1998 Lafite Rothschild
Robert Parker | 98 RP
Robert Parker | 98 RP
The 1998 Lafite-Rothschild is served from double magnum directly from the château reserves, in fact with the man who made it sitting opposite me – Charles Chevalier. I must admit to being quite amazed how well this shows at 20-years of age, trouncing all the other First Growths except Haut-Brion. Lucid in colour, it has a vivid bouquet of pure blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and graphite, perhaps just a little uncharacteristically showy in style, but beautifully defined and intense. The palate is perfectly balanced with layers of ripe black fruit, perfectly pitched acidity and a silky smooth texture that renders this utterly seductive. It is almost too good for me to recommend cellaring longer. Whatever...it is a sublime Lafite-Rothschild that on this showing, may well challenge the supremacy of the 1996. Tasted at the Académie du Vin dinner in Bordeaux.
Vinous Media | 96 VM
Amazing aromas of crushed blackberries, toasted oak and currant, spices. Really a great nose. Full-bodied, with round and velvety tannins and a long, long finish. It lasts for minutes on the palate. Superb. Best wine of the Médoc, without a doubt.--’88/’98 Bordeaux blind retrospective (2008). Best after 2011. 21,665 cases made.
Wine Spectator | 95 WS
No written review provided. | 94 W&S
Easy vintage until September, when conditions in the Médoc particularly became humid, which meant accelerating the harvest (it was one of those years when Lafite benefitted enormously from its ability to ramp up a bigger-than-expected team of pickers). Salin still calls this a lunch wine, because of its supple freshness, its balance that would work so perfectly with food.The vintage was a showcase for Bordeaux on the Right Bank, where it was considered great from the start. The Medoc and Graves were less well received at the time, but are ripe for rediscovering now. This still has a lovely deep ruby red colour, and on both the nose and palate you are getting to secondary aromas, a walk in the forest, mushrooms, cedars, heather, game – these are flavours you just don’t get in young wines, and amply reward the patience of holding bottles back. The surprise, and the Lafite signature, comes in its vibrancy, in its huge persistency and in the lift on the finish.
Decanter | 94 DEC
Wine Details for 1998 Lafite Rothschild
|Type of Wine
: 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
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.
: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.
For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.
France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.
France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.
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.