A blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the 2020 Carruades de Lafite offers up aromas of dark berries, cassis, cigar wrapper, violets and loamy soil. Medium to full-bodied, broad and fleshy, it's a rich, gourmand wine, some 20% of which was matured in tank.
Today, Château Lafite Rothschild amounts to some 110 hectares planted to some 900,000 vines (including 4.5 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon in Saint-Estèphe). If that figure strikes readers as smaller than it used to be, that's because Lafite has ripped up some less optimally situated plots that never tended to produce wine fit for inclusion in the grand vin. As of 2021, what's more, organic conversion is underway (15 hectares are already farmed biodynamically), and hedges and flowering borders, planted with native species, now begin to break up the monoculture of the vine. Cover crops, too, have been added to the viticultural team's agronomic arsenal and are delivering good results in parcels with more humid or clay-rich soils. In the winery, Lafite is meticulously traditional—the grapes are sorted twice, once optically, and see a classical maceration in wooden and cement tanks with pump-overs and some use of the gentle "air pulse" system that disrupts the cap and oxygenates the ferment without the need for a full pump-over. Malolactic fermentation, as ever, is in tank, and the wine matures in barrels that are mostly produced in-house, with a light toast and favoring the forests of Allier and Nevers. Each vintage is racked three times, traditionally, with one egg white fining (which requires up to 8,000 eggs). As is the case almost everywhere in the Médoc, the tendency is for less and less Merlot in the assemblage.
Saskia de Rothschild, chairwoman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, began by saying, “We had to do a lot of reorganization with the pandemic. It was a very precocious vintage. In mid-March, we had to plan ahead and control the vegetative cycle that had already started. The warm spring and the bouts of rain meant there was a lot of organizing to control the mildew. We had to train the cellar teams to learn which shoot to choose in shoot thinning.” The mildew situation early in the 2020 growing season coupled with the unprecedented COVID lockdown restrictions posed a challenge. Although Lafite is not certified organic, they have been practicing organic methods and are planning to enter into the official organic conversion period (a period of three years) from this year. “We want to consider each vineyard an ecosystem,” Saskia said. “We want to be able to do more. Even with cover crops, for example, or massal selection—it is a collection of practices that give the best expression of terroir.” Like everywhere in Bordeaux in 2020, Pauillac entered a period of extreme drought from mid-June to mid-August. “In mid-August, we finally had a lot of rain in Pauillac,” Technical Director Eric Kohler explained. “One hundred millimeters (about four inches) came down. It was a godsend. We had lower alcohol, but we had very intense flavors. The wine is a paradox: it is powerful, but not heavy. We would rather have a lack of ripeness than over-maturation. I think this is the first time we have such contrasts—wines so different from the climate. The rains meant we kept the balance and freshness.”
Drink Date:2023 - 2040