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Château Lafite-Rothschild: 1986-2010 vertical tasting

Decanter's Charles Curtis MW tastes 12 vintages of the celebrated Bordeaux first growth estate Château Lafite-Rothschild, discovering some extraordinary wines which were eye-opening reflections of their vintages.

The wines of Château Lafite-Rothschild are the essence of elegance. Sophisticated classics of left bank Bordeaux, they excel their peers in the subtlety of their bouquet, the graceful evolution of the wines in bottle, and the distinctive stamp of their heritage.

Lafite is not showy or ostentatious. Rather, it is understated in an almost debonair way, yet it lacks nothing of the power or longevity that one would hope for in a top-flight claret.

Lafite is also, however, something of an enigma. It is a wine that excites such enthusiasm among its devotees that the uninitiated wonder if it could ever live up to its billing. According to some of the most knowledgeable palates, it does.

Lafite was long the favoured claret of renowned connoisseur Michael Broadbent MW. Broadbent has many quotable thoughts on Lafite, but among my favourites comes from his book Vintage Wine, apropos of the 1985 vintage: ‘It is a wine that does a sort of slow striptease, revealing more each time one sniffs and sips.’

Broadbent was neither the first nor last to extoll its virtues. The praise was already raised to a high level in the 18th century by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who reportedly told Louis XV in 1755 that ‘I have found Château Lafite’s wine to be a delicious, generous cordial, comparable to the ambrosia of the Gods of Olympus.’

To do justice to such a wine requires reflection, and a vertical tasting provides a perfect occasion, since a well-constructed vertical illuminates a château’s wines as well as the strengths of each vintage.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 12 Lafite wines between 1986 and 2010

Charles Curtis MW’s tasting notes and scores for 12 astonishing Lafite wines:

Related content:

Château Smith Haut Lafitte: 2008-2018 vertical tasting

Left and right bank Bordeaux explained

Château Pichon Baron: vertical tasting from 2000-2020

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