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The 2014 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Patience Pays at Lafite Rothschild

Director Charles Chevalier waited for ripeness at Domaines Barons de Rothschild properties Lafite, L'Evangile and Rieussec
Beautiful harvesstime weather allowed Lafite Rothschild director Charles Chevalier to wait for full ripeness.

Posted: Mar 26, 2015 12:30pm ET

Next up in my 2014 Bordeaux barrel tasting tour of the first-growths is Château Lafite Rothschild. For background on this famed estate and its sister properties, start with my 2013 en primeur blog entry.

Director Charles Chevalier noted that the oddity of August's cool temperatures meant his vineyard team had extra work to do, both in terms of viticulture, to ensure ripening, and then extra diligence at harvest for sorting.

"What is unique to '14 is that at end of July, start of August when veraison hit, there was a part that turned color and other parts that had a blockage of up to two weeks—on the same vines even," said Chevalier. "So when harvest came we had to do a selection in the vineyards, as well as using the optical sorter, to ensure we got the ripest fruit. And in the end the optical sorter took out very little fruit, because we had done a strict selection in the vineyard first."

"But with September and October so beautiful there was little to no disease pressure and we could wait for ripening and pick the blocks as we wanted. The fruit is ripe and the aromatic expression very pure. In the end, despite the Indian summer, it's a more classic-styled vintage because of the cooler August."

At neighboring Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild, the second wine accounts for 35 percent of the crop. The 2014 Pauillac Moulin de Duhart is notably savory, with pepper and tobacco notes that are already developed, and a core of bright red and black currant fruit. It shows lightly rugged grip through the finish, with a lingering tarry edge. The grand vin 2014 Pauillac (55 percent of the crop) is still a bit raw (Lafite and Duhart are often among the backward wines in Bordeaux at an early stage), as it has yet to soak up its oak, but the juniper and alder notes should meld easily enough as the core of plum and raspbery coulis is ripe and fleshy. There's ample grip through the finish, with a prominent tobacco streak adding texture.

From Château Lafite Rothschild, the 2014 Pauillac Carruades de Lafite Rothschild (25 percent of the crop) is easily outstanding, with a sleek and refined profile. It shows black currant and plum fruit laced with a hint of raspberry coulis, while subtle tobacco and roasted alder notes form the frame. It has a nice tight, racy feel through the finish. The grand vin 2014 Pauillac (38 percent of the crop) is very backward, even more so than Haut-Brion, with loads of cedar, espresso and juniper out front, while the core of currant and blackberry fruit stays in reserve. It has ample grip on the finish, but it's fine-grained and has superb cut.

Château L'Évangile is among the more muscular Pomerols of the appellation, thanks to its typically hefty Cabernet Franc portion, and the grape did very well in '14 thanks to the long harvest. The 2014 Pomerol Blason de L'Évangile (40 percent of the crop) is plump, inviting and fleshy, with lots of plum and raspberry pâte de fruit flavors liberally laced with tobacco and charcoal hints. It has nice energy through the finish. The grand vin 2014 Pomerol (the remaining 60 percent of the crop, as nothing was sold off here) is tightly coiled for now, but has loads of flesh, and the raspberry, bitter plum and dark currant fruit should unwind slowly. There are lovely charcoal and smoldering tobacco notes, with a hint of loam underscoring the finish. It shows its 18 percent Cabernet Franc portion.

Completing the portfolio is Lafite's Sauternes property. The 2014 Château Rieussec Sauternes pumps out praline, peach and pecan notes, followed by apricot and nectarine fruit flavors. Juicy and lush, it has ample depth but the vibrancy to match through the finish.

"Because it was dry, the maturity was concentrated by passerillage [open-air drying] first, then the botrytis came, which is a unique combination in Sauternes," said Chevalier.

Photograph by James Molesworth

A bump of north-facing vines gives Lafite part of its distinctive character.

You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

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