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April 08, 2014

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2013

SHL

As is often the case in Bordeaux a difficult vintage for the red wines results in a good/great vintage for whites and sweet wines: this paradigm is particularly true of 2013. The wines from Sauternes are stunning, while the dry whites particularly those form the heralded gravel soils of Pessac Leognan and Graves are ripe, gracious and elegant; combining fragrance, balance with lovely precision, minerality and concentration of fruit: 2013 is a year to fill the cellar with white Bordeaux. In particular we were hugely impressed by white wines from Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clement.

It has long been our opinion that the white wines of Bordeaux are unique and undervalued relative to White Burgundy. They are 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.

Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clement are leading chateaux when it comes to their red wines, however, their whites compete with Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc, yet are released at a fraction of the price. We posit 2013 is one of the best white wine vintages for the last 20 years and there is nothing between the five Pessac Leognan powerhouses in terms of quality: La Mission Haut Brion and Haut Brion Blanc however, cost 10 times the price. James Suckling agrees, awarding stunning scores and stating ‘the whites I tasted from barrel in late March were phenomenal’:

James Suckling scores white wines from Pessac Leognan
Domaine de Chevalier – 97-98
Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte 95-96
La mission Haut-Brion – 95-96
Chateau Pape Clément 95-96
Haut Brion – 93-94

In 2013 we will be making very few strong endorsements but were so impressed by Domaine de Chevalier and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte that we recommend these wines profusely!  We are delighted to be able to offer a small parcel of Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc for £600, 12×75 and at £50 per bottle this 95-96 point scoring wine is one of the best possible purchases in 2013.

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 onsite 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, possess 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.

Smith Haut Lafitte 2013 is truly special: it is display a lovely bright medium lemon. The bouquet sings of ripe tropical fruits, papaya, mango, clementines, acacia, honey and apricot with a wonderful floral note of white blossom. The mouth feel is full and the finish envelopes into beautiful candied fruit balanced with wonderful vibrant acidity and steely minerality; wet stone. The wine has wonderful precision and structure and will improve in bottle for 15 years, yet last for 30+. The finish carries on and on delighting the senses and uplifting ones spirit. We did not hesitate to award the wine 95-96+, it promises much in the future.

James Suckling, 95-96 points
Why drink Silex from Dagueneau? This is really something exceptional with incredible density and power. Full-bodied, dry and mineral and lemon zest with fabulous length and beauty. This is definitely one to buy in 2013. 90% savuignon blanc, 5% sauvignon grid and 5% sémillon.

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