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One of the fabulous surprises, although I had suggested last year that it could jump in quality, of my tastings, the 2006 Lafite Rothschild is a great, great wine made from a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. When I tasted it from barrel, it reminded me of their successful 1988, but it is dramatically superior to that vintage. Frankly, it may turn out to be as good as the 2005, which in all of Bordeaux is a far greater vintage than 2006. Lafite’s severe selection process (42% made it into the grand vin) resulted in a full-bodied wine boasting an extraordinary perfume of charcoal, truffles, lead pencil shavings, and sensationally sweet, ripe black currant and cedar notes. A wine of extraordinary intensity, texture, and depth with silky tannins as well as awesome concentration, this has turned out to be a remarkable Lafite Rothschild that should be drinkable much earlier than the 2005, but age for three decades. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2035+.
As so often with Lafite, it is power that marks this wine. That, and density of texture. The additional element in this vintage, and at this stage of the wine’s development, is a dominant wood element. The vanilla and tannins from the wood match well with the concentrated tannins of the fruit, which is dark, dense and tight. This is a wine for long-term aging: in 15 years this will have superb richness.
Plum, sweet tobacco and blackberry aromas follow through to a full body, offering a tight, chewy palate, yet with polished, refined tannins. Very long and caressing. This turns to a muscular and toned young wine. Gets better and better with age. Best after 2014.
In tasting this wine over the course of several days, it transforms from the overt richness of puppy fat and new oak to a more supple enigma. The pure, clean fruit flavors of blueberry jam turn earthier, while the oak becomes more of a veil. This Lafite will require 20 years or more to begin to show its character, and it should reward those with the patience to wait.
In 1868, Baron James de Rothschild became the owner of Lafite. He was a born dilettante, and it suited him to be the master of what, in 1855, was classified as first among the great wines of Médoc. Today, Baron Eric de Rothschild presides over this most famous Bordeaux estate.
A large and diverse wine region in northeastern Italy, the Veneto is home to a vast array of different styles of wine. With no defining regional characteristics, it can be a bit confusing to the general consumer to parse through its many subzones, but the patient wine lover will find many treasures to be discovered here, typically at wallet-friendly prices. Red and white wines are produced here, with more emphasis on the latter, as well as the ultra-popular sparkling wine Prosecco. The region is sheltered from harsh northern European winters by the Alps, which form its northern border, but the climate is still relatively cool, making the Veneto ideal for white wine production.
Much of Italy’s Pinot Grigio hails from the Veneto, where it can range from neutral and inoffensive to crisp and refreshing. Soave, made primarily from the Garganega grape, has a reputation for producing relatively ordinary, bulk wines, but can be very elegant when yields are carefully monitored, with aromas of lemon, almond, and white flowers. Valpolicella is the region’s best-known red wine, with juicy, tart red cherry flavors derived from the Corvina grape. Recioto and Amarone wines made from dried grapes are a regional specialty and can be very intense, heady, and cerebral.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to create complex wines with many different layers of flavors and aromas, or to create more balanced wines. For example, a variety that is soft and full-bodied may be combined with one that is lighter with naturally high acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.