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Why is Lafite Rothschild priced so expensive compared to all the other first growths? Is it worth the price tag? How does  it compare to other first growth wines in terms of quality, price, and longevity? Let’s find out!

Incomprehensible Bordeaux

Through my decades of drinking Bordeaux wines, I believe Lafite Rothschild is the most difficult Bordeaux wine to understand. I have drank countless bottles of Lafite Rothschild in the past and I will gladly share with you my experiences and encounters. Lafite Rothschild is not an easy wine to understand, in fact, the most difficult label from Bordeaux to comprehend. Be it in a blind tasting or open label drinking, I’m always puzzled by the content. The complexity and sophistication often times was way beyond description. I have fond memories of various Lafite Rothschild 1982 vintage wines I have tasted. An example would be a great tasting back in 2014, whereby in my article I wrote:

Lafite Rothschild 1982
Queen of Bordeaux, is known to be really elegant with its style.

Occasionally I get vintages like the 1996 to be extremely powerful, big, bold and lots of depth. But most of the time, I liked Lafite Rothschild for its elegance more than its power. Lafite Rothschild has gone through a rough patch in recent years, from average performance in the ‘60s to poor outcome in the ‘70s, and was roaring in the ‘80s, to a peak in the ‘90s and ‘00s.

It is really difficult not to like Lafite Rothschild.

But tonight, I had doubts. I cannot understand the Lafite Rothschild I was drinking. For the first time in my drinking career, I was puzzled by this label. It possessed neither the utter elegance, nor the extreme power of a Pauillac.

This is not the Lafite Rothshchild that I know of! Not sure if anybody on my table observed my expression, I must have looked completely lost, and for a good reason, I was completely lost! It looks like I will have to do some soul searching on this Lafite 1982 again when I can chance upon drinking it in the future. As such, I cannot put a score to something I don’t know. Its better I don’t pretend to know than to put an arbitrary score that affects my reputation as an unbiased judge.

First Lafite Vertical Event

Back in August 2012, I attended a vertical tasting of Lafite Rothschild in Beijing.

These were the line up of the vintages back then: 1967, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998.

The empty bottles the next day as I was trying to identify if there were any fake bottles amongst the Lafites we drank last night. (Don’t forget this was China 2012, fake wines were rampant). Fortunately I found no fakes.

The consensus vote for the top 3 vintages were: 1990, 1996 and 1989

The take away feel back then was “Queen of Bordeaux” as the elegance of Lafite stunned everyone who participated in the event.

Second Lafite Vertical Event

It’s another absolute pleasure to revisit and attend another Lafite Rothschild Vertical tasting event after more than 6 years since my last Lafite vertical. This time around the outcome was totally different! It was definitely due to the drinking crowd as these people were more experienced in drinking compared to the Beijing group.

The lineup from every attendees’ contribution:

Vintages representing Lafite Rothschild were: 1966, 1983 (magnum), 1988, 1989, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2008 and also a bottle of Carruades de Lafite 1996. That’s 12 different vintages spread across 4 different decades, with apologies for lacking a 70s representative.

Lafite Rothschild Vertical Tasting at Taberna Wine Academy (1 Dec, 2018)

Rather than going through the dry and boring tasting notes, I decided to defer all the tasting notes and vintages write up. In fact, I’m going to jump to conclusion right now.

Master of Wine Tan Ying Hsien organized the wines into 4 flights, he has his reasons for doing so:

Summary of Lafite Vertical Tasting Event

The real take away was that, from the 10 attendees, our favorite choices were all over the place! I have drank Bordeaux for more than two decades, and in every single blind tasting we have, there will always be a consensus vote as the result is normally very clear cut who made it to the top 3. But not tonight! I was stunned by the outcome, everyone has their own definition of tonight’s tasting!

Without quoting names, these were the top vintage choices (I only requested their top 2 vintages):

Attendee 1: 96, 88 and 2000 a late bloomer
Attendee 2: 96 and 83 for it’s surprise
Attendee 3: 96 and 08
Attendee 4: 96 and 2000
Attendee 5: 88, 96 and 83
Attendee 6: 96, 98 and 2000 arrived later in the evening
Attendee 7: 96 followed by 98 but 00 and 05 both just about as good
Attendee 8: 89 and 88
Attendee 9: 96, followed by 05 and 96 Carruades
Attendee 10 (myself): 88 and a tie of 96 and 05

Let me share my thoughts first. 1988 wasn’t my favorite vintage, I have tasted many 1st growth and a lot of mediocre classified growths made in 1988, I can summarize that Mouton Rothschild 88 was hopeless, while Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion 88 were decent, but nothing really spectacular. So for me to vote an 88 as my clear favorite of the night in this blind tasting was a big surprise for myself too. In addition, I have to mention that I gave this 1988 a perfect score of 100 points, it’s truly rare for me to even award perfect scores, but tonight, I found a wine that I truly enjoyed, on the nose and the palette, it was way too seductive and elegant! It faded off later in the evening and not being able to compare it to the more solid vintage, but while it lasted, it has created a permanent impression in my mind.

It appeared that many attendees voted for the 1996 vintage. 1996 was always another favorite vintage of mine (only confined to the left bank, don’t be fooled, right banks were mainly hopeless), and Lafite Rothschild would have represented the pinnacle of Pauillac 96. I have no doubt Lafite 96 would brush all other Pauillac wines aside, including Latour and Mouton Rothschild. I would pick Lafite 96 over Latour 96 anytime despite the fact that Robert Parker gave both as 100 points as I have drank many of them side by side as well as separate occasions.

An additional credit has to be given to Carraudes de Lafite 96, one of the best second wine ever made. Tonight, it also did not disappoint, as my notes showed that it was the most approachable wine apart from the 1966. Superb softness and killer elegance. I clearly remembered 6 or 7 years ago we had a blind tasting of all 1996 wines, amongst them Haut Brion and Ch Margaux. Carraudes de Lafite 96 won hands down as the undisputed winner of the blind tasting! So, don’t look down on second labels! Another notable second label you should aim for is Les Forts de Latour, they’re just as stunning as their Grand Vin at a fraction of the price. Just go with good vintages of Grand Vin, it’ll reflect similarly on the second label as well.

It was surprising that the 98 and 2005 were showing very well as well. 98 was not a left bank vintage, in fact it was almost hopeless except for first growth wines. I once drank a bottle of Leoville Las Cases 1998 next to a not-well-known and obviously much cheaper Soutard 98, the Leoville Las Cases 98 was put to shame with very diluted content. So, for Lafite 98 to do well, it tells you something again! Lafite Rothschild is defying the law of nature, it chose to formulate its own outcome! Apparently, the terroir of Lafite needs to be stressed that it produces such high-quality wines it can almost ignore poor weather, with the only exception of the poor 1993 encountered tonight.

For 2005, it was surprisingly approachable too (apparently many 2005 Bordeaux wines were drinkable now). This was one of the best vintages in the 2000s, apart from 2009 and 2000. Surprisingly, I will prefer the 2005 as it has the balance and elegance, whereas the 2009 (not featured tonight, my own opinion) was a big and chunky wine, while the 2000 seemed to be still stuck in it’s adolescence age and you will need another 30 to 40 years down the road to enjoy this wine.

In conclusion, Lafite Rothschild is in it’s own class, punching way above the rest when compared to other Bordeaux wines (I looked at these from a bird’s eye view). The 1855 classification was based upon the market price, and Lafite Rothschild back then was already priced the highest. Thus, history was correct and the market’s invisible hand was correct.

Lafite Rothschild deserves the high price tag!

Lafite Rothschild 1983

2ND VISIT 第二次品尝

My first experience of Lafite 83 was horrible, came in last amongst all the 83 Bordeaux wines! But this magnum totally changed my perspective about Lafite 83! Nose was so elegant smoke and beautiful, was really superb compared to Lafite 93 and 97. Palate was powerful and highly acidic, dry and tannic. My revisit about an hour later revealed the wine was extremely dry.

我第一次接触拉菲83年是在一个波尔多83年的盲品会中,结果不可想像,拉菲83包尾!但是这个双瓶装完全改变了我对拉菲83的看法!鼻子就是优雅的烟熏味,而且非常吸引人,在93和97年份之间有着最好的鼻香。口感强劲,高酸度,而且非常干燥和浓厚的单宁。

Lafite Rothschild 1988

PERFECT 完美

I hardly give 100 points to wines although 5 stars I was much more generous. Undeniably this Lafite 88 totally deserved a 100 point tonight, plus coming from an unexpected vintage, coz I hardly enjoyed any 88 Bordeaux. Nose was perfect with balanced age and smoke, not very pronounced. Content was a big wow, rich and big yet elegant, thick juice!

我给100分满分是个非常稀有的意见,虽然5颗星我一点都不吝啬。今晚这个拉菲88完全值得这个满分!而且是我一点都没有想到的年份,因为我不是很喜欢波尔多88年份。鼻子香味完美,带有平衡的陈年和烟熏味,不是很突出。内容简直令我呐喊起来,充实的果味,非常豪华富贵的口感但是却非常温柔,简直是完美的拉菲!

Lafite Rothschild 1996

CHAMPION 冠军

Even though it wasn’t my Wine of the Night, but many people voted for this as the champion of the night. It was my 2nd tied with 2005. Nose was slightly diluted with some chlorine smell (strange!) primarily red fruits on the palate, intense and rich flavor, with flavor of multiple layers, stunning complexity! I revisited it again after the formal tasting and re-verify that my score was consistent.

虽然不是我今晚的冠军,却是很多人的冠军。这是我的第二。鼻子没有拉菲特色,有点掺水的感觉。口感澎湃,强烈。果味有特别浓厚的层次感,非常想象不到的复杂感!我后来再评分,得到的分数结论是一样的。

Carruades de Lafite 1996

BABY LAFITE 小拉菲

Bok you’re crazy to give it a 5 stars! Sorry but I beg to differ, try it against any big guns, you’ll see what I mean. It really was the most ready wines amongst 12 bottles of Grand Vin Lafite and not any inferior. Something has to go, it was the nose a bit weak with typical smoky Lafite character. The content was extremely rich, elegant, forward and matured.

你发疯了?给小拉菲5颗星?!对不起,我不是喝牌子,而是喝内容,这是我真诚的评价,小拉菲在12瓶大拉菲里一点也不逊色。弱点肯定有,就是鼻子的香气有点弱,但是也带有拉菲独有的气息。内容非常饱满圆滑,优雅,前位而且成熟。喝不起大拉菲建议你品尝一下小拉菲也是不错的选择。

Lafite Rothschild 1997

WASN’T AS BAD 没有想象的差

Bear in mind alot these Lafites were tasted blind, so my opinion was unbiased and not influenced by the label and vintage. Nose wasn’t impressive, rather sharp then turned moderate thereafter. Content was young and powerful, with a tinge of woody character. 1997 was quite a diluted vintage but this Lafite absolutely did not show the diluted character, respect!

不要忘了这些拉菲都是盲品的,所以我不会被牌子和年份影响,而且评论公道。鼻子不咋第,很尖锐然后化中和。内容年轻而且强劲,带有一点点的木材味。不要忘了97年的波尔多是个很差的年份,大多数内容淡化掺水,但是这个拉菲97完全违背年份了代表,一点淡化都找不到!

Lafite Rothschild 1998

UNEXPECTEDLY GOOD 好过预期

As you probably know, Bordeaux 98 was a right bank vintage, most left bank wines paled in comparison to even the cheap right bank wines. Not Lafite 98, it stood strong. The unique and elegant smoke stood out, surprisingly fruity as well. First sip was crazily impressive, loads of matured red fruits, but still very tannic and dry.

我想你应该知道波尔多98年是个右岸的年份,左岸没法比,就连便宜的右岸酒都轻易的把左岸酒踢一旁。但是拉菲绝对不一样,非常强大。一开始鼻香就带有拉菲独特的气质,优雅的烟熏味和浓厚的果味。喝一口颠覆了我对以往左岸98年的瞧不起,非常成熟的果味和优雅的内容。还是有点涩和干燥,所以需要陈年最少10年以上才适合饮用。

Lafite Rothschild 2008

NUMBER 8 八号

Look at the bottle carefully, it has a Chinese character Eight on top of the label. Why? Heard those days Chinese were crazy over Lafite, so the chateau decided to put an Eight (also means getting rich) on the bottle. Unique Lafite smoke was obvious. Content was too tannic and dry, obviously not ready for consumption. The thickness of the wine can only use INK to describe.

仔细看看牌子,有个八字在拉菲的牌子上面,为什么?当年中国人疯狂拉菲,所以酒庄认为应该讨好中国人,所以把一个八字写上去(也暗示土豪不要这样喝拉菲掺可乐!)拉菲独有的烟熏香味表露无遗。但是内容却太涩和干燥,明显还没到饮用期。只能用濹水来形容酒体。

Extensive Wines Review by
Bok, owner of Fine Wines SG
Number 1 Wine Reviewer in Vivino
https://www.vivino.com/users/bok-nanl/

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Bordeaux
Item DescriptionSizeStockPriceTasting Note
Vintage 1959
1959 Lafite Rothschild (Slightly torn label)750ml

1

$ 6,500

Bok Rating: 10/10
Click Here

Vintage 1974
1974 Lafite Rothschild (no label, vintage legible on the cork)1500ml

1

$ 1,500

Bok Rating: 9/10
Click Here

Vintage 1978
1978 Lafite Rothschild (torn label)750ml

8

$ 1,200

Bok Rating: 9.75/10
Click Here

Vintage 1982
1982 Lafite Rothschild750ml

>20

$ 6,500

Bok Rating: 10/10
Click Here

Vintage 1990
1990 Lafite Rothschild – 1500ML1500ml

5

$ 3,400

Bok Rating: 10/10
Click Here

Vintage 2001
2001 Lafite Rothschild (come with single wood case)1500ml

1

$ 2,550
Armagnac
Item DescriptionSizeStockPriceTasting Note
L10 – 2000
Lafite Rothschild Armagnac Vielle Reserve (wicker basket)750ml

1

$ 1,100
0

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