Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Barrel Sample: 96-97 Points
Barrel Sample: 94–96 Points
In 1990, Daniel and Florence Cathiard also fell under the spell of this beautiful estate. Since then, they have restored the 16th century tower, renovated the 18th century manor house, built two underground cellars, went back to traditional vine growing methods without chemical herbicides and set up their own cooperage. The perfect elegance, excellent balance and fine structure of Smith Haut Lafitte's red and white wines are the ultimate reflection of the current owners' total commitment to quality.
Recognized for its superior reds as well as whites, Pessac-Léognan on the Left Bank claims classified growths for both—making it quite unique in comparison to its neighboring Médoc properties.
Pessac’s Chateau Haut-Brion, the only first growth located outside of the Médoc, is said to have been the first to conceptualize fine red wine in Bordeaux back in the late 1600s. The estate, along with its high-esteemed neighbors, La Mission Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pique-Caillou and Chateau Pape-Clément are today all but enveloped by the city of Bordeaux. The rest of the vineyards of Pessac-Léognan are in clearings of heavily forested area or abutting dense suburbs.
Arid sand and gravel on top of clay and limestone make the area unique and conducive to growing Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc as well as the grapes in the usual Left Bank red recipe: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and miniscule percentages of Petit Verdot and Malbec.
The best reds will show great force and finesse with inky blue and black fruit, mushroom, forest, tobacco, iodine and a smooth and intriguing texture.
Its best whites show complexity, longevity and no lack of exotic twists on citrus, tropical and stone fruit with pronounced floral and spice characteristics.
Sometimes light and crisp, other times rich and creamy, Bordeaux white blends typically consist of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Often, a small amount of Muscadelle or Sauvignon Gris is included for added intrigue. This blend was popularized in the Bordeaux region of France (where it also comprises outstanding sweet wines like Sauternes and Barsac), but is often mimicked throughout the New World, particularly in California, Washington and Australia.
In the Glass
Sémillon provides the background to this blend, with a relatively full body and an oily texture. Sauvignon Blanc adds acidity and lots of bright fruit flavor, particularly white grapefruit, lime and freshly cut grass. Used in smaller proportions, Muscadelle can contribute fresh floral notes, while Sauvignon Gris is less aromatic but offers ripe, juicy fruit on the palate. These wines run the gamut from unoaked, refreshing, and easy to drink to serious, complex and barrel-aged. The latter style, usually with a higher percentage of Sémillon, can develop aromas of ginger, chamomile and dried orange peel. The dessert wines produced by these blends, often with the help of "noble rot" called botrytis, can have lush stone fruit and honey characteristics.
Crisp, dry Bordeaux white blends are the perfect accompaniment for raw or lightly cooked seafood, especially shellfish. A more structured, Sémillon-based bottling can stand up to richer fish, chicken, or pork dishes in white sauces. These blends also work well with a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, like asparagus, peas, basil and tarragon. Sweet dessert wines are traditionally enjoyed with strong blue cheeses, foie gras or fruit-based desserts.
Sauternes and Barsac are usually reserved for dessert, but astute sommeliers know that they can be served at any time—before, during or after the meal. Try these sweet wines as an aperitif with jamón ibérico, oysters with a spicy mignonette or during dinner alongside hearty Alsatian sausage, poached lobster in beurre blanc sauce or even fried chicken.