Bordeaux First Growths: Chateau Lafite, First Amongst First Growths

Of all Bordeaux first growths, perhaps none is as well known, both inside and outside of the wine world, as Chateau Lafite Rothschild.  Its name transcends wine, standing as a symbol of luxury.  How did it get this lofty reputation?  And, more importantly is, it deserved?  The answer to the second question is a definite yes.  This article will explore the first question in more detail.

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The History:
Records of this estate stretch as far back as 1234 when Gombaud de Lafite, abbot of the Vertheuil Monastery north of Pauillac, owned the property.  The name Lafite comes from "la hite", a Gascon expression meaning "small hill."  Records from the 14th century indicate that it was not a vineyard, but what the French call a seigneurie.   This is an estate run by a lord and others who are effectively sharecroppers.  The manor house was constructed in the 1500s and still standing today.

Read part one of the First Growths Series.

The Ségur family bought the property in the 1600s.  Jacques de Ségur planted the vineyard in 1680 although grapes were no doubt grown before that.  By the early 1700s, thanks to Nicolas-Alexandre, Marquis de Ségur, Chateau Lafite wines were very popular with those wealthy enough to afford them, first in English Society (where it was a favorite of Prime Minster Robert Walpole) and later in French society.  In the mid-1700s, the Royal Physician Marechal de Richelieu Thomas ordered Lafite to be served at the royal court at Versailles.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.