Beautiful Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte is far more than simply a top-flight wine estate in Bordeaux. It’s a symbol of how passion and investment can transform a once-obscure property into a beacon of superlative winemaking and high-end wine tourism. For Smith-Haut-Lafitte is now one of the most exciting wines around; renowned for its weight, elegance, balance and above all, finesse. Unlike their compatriots further north in Médoc, white production is of equal importance to the growers in the Pessac-Leognan region south of Bordeaux town, and Smith-Haut-Lafitte’s white is accepted as one of the finest around. But as if excellent winemaking wasn’t enough, the estate also functions as a center of luxury tourism and gastronomy, boasting a Michelin-starred restaurant which attracts foodies from miles around on delicious food & wine pilgrimage through this historic and very scenic region.
Vines were first planted south of Bordeaux by the Romans; indeed, wine has been made in Graves for far longer than in the Médoc. The property that we today know as Smith-Haut-Lafitte was named after Georges Smith, one of the first owners of this magnificent Château. After Smith died, the estate as is often the case in Bordeaux, found a succession of new owners, until in 1902 when it caught the eye of a major merchant house, called Eschenauer. At first, the firm was unwilling to completely buy the Château, so they instead leased Smith-Haut-Lafitte for decades, finally deciding to take the plunge and buy it in 1958. They took good care of the estate for many years, however, its reputation and the wines remained sound rather than lauded. Smith-Haut-Lafitte’s true Renaissance came in 1991 when it was brought by the Cathiard family; new owners Daniel and Florence were a dynamic duo of wealthy entrepreneurs and knew exactly how to elevate Smith-Haut-Lafitte to true greatness. An exciting chapter in the estate’s history would begin.
Since taking ownership of the property in the 1990s, the Cathiards have invested an unprecedented amount of money and time into reinvigorating the winemaking and installing a fine hotel and restaurant on the grounds as well. Their first priority, of course, was the winemaking and to that end, they renovated the winery and built a new barrel cellar. More recently the cellar was again completely renovated in 2014, and a new Stealth Cellar was constructed – a unique building in Bordeaux – aimed at reducing energy consumption. Green credentials indeed! The family also sought the expertise of legendary wine consultants Michel Rolland and Stephane Derenoncourt, who have helped to raise the standards to the very best of Bordeaux. However, this was only part of the Cathiard’s master plan. They set their sights on totally rebuilding the Château – which now functions as their main home- and wished to bring an exciting new level of tourism to the region, which traditionally ignored such endeavors. After finding a disused mineral spring on their property, Florence Cathiard decided to open the Sources de Caudalie Spa and luxury hotel, complete with two award-winning restaurants and a line of prestigious beauty products.
Today, it’s hard not to lavish high praise on this shining example of how outsiders can transform a once hum-drum Château. The hotel and restaurant spread the renown of the region, but more importantly, both the red and white wines are consistently superb, a testament to the expertise of technical director Fabien Tietgen. For all their richness and concentration, they remain very elegant, quintessentially refined and yes, unmistakably Graves.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte Red (Grand Vin)
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Fermentation takes place in small oak vats, using uncrushed berries. The wine is then aged in 60% new French oak for 18 months. The prestige wine of the property, suitable for extended cellaring.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte White
90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris, 5% Semillon Fermentation takes place in oak barrels. 50% new French oak, 50% 1 year old barrels. The wine is then aged in French oak for 12 months. The second wine of the property, accessible on release. Delicious white Bordeaux, approachable on release.
Les Hauts de Smith Red
55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermentation takes place in small oak vats, using uncrushed berries. The wine is then aged in 60% new French oak for 14 months. The softer, more approachable red Graves.
Les Hauts de Smith White
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation takes place in oak barrels, 50% in new French oak. The wine is then aged in French oak for 10 months.
Le Petit Haut Lafitte Red (Second Wine)
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot. Fermentation takes place in small oak vats, using uncrushed berries. The wine is then aged in French oak for 14 months. The second red wine of the property, suitable for earlier drinking.
Le Petit Haut Lafitte
80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon. Fermentation takes place in oak barrels, 50% in new French oak. The wine is then aged in French oak for 10 months. The second white wine of the property, accessible on release.
33650 Bordeaux Martillac
Tel (33) 0557 83 11 22
Fax (33) 0557 83 11 21
- AOC Pessac-Leognan
- Area under vine
- 78 hectares
- Age of vines
- 38 years+
- Oak barrel origin
- Yann Laudeho
- Cathiard family
- Approximately 18,500 cases
- Grape varietals
- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Semillon