Bordeaux is famed for its red wines, yet its whites are among the greatest and most age worthy in the world. The best dry whites come from the leading red estates and are unique to the Bordeaux region, normally made in small quantities and with the same precision and exacting standards as the world beating reds. The best come from Pessac-Leognan where Sauvignon Blanc dominates, Semillon is blended to add body and power. The wines are oaked in new barrels and produced from old vines with low yields, resulting in staggering intensity, quality and complexity.
2009 and 2010 were exceptional years for both Bordeaux red and white wines, producing some of the greatest dry whites ever made. We have highlighted Smith Haut Lafitte, which across these twin vintages produced wines of incredible quality; they are on par or better than La Mission Haut Brion Blanc and just behind Haut Brion Blanc, at a wonderful price point. Extraordinarily, across both vintages Smith Haut Lafitte is 40% cheaper than its equal Pape Clement Blanc and 85% and 90% cheaper than La Mission Haut Brion Blanc and Haut Brion Blanc respectively, the latter competes with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Leflaive and Coche Dury for the title of the greatest white wine in the world.
We have tasted both vintages of Smith Haut Lafitte several times since the 2009 and 2010 En Primeur campaigns and we believe that there is little to divide them in terms of quality, despite Parker’s three point difference. Major critics agree that the 2010 edge the 2009; as such it offers great value against its peers and the 2010 offers superb value when compared to the 2009. Suckling is 97 points on this!
Smith Haut Laffite Blanc is produced from 11 hectares cultivated with white varieties of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon and 5% Sauvignon Gris. The vines have an average age of 38 years, yield 32 hl/ha and the grapes are pressed in an oxygen-free environment which benefits the wine hugely by retaining full aromatic potential. Fermentation happens in barrels of 50% new oak from their own integrated cooperage and 50% in barrels used for the previous vintage. They are aged in barrel where they undergo batonnage (stirring of the lees) for 12 months. Smith Haut Lafitte has embarked on a large investment programme, which includes a new cellar and in 2000 they switched from mechanical to hand harvesting. The grapes are stored in ergonomic pods designed by the proprietor Danial Cathiard to prevent oxidation.
The leading Bordeaux dry white wines are rare and appreciate in value quickly as they age due to their rarity and global popularity. New markets are quickly awakening to the quality amongst the great dry Bordeaux whites. They are full in body, with great minerality, combining slight spice with powerful orange marmalade, caramel, candle wax, melon, honeysuckle flavours, peach and butter. With age they ooze with rich honey, nuts and with a wonderful subtle perfume of acacia and white flowers. The leading white wines from Bordeaux make sense as an investment and should sit alongside the leading white Burgundies in collectors’ cellars. This equates to £55 a bottle for one of the best white wines in the world in arguably their greatest ever vintage! We also have the 2009 available for £740 a case.
Robert Parker 95 points, March 2013
A stunning wine with hints of pineapple, caramelized citrus, mandarin oranges, smoky figs and hazelnuts, this is a full-bodied, rich, superb white Graves from the Cathiard family. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2035
Another phenomenal wine from the Cathiards, this rich 2010 exhibits lemon custard, melon, tropical fruit and a touch of smoky oak. It should last 20+ years.
James Suckling, 97 Points, February 2013
Wonderfully complex nose in this white with ripe lemon, green papaya, lime peel and lots of ripe yellow peach. Full and focused, it offers a beautiful ripe acidity and silky texture on the palate. Long and precise finish with lots of flowers and mineral. What a wonderful white wine! Drink or hold.