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Origins and the Ségur family
While the first known reference to Lafite dates to 1234 with a certain Gombaud de Lafite, abbot of the Vertheuil Monastery north of Pauillac, Lafite’s mention as a medieval fief dates to the 14th century. The name Lafite comes from the Gascon language term “la hite”, which means “hillock”. There were probably already vineyards on the property at the time when the Ségur family organised the vineyard in the 17th century, and Lafite began to earn its reputation as a great winemaking estate. Jacques de Ségur was credited with the planting of the Lafite vineyard in the 1670s and in the early 1680s. In 1695, Jacques de Ségur’s heir, Alexandre, married the heiress of Château Latour, who gave birth to Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur. The wine histories of the fiefs of Lafite and Latour were thus joined at the outset.
The vineyard consists of three main areas: the hillsides around the Château, the adjacent Carruades plateau to the west, and 4.5 hectares in neighbouring Saint Estèphe. The vineyard covers 112 hectares and is well-drained and well-exposed, with soil made up of fine deep gravel, mixed with aeolian sand on a subsoil of tertiary limestone. It is well-drained and well-exposed to the sun. The grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (2%). The average age of the grapevines is 39 years old. But it should be noted that vines younger than 10 years old are not used in the Grand Vin. This means that the average age of the vines used in the Grand Vin (Château Lafite Rothschild) is closer to 45 years. The oldest plot, called “La Gravière , was planted in 1886.
Château Lafite’s circular cellar room was constructed under the supervision of the architect Ricardo Bofill and inaugurated in 1987. Intended for the ageing of wines in their second year, it is characterized by its unusual octagonal shape and an arch supported by 16 columns. It can accommodate up to 2,200 barrels.
In 2010, Lafite further refined its vinification procedures with the construction of two vat rooms consisting of several dozen smaller-sized vats. Merlot vat room in order to make wine with an extra level of care from all the various plots of Merlot. A divisional vat room dedicated to malolactic fermentation in order to continue plot selection all the way through the vinification process for any batches of Cabernet or Merlot that require it.