offer. The second auction took place on August 8, the initial bid was 3.25 million francs including the vineyard Carruades. The contract was awarded by the Parisian banker Baron James de Rothschild (1792-1868) commissioned bidders for the sum of 4.8 million francs including taxes. James was one of the five sons of the dynasty founder Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) and founded the French main line. Incidentally, his son-in-law and nephew Nathaniel de Rothschild (1812-1870), who had been working in the bank of his father-in-law in Paris since 1850, had already done so 15 years earlier in 1853 Château Mouton-Rothschild acquired (allegedly he also bid in the auction for Château Lafite via a middleman). The Rothschild Bank in Paris resided in the "Rue Laffitte" - and this was one of the reasons for the purchase, according to the legend.
James de Rothschild had been interested for a long time. The first attempt to buy it was already in 1830, but was rejected by the then (supposed) owner Samuel Scott. Now it finally worked 38 years later. The new owner added his own name and named it "Château Lafite-Rothschild". He died only three months later and did not see the estate once. Successors were his three sons Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond (1845-1934). The latter revived viticulture in 1882 with 60 million gold francs Israel, From the last third of the 19th century, a series of catastrophes occurred. It started with the phylloxera, went on almost seamlessly with the wrong thing mildew, then organized fraud with fake Lafite wines, the First World War and the Great Depression in the 1930s.
During the Second World War, the Médoc region was occupied by the German troops in 1940. Among other things, the two Rothschild goods were placed under public administration. After the end of the war, the family commissioned Edmond's grandson Elie Robert de Rothschild (1917-2007) with the leadership. This engaged the famous oenologist Professor Émile Peynaud (1912-2004) as a consultant. The reconstruction of the run-down property proceeded swiftly. For the first time in 80 years, since the estate was owned by the Rothschilds, the shareholders were paid a dividend in 1948. Baron Elie was one of the main characters in the difficult reconstruction of the market. He participated as a member of the tastings in London and in 1950 was a founding member of the "Commanderie du Bontemps du Médoc" (Wine Brotherhood). In 1953, he fostered the "eternal conflict" between Mouton and Lafite by proposing to exclude Mouton from the "Association of the Five" (the then four Prime Ministers Crus and Mouton), because this is not a Premier Cru.
The vintage of 1955 was a very big wine, but the next year 1956 brought as in many other wineries by extreme frost to minus 35 ° C again a huge setback. But the upswing was unstoppable. In 1975, Elie gave the leadership to his nephew Eric de Rothschild (* 1940). This set new impulses and gradually renewed the entire technical team. New vineyards were planted in the vineyards, and improved fertilizers and ingenious plant protection were introduced. The star architect Ricardo Bofill has built a new, circular wine cellar. In 1994, Charles Chevallier was established as a butler. The family business "Domaines Barons de Rothschild" (DBR) expanded considerably by acquiring a number of wineries at home and abroad. Among others, this includes the Chilean winery Los Vascos in the area Colchagua, See the entire history of the two family empires below Rothschild,
The vineyards cover about 100 hectares of vineyards, which are divided into three major areas. These are the vineyards around the Château itself, those at Carruades and a smaller part in St. Estèphe. By a special entitlement, the St. Estèphe wines are considered as such by Pauillac. The vineyards are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%). The average age of the vines is 40 years. All younger vines under ten years old will not be for the Grand Vin used. The first secret of the outstanding quality is the soil, these are deep gravel banks on limestone. Other important components are the age of the vines, yield restriction of 40 to 45 hectoliters per hectare, correct time of harvesting different by variety, strict selection of the grape, careful deforestation, fermentation temperature of not more than 30 ° C and pumping over to extract the dyes. After fermentation every single barrel is tested and tasted and only the very best of them are used for the first wine. The second quality goes into the second wine and the third goes into the low-priced DBR Collection line
The usual cuvée for the first wine is Cabernet Sauvignon (80-95%), Merlot (5-20%), Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (0-3%). The vintage 1961, for example, was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged for 18 to 20 months in 100% new oak barrels. The barrels are made in the estate's own cooperage. There is a constant filling of the barrels to compensate for the loss, as well as a two to three times decanting into clean barrels and a beautiful with whipped egg whites. After removal, six barrels each come into a container to pass through leveling to achieve larger quantities of uniform qualities. The red wine has a bouquet of almonds and violets. Every year 15,000 to 20,000 boxes are produced.
The second wine is called "Carruades de Lafite" (formerly "Moulin des Carruades") and is named after a hotly contested vineyard around the year 1845 between the wineries Lafite and Mouton (see below Rothschild ). He has a higher percentage of Merlot and matures for 18 months in up to 15% new barrels. Every year 20,000 to 30,000 boxes are produced. Since 1995, in addition to the premium wines, the low-priced line "DBR Collection" is marketed. This group, labeled "Réserves des Barons", comprises the four wines Bordeaux rouge, Bordeaux blanc, Médoc and Pauillac. These are immediately drinkable wines.
To this day, Château Lafite-Rothschild is one of the best and most expensive red wines in the world, and has been almost unbelievably enduring for centuries. At a tasting once 36 different vintages were tried back to in 1799 and compared. The amazing result was a consistent quality of the wines for a period of over 150 years. To the absolute most expensive wines in the world count two vintages of the house. For a long time, the record holder was a vintage 1787, which in 1985 at a auction from Christie's was sold for $ 160,000 (£ 105,000). The from the estate of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) originating bottle went to the US publisher Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990). In November 2010, the record was broken. The auction house Sotheby's Hong Kong sold three bottles of the 1869 vintage in November 2010, each worth 1.8 million Hong Kong dollars. That's an incredible $ 232,692.
outstanding vintages The Château Lafite-Rothschild from ancient times were, for example, 1847, 1848, 1858, 1864, 1869, 1870 (!), 1876, 1899, 1900, 1906, 1926 and 1929. More recently, these are the years 1945, 1947, 1949 , 1955, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982 (100 points by Robert Parker ), 1985, 1986 (100 PP), 1988, 1989, 1990 (100 PP), 1994, 1995, 1996 (100 PP), 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 (100 PP), 2002, 2003 and 2005 vintages from the 1980s, some have not yet theirs Climax reached.