I feel I must warn you, this is one long blog but I think you’ll understand why.
This may be a wine that I discuss on a daily if not hourly basis, but with the madness that has hit Bordeaux I must admit I thought it would be a few years until I could give my true opinion on the Claret nectar that is Lafite.
November 20th saw me spending a delightful afternoon at the Landmark Hotel, London. Thanks to Decanter I was in the presence both Sarah Kemp and Charles Chevallier (Lafite’s Technical Director) and an array of masterpieces.
You could sense the excitement in the room, like children in a sweet shop as the wines were being poured, very generously I must add. We started in Pomerol with the Chateau L’ Evangile as one would expect with such winemaking skills, these wines too were flawless almost textbook like. They did however lack that edge of excitement or the complexity guaranteed to get my dinner party conversation flowing. The vintages on offer, 2008 and 2004 both derived from vintages that allowed full phenolic ripeness, but with good acidity levels as cool and damp conditions were had throughout the year, with dry spells just as they were needed.
Thats when it started getting serious, Duhart Milon 2005 (Cabernet Sauvignon 71%, Merlot 19%) coming from an atypical year. Drought had led to leaf reduction meaning energy could be focused on the delicate grapes, ripening was slow and steady. Intense fruit on the nose, still very tight. Ripe Cassis and red plums with a slight herbaceous perfume, thyme and sage. The palate provided chewy tannins, silky bitter chocolate all backed up by the forward fruit found on the nose.
Carruades de Lafite 2005, with that added Cabernet Franc and a splash of Petit Verdot delivered a much bigger serious wine. Elegant but well-defined, leather notes supported by those spicy oak aromas.The acidity was striking with ripe firm tannins. Finished again with bitter chocolate. Petit Verdot can be sometimes too expressive but here is just added another dimension.
In the next flight I compared the 2003 Duhart Milon with the 2003 Lafite. The Lafite as always has that added Cab. Franc and Petit Verdot providing that almost opaque colour. 2003 will always be famous for that August, temperatures reaching in excess of 40C, even with the low rainfall the vines didn’t suffer from lack of water. By September the days got a lot cooler. Duhart showed coffee in the nose with a touch of white pepper but slightly extracted. Bell peppers and thyme adding to this perfumed bouquet. The finish showed touches of fig and prune, but not yet showing vast signs of development.
Going back to the big guy in the glass, curry spices were realised into the air, followed by straw and hay. A flinty minerality with amazing acidity considering the vintage. Liquorice and leather, I feel it still needs time to fully integrate and show what it can do. This may not be a typical Claret for some, but I bet even they couldn’t deny it was pretty delicious!
Lafite 1995 (Cabernet Sauvignon 74%, Merlot 18%, Cab. Franc 8%) Sunny and dry what more could they ask for. The nose was developing with white delicate truffles and sweet prune. Tobacco and those fragrant tomato stalks, that was all embraced with a slight animalic almost bacon note. Deep Cassis finish. Devine.
I finished on the ’89 , which was a blend of only Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the earliest harvests in history since 1893. What a great expression of Lafite. Garnet almost brick stone. Eucalyptus, sage and truffle. Fine almost chalky tannins with a meaty delicate finish – This is a wine that I could have easily spent the day enjoying and contemplating where the next flavour is coming from.
All I can say is that I now fully understand the whole Lafite hype, ok I may not agree with the prices they fetch but they are supreme wines. I am glad that I waited to try such wines as it is only when one works up to such an occasion can one fully appreciate this level of fine tuning.
Lets just hope that this was not an isolated occasion and that it was just the beginning of something beautiful.