Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, 2022 Update

The recent history of Bordeaux is rich in turn-around stories. As I first became interested in the wines of this region, in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s, the underperforming châteaux were legion. They were everywhere you looked. Names now regarded as high quality exemplars of their respective appellations, including the likes of Château Pichon-Baron, Château Pontet-Canet, Château Léoville-Poyferré and even Château Margaux had all come through periods when the wines offered less than they should have.

Without a doubt Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte was one such name and it is the current proprietors, Daniel and Florence Cathiard, accompanied by their technical director Fabien Teitgen, who are responsible for this property’s remarkable transformation.

On a bitterly cold December day last year (I had spent a long time scraping ice from the windscreen of my hire car that morning), beneath an impossibly clear and blue sky, I called in at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte to taste the most recent vintages. Sitting in the tasting room, beneath the château’s distinctive tower (pictured below), I watched Fabien busy himself pulling corks, and I asked Daniel Cathiard about his decision to purchase the estate. “We bought this property thirty-two years ago now”, he told me, “and it was the best idea I ever had. It has been, and still is, a real pleasure. I find if you work hard to improve quality, the vineyard always gives something back to you. I still feel this way now, which is why I still believe we can make even better wine in the future”.

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte

That the quality of the wines made here has improved is to my mind undeniable. It was once, at a time when my interest in wine was just blossoming, easy to pass on a bottle or a glass of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte in favour of something more interesting or exciting. This is no longer the case. Today this is certainly one of the top domaines in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, and many would surely rank it among the top estates in all Bordeaux. So the promise of even better wine in the future does sound enticing.

I was interested in hearing when Daniel Cathiard and his team thought they first saw signs of success, and as I was still watching the corks being pulled I posed another question. This time it was technical director Fabien Teitgen who answered.

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