Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite
Ranked as a 1st Growth in the 1855 classification of the Left Bank the illustrious Château Lafite has a fascinating history. The estate is located in Pauillac, and in 1234 was the property of Gombaud de Lafite. The Ségur family acquired it in the 17th century [the 16th century manor house still stands today], and although vines most probably existed on the property at that time, it was Jacques de Ségur who planted the majority of the vineyards. Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur refined the winemaking and introduced his wines to the crème de la crème of European society in the 18th century, and became known as the “Wine Prince” and the wines of Lafite as the “King of Wines”. Maréchal de Richelieu took it as a tonic and introduced it to the court of Versailles where King Louis XV regarded it as a fountain of youth. The wines gained such a reputation that Thomas Jefferson visited the Château in 1787 and became a lifelong patron, and the British Prime Minister Robert Walpole reputedly bought a barrel every three months. Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre did not have any sons, and on his death the estate was divided between his four daughters, and Lafite eventually came to the son of his eldest daughter, Count Marie Alexandre de Ségur. But in 1784 mounting debts forced the sale of the estate, and it was bought by Nicolas Pierre de Pichard, a descendent of the Ségur family. However, in 1794 during the French Revolution he was executed and the Château became the propriety of the state and was sold to Jean de Witt, a Dutch citizen, who shortly sold it on to three Dutch merchants. Lafite passed through a line of stewards until 1881 when Barbe-Rosalie Lemarie and her husband Ignace-Joseph Vanlerberghe sold it on to Sir Samuel Scott, a British subject who managed Lafite with his son until 1867. Intriguingly the Scotts turned out to be only representatives of Aimé-Eugène Vanlerberghe, the son of the previous owners, a well-kept secret that only emerged on his death. Now we come to 1868, and enter the Rothschild family, Lafite was bought by Baron James de Rothschild, head of the French branch of the famous banking family, and he renamed it Château Lafite Rothschild. Baron James died shortly afterwards and the estate went to his three sons, Barons Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond. During WW2 the Germans confiscated the Rothschild proprieties, stationing German garrisons at both Lafite and Mouton Rothschild, and many of its hallowed old vintages were ransacked. In 1945 the family took back the property and Baron Elie de Rothschild was entrusted with the recovery of the estate; he carried out huge renovations to the estate and vineyards. In 1962 Châteaux Duhart-Milon, ranked a 4th growth in 1855 classification, was acquired in Pauillac. Baron Elie's nephew Baron Eric de Rothschild took over the estate's management in 1974 and expanded the cellar, with stainless steel vats alongside traditional oak vats, and commissioned Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill to design a unique circular cellar in which to age their esteemed wines. In 1984 Châteaux Rieussec, ranked a Sauternes Premier Cru in 1855 was added to the portfolio, followed by Viña Los Vascos in Chile in 1988, Châteaux L''Evangile in Pomerol in 1990, and Domaine d'Aussières in Corbières in 1999. Additionally in 1999 a partnership with the Catena family in Mendoza launched Bodegas Caro, and in 2008 they joined forces with the Chinese group CITIC to produce wines in the Shandong region near Penglai. Domaine Lafite Rothschild is one of the largest estates in the Mèdoc, with 110 hectares under vine in Pauillac planted with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% and Petit Verdot. In 2018 Baron Eric's daughter Saskia de Rothschild took over the reins of Domaine Barons de Rothschild, representing the sixth generation of the family at the head of the winemaking properties. The tradition of wine-growing expertise over sixth generations is referred to as the “Lafite Spirit”, based on their rich past rooted in Bordeaux. But it is also a pioneering character, and it is this spirit that has led them to establish vineyards in new areas both in France and world wide. Wherever their wines come from they are made with finesse and elegance across the whole range, reflecting the illustrious name of Rothschild.