The 2004 Lafite-Rothschild appears to be another late-bloomer in the sense that this 12-year-old bottle is the best I have tasted, implying an upward swing in quality. It has a wondrous bouquet, very sensual and pure with blackberry, graphite and cedar - all the hallmarks of Pauillac, delivered with great panache. It is more opulent than I recall. The palate is medium-bodied with silky tannins, pitch-perfect acidity and a beautiful structure. There is a regal sense to this Lafite, understated compared to the other First Growths and yet the persistence on the finish deserves a round of applause, especially in the context of the vintage. This is superb and could possibly turn out to be the pick of the Firsts. Tasted September 2016.
"It opposes absolutely no resistance to being drunk, that’s the secret of Lafite."
- Baron Eric de Rothschild
Situated in the wine-producing village of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, the estate was the property of Gombaud de Lafite in 1234. In the 17th century, the property of Château Lafite was purchased by the Ségur family, including the 16th century manor house that still stands. Although vines almost certainly already existed on the site, around 1680, Jacques de Ségur planted the majority of the vineyard.
In the early 18th century, Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur refined the wine-making techniques of the estate, and introduced his wines to the upper echelons of European society. Before long he was known as the "Wine Prince", and the wine of Château Lafite called "The King's Wine" thanks to the influential support of the Maréchal de Richelieu. Towards the end of the 18th century, Lafite's reputation was assured and even Thomas Jefferson visited the estate and became a lifelong customer.
Since the 19th century, the Rothschild Family have owned the wine estate. The name Lafite comes from the Gascon term "la hite" meaning "small hill". Lafite was one of four wine-producing Châteaux of Bordeaux originally awarded First Growth status in the 1855 Classification, which was based on recent prices. Since then, it has been a consistent producer of one of the world's most expensive red wines.
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