Lafite, Lafite-Rothschild Chateau Lafite, in the parish of Pauillac
In the Medoc in France, is one of the five 1st growths (see classification) and is considered by many to be the greatest red wine in the world. Early spellings of the name include ‘Laffite’, ‘Lafitte’ and ‘Laffitte’ but, as some of these are names of lesser properties elsewhere, only the spelling as first given is now used. However, ‘Lafitte’ is still the name of the street in Paris where the headquarters of the Rothschild bank is established. The vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot, the fairly high proportion of the latter giving Lafite its extraordinary bouquet and special appeal. The great’library’in the cellars is the store for wines going back to the 18th century.
The property has a long history, but it was sold to Baron James de Rothschild in 1868 and remains the property of his descendants. The exquisite chateau label, a 19th century engraving, shows the house almost exactly as it still is, but one thing not visible on the label is the famous ‘pepperpot’ shaped tower, with a crest of five arrows crossed and fanning out on the top. This is a Rothschild symbol, signifying the five Rothschild brothers from Frankfurt who founded the international banking dynasty at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The chateau itself is still frequently used by the family.
Lafite, always a fine Pauillac, has a peculiar charm and fascination, especially in years when the Merlot ripens fully and the wine is able to develop its graceful subtlety; the light or ‘off years can also be a delight. The French Rothschilds are much involved with the great estate and it is significant that, even though Lafite’s wine has always commanded a high price and demand perennially exceeds supply, it was not until 1948 – 80 years after the Baron James bought the property (which he never lived to visit) – that a profit was made! The vineyard and cuverie have received the benefit of this constant ploughing-back of money made.