Lafite Rothschild 1998 after the stunning La Mission Haut Brion 2000?

by Eugene Bergen

I have had the lafite 1998 a few times before and actually decided to try it because of the dramatic effect the aeration had on the La Mission. Previous experiences with this Lafite have been very similar to the La Mission with the only difference the bottle didn’t last long enough to open up, and as a result it did not live up to the Lafite quality expectations.

Sorry to be a bit lengthy here but I thought it would be worth sharing the experience: when you have "caught on" to the Lafite uniqueness you can enjoy it even in very mediocre vintages. I was enjoying some, while the rest of the audience was wondering how I could enjoy such an “awful wine”. A great case in point was a recent bottle of Lafite 1970. Yes: It was sour, over the edge, and no fun alltogether. But what makes Lafite one of my very favorite wines is this two layers composition of on the one hand the typical Pauillac fruit richness, depth and complexity, while at the same time a unique additional dimension of freshness that I would label as the red version of minerality of a great white wine. It lifts the wine up and makes Lafite dance in a way very few wines can.

Now back to the Lafite 1998. Surprise, surprise; While I was prepared to taste one glass and then wait for another 12 hours, this one opened up instantly. A great display of spring like raspberries, blackberries, all blended in one smorgasbord of fruit, with the typical Lafite depth of masculine and leathery tones in the back. And then there is this feast of petite ballet dancers that swirl on your palette. It continues to surprise me that a wine can have this combination of masculinity and femininity all in one incredibly fulfilling tasting experience. This is as good as it gets. Sure, other vintages outdo on the different components but the magic is there and the wine is “in Opera”.

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