Some might have thought that a name such as Château Lafite-Rothschild, Bordeaux's well-known first-growth estate, would have been happy to rest on its laurels in recent years, considering it has made highly sought-after wines since the late 1700s. But the 250-acre vineyard has been going from strength to strength since the mid-1990s, and that run has culminated in a perfect, 100-point wine in 2000 (Wine Spectator, March 31, 2003).
Already legendary among wine connoisseurs, the 2000 vintage is a dream year that is already being likened to such quintessential classics as 1961 and 1945. The best of this vintage will age for a lifetime, maybe even a number of lifetimes. And the 2000 Lafite will most likely be one of the longest lived of the lot. It currently retails for $400 or more a bottle.
The improvements at Lafite have come with Charles Chevallier, director of the first growth, at the helm. Chevallier, a keen cigar smoker, first made the wines of Château Rieussec, a distinguished property in Sauternes, the sweet wine region of Bordeaux. He moved to Lafite in 1994 and quickly fine-tuned the vineyards as well as the cellar to get the most out of the property. He is a stickler for quality, allowing only the very best from the estate to go under the label of Lafite, or the gran vin, as the French say. Only about one-third of the entire production of the property was bottled as Lafite in 2000, or about 18,000 cases.
The 2000 Lafite is predominately (about 93 percent) Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remainder Merlot. This gives the red extraordinary richness and power in both ripe fruit and silky tannins. It is a wine that needs a minimum of 10 years of bottle age before giving any indication of its true pedigree. If you taste it now, you should notice some of the subtle aromas of currants, leather, tobacco and cedar. Some might say it has a classic "Lafite cigarbox nose." Full-bodied, with an amazing texture of silky, ripe tannins, this is a wine that completely coats your palate, but caresses it at the same time. But be patient. This is a wine for aging. Will it live up to other classics such as the 1959 Lafite, 1928 Lafite or even the 1865 Lafite? We may never live long enough to know, but it certainly has the potential.