1985 Lafite Rothschild

96
JG
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1985-lafite-rothschild
 

Wine Critic Reviews for 1985 Lafite Rothschild

(Château Lafite-Rothschild) This was my last bottle of ’85 Lafite out of the cellar, as I only bought three bottles when it was released and dearly wish I had bought more, as the wine is rather more expensive today than it was back in 1987! This is an utterly brilliant year for Lafite and one of my favorite wines of the vintage, as it offers up a deep and very complex nose of cassis, sweet dark berries, a touch of fresh coconut, beautifully complex, gravelly soil tones, cigar smoke, fresh herbs and cedar. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very refined, with a rock solid core of sappy fruit, stunning complexity, impeccable focus and balance, moderate tannins and a fairly powerful finish (particularly for Lafite from this era) that closes with great purity and grip. A brilliant synthesis of the vintage’s plush and suave personality and the inimitable elegance of Lafite. (Drink between 2012-2060)

John Gilman | 96 JG
This is so beautiful now and exhibits real aged-Bordeaux character with currant-bush, tobacco and berry aromas that follow through to a medium body with firm tannins and a creamy finish. Still so together. The finish turns to cigar box, sandalwood and berry. Drink or hold.

James Suckling | 96 JS
Last tasted in 2018 at the Lafite 160th anniversary supper, and it is delivering just as much pleasure a few years later - this is classically true when a wine is on its plateau, particularly in good vintages, when it can hold the line for a stubbornly long time. This just contains so much of what makes Lafite Lafite - there is an effortless elegance, it is subtle but rewarding, building in layers and complexity over the palate. Now in the tertiary period where the fine tannins are fully integrated but still offering support to brambled fruits, cured leather, black spice, sage, mint and salted truffles. Baron Eric in charge, Gilbert Rokvam technical director and Yves le Canu director. The vineyard was 90ha at the time, so around 20ha smaller than today. 5% Petit Verdot completes the blend. Drinking Window 2021 - 2036.

Decanter | 94 DEC
Tasted at the château, the 1985 Lafite-Rothschild was the best example of this wine that I have tasted a dozen or so times. It has a beautiful nose that is just classic Lafite. It is still fresh yet understated, stately even, with tobacco and cedar-tinged red berry fruit. It is not a powerful bouquet, but there is something...magnetic about it. The palate is still youthful with fine tannin, like the nose, understated yet very well balanced. The acidity here is perfectly judged with an almost nonchalant finish. You almost miss its virtues - it is just so self-effacing and insouciant. Just a really lovely Lafite-Rothschild at the peak of its powers. Tasted March 2016.

Robert Parker Neal Martin | 93 RP-NM
The 1985 Lafite-Rothschild is only a modest success in the context of the vintage. Here, it is totally outclassed by the 1985 Las Cases. Light, slightly loose-knit red berry fruit on the nose is complemented by warm gravel and smoky aromas, though it lacks a bit of energy. The palate is nicely balanced, not powerful but focused, with adequate freshness. As mentioned in my previous tasting note, this has dispensed with some density in recent years, and if your expectations are modest, it remains enjoyable. Tasted at Hameau de Barbaron in Burgundy.

Vinous Media | 93 VM
A graceful wine with cedar, berry and cherry aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a succulent, sweet fruit finish. Delicious to drink now.--Cabernet Challenge.

Wine Spectator | 90 WS

Wine Details on 1985 Lafite Rothschild

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Producer Chateau Lafite Rothschild: In the farthest northern corner of Pauillac, a stone’s throw from the appellation of Saint Estephe, resides a wine estate of great renown, with exceptional terroir and a truly magical allure.  Its superb qualities have been written about for centuries, portrayed in modern day films and has been considered the greatest wine on earth by wine professionals and enthusiasts alike.  Truly, the world of wine would not be what it is today without the existence of one of the greatest estates in the world:  Chateau Lafite Rothschild wines are simply paramount.

Hailing from the greatest appellation (Pauillac) in the most respected and important (arguably) region in the world, Bordeaux; Lafite has been a symbol of excellence since its inception.  Over the course of its very long, rich and interesting history, Chateau Lafite has become one of the most successful, admired and sought after wines in the world.  Its prominence is known the world over; however, an estate does not reach the apex overnight.

The legend of Lafite dates back to the year 1234, with the first mention of Gombaud de Lafite, abbot of the Vertheuil Monastery and feudal lord of the eponymous fief, Lafite (meaning “hillock” in the Gascon language).  At the time of the Lafite fiefdom, most of the property was used for harvesting grain and crops for cattle.  When the Segur family acquired the property in the 17th Century, it is most likely had existing grape vineyards.  However, Jacques de Segur is credited with the planting of the first Lafite vineyards in the 1670s, organizing the vineyards and earning the estate a great reputation by the late 1690s.  Jacques de Segur’s heir Alexandre, married the heiress of Chateau Latour, who gave birth to Nicolas-Alexandre de Segur, thus joining the two fiefs (chateaux) and beginning their histories together.

Chateau Lafite’s first market appearance occurred in the official London Gazette in 1707, where it was being sold at public auction, after being seized by British corsairs, as well as the British Royal Navy.  The wine and its counterparts were described as “New French Clarets”.  Afterward, the Prime Minister of Britain, purchased a barrel of Lafite every three months.  This affair, only propelled the legend of Lafite only further.
Nicolas-Alexandre had consolidated Lafite’s initial success, improving winemaking techniques and above all, enhancing the prestige of the wines in the foreign markets.  He became known as “The Wine Prince” and Lafite’s wines, “The King of Wines”.  It became the subject of much discussion at Versailles, honored as it was by the king’s high approval.  By the time of his death, Nicolas-Alexandre had established a well-respected and world renowned estate.  It was considered a “Premier Cru of Medoc” by 1797 and would later be classified as a First Growth in the Official Classification of 1855.

In 1868, the now coveted First Growth was purchased by Baron James de Rothschild, placing it in the hands of one of the most successful and influential families in Europe.  Sadly, Baron James passed away just three months later, leaving the responsibility of the estate to his three sons.  As was the custom of the day, the heirs changed the name to Chateau Lafite Rothschild.  The estate has been handed down from generation to generation and remains in family hands to this day.

Today, Chateau Lafite Rothschild continues to command the attention of serious enthusiasts and collectors, producing one of the most collectible, investment grade wines in the world.  Lafite currently has 112 hectares under vine and is planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  It is important to note that the final blend is almost always close to 90% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Annual production ranges between 15,000 to 20,000 cases, depending on the vintage.  Lafite produces an elegant style of Pauillac, which shows qualities of cedar, cassis, tobacco, truffle, lead pencil and spice along with the freshness and purity of dark red fruits.  It is, perhaps, the most refined of the First Growths.  Rather than a show of power, Lafite focuses on its width of flavors and aromatic nuances.  The wine takes decades to mature and has remarkable staying powers.

Lafite is usually better after at least 15 years of bottle age and should reach its peak maturity between 15 and 60 years after the vintage.  The 1982 Lafite is still considered a baby and will age gracefully until 2074; a truly remarkable feat that has allowed the estate to be recognized as one of the greatest investments in the world.  A second wine is produced, Carruades de Lafite, taking its name from a specific section of their vineyard (Carruades Plateau) located near Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  Due to its name and its association with the Grand Cru, it too has become extremely collectible.  Carruades is one of the older second wines in Bordeaux, being first produced in the mid-1850s.  A third wine is also produced and is sold as an AOC (Appellation of Origin Controlled) Pauillac that is produced from declassified fruit from both Lafite and Duhart Milon (also owned by the Rothschild family).

The largest of the Fifth Growth estates (Lafite) is located in the far north of the Pauillac appellation, with only the small Jalle de Breuil stream separating the vineyards from the St. Estephe appellation.  Most of the soil is composed of deep gravel, mixed with Aeolian sand on a subsoil of tertiary limestone, well-drained and well-exposed to the sun.  This exceptional terroir is a large part of the reason Lafite has such elegant, feminine textures and that coveted sensation of minerality.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild wines are undoubtedly some of the finest creations on earth.  The estate has become the benchmark for wineries around the world.  Much like the wines, the Lafite name will continue to live on, pushing the entire wine industry towards greatness, simply by example.
Region Bordeaux: Even among the greatest and most reputable wine regions on the planet, Bordeaux stands above the rest. The winemakers of this region have a single-minded dedication to the fine art of viticulture and their efforts never fail to show. If you consider yourself a fine wine enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to visit Bordeaux - life changing. Whether you wish to drink some inspirational and gripping wine as soon as possible, or you want to add some masterpieces to your collection, no region on Earth is a more obvious choice.

The noble and beautiful Garonne and Dordogne rivers surge through southwestern France, enriching the soil in a way very few other places can boast. The limestone-based earth is rich in calcium, and the almost oceanic climate conditions give the staple Bordeaux grape varietals vigor and flavor like nowhere else. For their illustrious reds, Bordeaux winemakers rely on a proven combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Meanwhile, a sip of their excellent white wine hints at the use of Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc.Each of these varietals carries a unique identity, making every quality wine a character piece to rival Citizen Kane. It can be incredibly hard to choose only a few wines to collect for your cellar!
Subregion Pauillac
Country France: Words fail us when trying to adequately portray France's place in the world of wine. It's downright impossible to imagine what wine would feel and taste like had it not been for France's many, many viticultural pioneers. Fine wine is the blood of France's vigorously beating heart, and it finds itself in many aspects of French culture. With a viticultural history that dates all the way back to the 6th century BC, France now enjoys its position as the most famous and reputable wine region on the planet. If you have a burning passion for masterfully crafted, mouth-watering, mind-expanding wines, then regular visits to France are probably already in your schedule, and for a good reason.
Type of Wine Bordeaux Red: Picture in your mind a combination of cedar, lead pencil, blackcurrant, plum and mineral aromatics, and texture that caresses your palate like a playful lover. The experience is thrilling from the first whiff to the final seconds of a tannic, generous finish - that is what you'll get from a Bordeaux Red
Varietal Red Bordeaux Blend: The inhabitants of the Bordeaux region of France have been cultivating wine-grapes for thousands of years. Ancient Roman ruins litter the vineyards from Saint Emilion to Graves where the art of blending Bordeaux varietals has been practiced and perfected over a very long history. Bordeaux’s climate, terroir and soils, though varied, provide the optimal growing conditions for the red grape varietals planted in the region.

Rarely listed on the labels as “blend,” the red wines of Bordeaux are perhaps the most artfully designed and celebrated in the world. The calculated art of blending the native Bordeaux varietals is impressively accomplished in the most famous winegrowing region in the world. The phrase Bordeaux Blend which seems to have been coined by British wine merchants in the 19th Century relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and occasionally Carmenere are the lead characters in the creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. Each plays a part in their own fashion and implemented in various combinations and percentages in each appellation within Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux Blends are majorly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, roughly making up 90% of all Bordeaux Blends. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec (occasionally Carmenere) are also important components and vital to the production of the region’s red wines.

For simplicity, the winegrowing region of Bordeaux can be divided into three main appellations producing Red Bordeaux Blends; the Left Bank (Medoc), Right Bank and Pessac-Leognan (Graves). The Left Bank has a terroir comprised of a wide variety of gravel, stones, sand, limestone and clay soils on a natural terrain of gentle slopes. This sets the stage perfectly for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the dominant grape of the Left Bank. For example, Chateau Lafite (Paulliac) is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Right Bank is dominated by clay and limestone with sand and gravel, but the clay in the Right Bank is distinctly its own and adds to the health, growth and vitality of the vines of the varietals grown here. Right Bank wines are typically 80% Merlot-based, which are often denser, richer and mature earlier than those of the Left Bank (with exceptions – Petrus for example). Merlot is a vital component to Pomerol winegrowing and making. Cabernet Franc also plays a major role in the Right Bank, most notably, in Saint Emilion, where the infamous vineyards of Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc are planted to 55% and 52% Cabernet Franc, respectively. Chateaux that produce wines with a majority of Cabernet Franc are considered “old school” producers, but have perfected the use of Cabernet Franc, which was originally used as a blending grape.

Pessac-Leognan (Graves) enjoys a temperate climate, natural hygrometry influenced by the ocean, and has a terroir composed of gravelly soil over a clay subsoil on sloping, hilly terrain. Natural drainage due to the hilly terrain as well as the gravelly soil structure are perfectly attuned to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine, which prospers under these conditions. Pessac reaps the benefits of having the terroir of both the Left and Right Bank as it contains gravel and clay. The clay sub-soil allows the growth and success of Merlot, as well as Cabernet Franc. It is home to the only First Growth not in the Medoc. The 50-hectare vineyard of Haut Brion is planted to 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

The percentage of Petit Verdot and Malbec may be lesser in quantity, but not in quality. They are vital to the region’s creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. The combination of Bordeaux varietals is legendary in the region, around the world and has influenced winegrowers worldwide to plant and vinify wines which resemble those of Red Bordeaux Blends.

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