Friday, May 18, 2012
Tasting the Wines of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe, 4ème Cru Classé en 1855, with Owner Basile Tesseron at the French Embassy in Washington DC, USA/France
Guy Tesseron’s grandson Basile Tesseron, who has taken command at Chateau Lafon-Rochet, came to the French Embassy in Washington DC to present 5 different vintages of his Grand Vin spanning from 1975 to 2011 and – and this came as a big surprise - a 2011 Chateau Lafon-Rochet Rose. This evening was part of a series of monthly wine events at the French Embassy in Washington DC, organized by wine journalist Claire Morin-Gibourg, with her husband and wine teacher Vincent Morin.
Château Lafon-Rochet is a Quatrièmes Grands Crus Crus en 1855 in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Medoc. It is one of the 5 classified properties in the appellation of Saint Estèphe. Its grounds are separated from those of Château Lafite to the north by the width of the road and from Cos d'Estournel by a dirt path.
Pictures: Bordeaux Wine Region Map
The history of Chateau Lafon-Rochet starts in the 16th century, when a portion known as Rochet because of its rocky terrain eventually passed by marriage to Etienne de Lafon who established Lafon-Rochet. The estate then passed down through the Lafon generations for almost 300 years.
When Guy Tesseron became the owner in 1959, it needed a serious restoration and Guy Tesseron did restore it to its former glory. Guy Tesseron was from a Chanterais family, specializing in the Cognac production.
Guy first put the vineyards back in order, and then turned his attention to the vinification buildings and the Château itself, which were all in a dilapidated state. He decided to build an entirely new chai, and a new château, in the style of the 18th century. Also, some 25 hectares were added to the vineyard.
In 1975, Guy Tesseron also acquired 5th growth Chateau Pontet-Canet from the Cruse family, following the Bordeaux scandal of the early 1970s. Both châteaux subsequently passed to the next generation with Lafon-Rochet coming to Michel Tesseron. Currently the property is in the good hands of Guy’s grandson, Basile Tesseron.
Lafon-Rochet's vineyards covers 45 hectares and are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon 54%, Merlot Noir 40%, Cabernet Franc 4%, Petit Verdot 2%. Interestingly, prior to the Tesseron purchase, the vineyards planted were substantially less (about 15 hectares) and entirely Merlot.
The grand vin is Château Lafon-Rochet, (typically 11000 cases per annum), the second wine, once known as Numéro 2 de Lafon-Rochet now goes under the name of Pélerins de Lafon-Rochet and is produced in similar quantities.
To match the 40 different vineyard parcels, the estate has 40 stainless steel, temperature controlled vats. Malolactic fermetation takes place in 1/3 new oak barrels. The remainder is done in vat. The wine is kept in 100% new oak barrels for 9 months before it is moved to one year old barrels where it remains for an additional 9 months. The final blending takes place 3 months before bottling. A fining with egg whites takes place before bottling to clarify the wine.
Today, Basile Tesseron is steering Lafon-Rochet towards biodynamic viticulture, following the example of his uncle at Pontet-Canet. But Lafon-Rochet has not yet been certified. "For us, the vine is king" Basile said.
The Wines we Tasted
Lafon Rochet Rose 2011 (Magnum)
Basile: “This is now our third vintage. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 1.000 cases. “
An unusual wine, a bit orange in the glass, hints of raspberry and strawberry on the nose, good acidity, fresh palate, full mouth feel, finishing with stone flavors.
Lafon Rochet 2011
Deep in color in the glass, notes of coffee, smoke and black cherry on the nose, good structure, ripe tannins, sweet, black cherry notes on the palate, round finish.
Lafon Rochet 2005 (Magnum)
Plum, cherry, black fruits on the nose, very powerful, very tannic, still young.
Basile: “Saint Estephe is always about elegance, but this is a very powerful wine.”
Lafon Rochet 2000
Dark purple in the glass, beginning to show mushroom and cedar notes on the nose, plums and black fruits on the palate, still a bit harsh, drinkable now but not yet at its peak, at least 5 more years to go.
Lafon Rochet 1995
Dark red in the glass, red fruit and floral nose with some leather and scorched earth lead, very nice maturity with still some freshness and fruit, very round, at the peak probably.
Lafon Rochet 1975 (Magnum)
Well past its peak, the wine lost its fruit, kind of fell apart, Basil: “When you drink a wine older than 30 years, you are not tasting the wine, but you are tasting its history, my father used to say”.
Journalist for 15 years, Claire has worked for some of the most prestigious press outlets specializing in wine: "Le Revue du Vin de France," "Gault and Millau," "Cuisine Gourmande" and other titles focusing on this particular area. Author of the book "Comment bien acheter son vin?" (How to Properly Choose and Buy Your Wine?) with French critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve. For 5 years, she held the position of director at the tasting school of Grains Nobles in Paris. Established in Washington, DC since 2009, she continues to share her passion for wine.
schiller-wine: Related Postings
Château Figeac, Saint-Émilion - A Profile, France
A Glass of Bordeaux – What Else? – With Wine Journalist Panos Kakaviatos
The Wines from Entre Deux Mers Winemaker Joel Duffau
Emerging Wine Country: China's Wine Boom Since 2000
Bordeaux Wines and their Classifications: The Basics
In the Wine Capital of the World: the City of Bordeaux, France
Vin Bio de Bordeaux - At Château Beauséjour in AOC Puisseguin-St.Emilion, France
Malbec World Day 2012 - Malbec in Bordeaux, France
Henri Lurton and his Chateau Brane Cantenac Wines
The Emerging Wine Giant China - Mouton Cadet Bar Opening
The Label of 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild designed by Bernar Venet
(German) Winemakers in the World: The German Roots of Baron Philippe de Rothschild
Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France
The 5 Premiers Grands Crus Chateaux en 1855 of Bordeaux, France