"A modern day version of the 1959 Lafite, the 2003 Lafite Rothschild was bottled in mid-May, 2005 after achieving 12.9% natural alcohol – hardly an astonishing figure given the vintage’s weather conditions. A combination of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, it represents a ripe version of the essence of Lafite-Rothschild. Dense purple-colored, with classic notes of graphite intertwined with melted licorice, creme de cassis, smoke, and flowers, it reveals extraordinary richness, opulence, power, purity, intensity, and viscosity. Whether this wine will close down or not is questionable as it is somewhat atypical given its sweetness and softness. Analytically, there are extremely high tannins, which I suspect will assert themselves in the future. Production in 2003 was less than half of normal. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2050."
Château Lafite Rothschild is a wine estate in the Pauillac region of the Médoc, producing one of the most sought-after and expensive red wines in the world. Lafite Rothschild is known for its perfume, elegance, finesse and harmony, in contrast to the more powerful Latour and Mouton Rothschild. Nevertheless, great vintages can age for 50 years or more.
The estate began to earn its reputation as a winemaking property in the late 1600s; by the second half of the following century it was known as "The King's Wine" at Versailles, and had a strong following in London. The acclaim did not diminish and in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification Lafite was ranked a first growth. It was bought by Baron James de Rothschild in 1868. Throughout much of the 20th Century, despite many sublime wines, Lafite Rothschild was regarded as an inconsistent producer but since the mid-1990s it has become more reliable – in fact, it regularly makes claims for wine of the vintage.
The Lafite Rothschild vineyard covers around 112 hectares (277 acres) on sunny, well-drained sites made up of fine gravel and sand over limestone subsoil. The vineyard is divided into three parts: the vines on the hillsides around the château provide the core material for the grand vin, while the adjacent Carruades plateau to the west is more responsible for the second wine that bears its name. Additionally a 4.5-ha (11-acre) plot in Saint-Estèphe also belongs to the estate; unusually it has permission to include the fruit in its Pauillac-classified wines. Around 70 percent of the vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, with 25 percent to Merlot, 3 percent to Cabernet Franc and 2 percent to Petit Verdot.
The precise blend of Lafite Rothschild can vary. It often contains between 80-95 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot making up much of the rest. The wine is aged for up to 20 months in new oak barrels.
Carruades de Lafite is the second wine, with a strong following in its own right. More Merlot (30-50 percent) appears in the final blend. It is aged for 18-20 months, with 80 percent in barrels and 20 percent in tank.
The neighboring property Duhart-Milon is under the same ownership, and managed by the same team as Lafite. Domaines Barons de Rothschild also owns the Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Rieussec in Sauternes, Château L'Évangile in Pomerol, and three Bordeaux brands, Légende, Saga and Résérve Spéciale. Properties further afield include Domaine d'Aussières in Languedoc, Los Vascos in Chile and Bodegas Caro in Mendoza, Argentina.