Château Lafite Rothschild is a French wine estate of Bordeaux wine, located in Pauillac in France, owned by members of the Rothschild family since the 19th century, and rated as a First Growth under the 1855 Bordeaux Classification.
Lafite was one of five wine-producing châteaux of Bordeaux originally awarded First Growth status in the 1855 Classification. Since then, it has been a consistent producer of one of the world's most expensive red wines. A bottle of 1869 Château Lafite Rothschild holds the world record for the most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction for $233,973 in 2010.
Situated in the wine-producing village of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, the estate was the property of Gombaud de Lafite in 1234. In the 17th century, the property of Château Lafite was purchased by the Ségur family, including the 16th century manor house that still stands. Although vines almost certainly already existed on the site, around 1680, Jacques de Ségur planted the majority of the vineyard.
In the early 18th century, Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur refined the wine-making techniques of the estate, and introduced his wines to the upper echelons of European society. Before long he was known as the "Wine Prince", and the wine of Château Lafite called "The King's Wine" thanks to the influential support of the Maréchal de Richelieu. Towards the end of the 18th century, Lafite's reputation was assured and even Thomas Jefferson visited the estate and became a lifelong customer.
Following the French Revolution, the period known as Reign of Terror led to the execution of Nicolas Pierre de Pichard on 30 June 1794, bringing an end to the Ségur family's ownership of the estate which became public property. In 1797 the vineyards were sold to a group of Dutch merchants.
The first half of the 19th century saw Lafite in the hands of the Vanlerberghe family and the wine improved more, including the great vintages of 1795, 1798 and 1818. In 1868 the Château was purchased by Baron James Mayer Rothschild for 4.4 million francs, and the estate became Château Lafite Rothschild. Rothschild, however, died just three months after purchasing Lafite. The estate then became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond Rothschild.
The 20th century has seen periods of success and difficulty, coping with post-phylloxera vines, and two world wars. During the Second World War the Château was occupied by the German army, and suffered heavily from plundering of its cellars. Succeeding his uncle Élie de Rothschild, Lafite has been under the direction of Éric de Rothschild from 1974 to 2018, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Saskia de Rothschild. She is the youngest woman leading a Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux estate.
At the 5 December 1985 Christie's auction, a new record price of approximately US$156,000 was paid for a bottle of wine – a 1787 Château Lafite which was thought to be owned by Thomas Jefferson. The authenticity of the bottle has been challenged. On 29 October 2010 the record was broken at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong – three bottles of 1869 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild were sold for HK$1.8M (US$232,692) each.
In early November 2012, police in the city of Wenzhou, China, seized nearly 10,000 bottles of suspected counterfeit Châteaux Lafite Rothschild. Lafite is very popular among China's nouveau riche, but analysts suspect that between 50 and 70 per cent of wine labeled "Château Lafite Rothschild" in China is fake. If genuine, the collection seized in Wenzhou would have been worth up to US$16 million.
The vineyard is one of the largest in the Médoc at 107 hectares, and produces around 35,000 cases annually, of which between 15,000 and 25,000 are first growth. Its vines are around 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, whereas the final wine is between 80% and 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% and 20% Merlot, and up to 3% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Occasionally exceptions are made, such as the 1961 vintage which was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
A second Château Lafite Rothschild vineyard was established in the Chinese province of Shandong, where 250,000 vine stocks from France are planted on 30 hectares. Its vines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Marselan. In 2019, the estate debuted its first vintage from its Domaine de Long Dai winery in Shandong.
Across all vintages Lafite Rothschild is one of the most expensive wines in the world, with the average price per 750 ml bottle reaching $911. Prices for Carruades de Lafite rose dramatically due in part to Chinese demand, with the prices of its 2005 and 2000 vintage fetching over £10,000 per case. After peaking in 2011, however, the price of some vintages halved in two years.
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The record auction price for a single bottle of wine is £96,000 ($156,000) for a 1787 Chateau Lafite, which was reputedly once owned by America's third President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.
- "Rarest wine for auction". The Times. No. 62625. UK. 26 November 1986. p. 5. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
The world record for a bottle of wine was achieved last December, when a Thomas Jefferson engraved 1787 Chateau-Lafite fetched £120,000, ...
- "A bottle of 1787 wine apparently bottled for Thomas..." London. UPI. 5 December 1985. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
The bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite, sold by West German music publisher Hardy Rodestock of Wiesbaden, was bought by Christopher Forbes, third son of American magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes, for $157,500, Christie's auction house said.
- Wilke, John R. (1 September 2006). "Wine Lover's Nose For Fakery Leads To Famed Bottles". The Wall Street Journal. Palm Beach, FL. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
In December 1985, the late Malcolm Forbes paid $156,000 for a Jefferson Lafite at a Christie's auction, still a record bid for a bottle of wine.
- GBP closed at ~$1.48 on the day of the auction per "Dollar Trades in Narrow Range". Financial Times. No. 29798. UK. 6 December 1985. p. 43. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
- Lelyveld, Joseph; (Special To the New York Times) (6 December 1985). "$156,450 Wine Sets a Record". The New York Times. London. p. B12 (00012). Retrieved 2018-10-31.
A nearly two-century-old bottle of Chateau Lafite, believed to have been part of an order set aside for Thomas Jefferson, commanded $156,450 today at an auction here. The winning bid was by far the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine. It was placed by Christopher Forbes on behalf of Forbes magazine, the American business publication.
- For the controversy, which is still unresolved, see Wallace, Benjamin (2008). The Billionaire's Vinegar. New York: Crown. ISBN 9780307338778.
- Huang, Nellie S. (30 October 2010). "Lafite 1869: $232,692 a Bottle". WSJ.com. Hong Kong: The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
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- Kevany, Sophie (7 May 2014). "Fake Bordeaux in China being made on offshore boats". Decanter. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- "Château Lafite cracks open its first Chinese vintage". The Economist. September 26, 2019. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
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- "Lafite-Rothschild 2008 Falls to $8,800 Five-Month Low on Liv-Ex". Bloomberg. 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
Today's price was 59 percent below the record 14,450 pounds at which it traded in February 2011, at the height of the bull market for Bordeaux