Sunday, September 24, 2023

King Charles III and Queen Camilla Visit Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé, Appellation Pessac-Léognan - as does Ombiasy WineTours by Annette Schiller, Most Recently in 2022

Pictures: Agence France Press, Le Monde, Washington Post, New York Times

After politics in Paris, King Charles III concluded his three-day state visit to France with a trip down south to Bordeaux on Friday to focus on a more personal passion: the environment. As part of his trip to Bordeaux, King Charles III and Queen Camilla about 2 hours at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, where the harvest is currently underway.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte is an estate that Annette Schiller likes to visit on her Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours. Most recently, we visited Château Smith Haut Lafitte on Bordeaux 2022 by ombiasy WineTours. See: Winery Tour and Tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé Appellation Pessac-Léognan - Bordeaux Tour 2022 by ombiasy WineTours, France

Decanter: Florence Cathiard, co-owner of Château Smith Haut Lafitte and president of the wine tourism board, told ‘It is a huge honour to be selected for the visit, and it will be a great pleasure.

‘I have always been a fan of King Charles, ever since I met him at his last polo match at Ash Farm 20 years ago. We talked together, and he knew my wine.

‘We talked about organic wine and biodiversity. I am sure he does not remember me, as he meets so many people, but he was a real inspiration to me. He was really ahead of his time with organic farming and biodiversity.

‘At the time, not many producers were doing organic farming. We did not have anyone to guide us, but we took inspiration from him, and he gave me the confidence to pursue it.’

Winery Tour and Tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé Appellation Pessac-Léognan - Bordeaux Tour 2022 by ombiasy WineTours, France

Visit and Tasting: Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2017), France 
Picture: Visit and Tasting: Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Florence and Daniel Cathiard

The noble Bosq family started growing grapes here as early as 1365. The property was purchased in the 18th century by Scotsman George Smith, who gave the estate its present name. He also built the manor house and exported his – by now famous – wine to England on his own ships. Current owners are Florence and Daniel Cathiard.

Both Florence and Daniel were professional skiers belonging to the French Olympic ski team in the mid-1960s (with triple gold medal legend at the 1968 Winter Olympics Jean-Claude Killy). After their career in sports, Daniel built a supermarket and sporting goods store imperium and Florence an advertising agency. In 1990 they bought Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte with the wealth generated by the sale of all their assets. They brought the quality of Smith-Haut-Lafitte wines to the level for which they were once renowned.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Château Smith Haut Lafitte is a Bordeaux producer from the Pessac-Léognan appellation, ranked among the Grands Crus Classé for red wine in the Classification of Graves wine of 1953 and 1959. The winery and vineyards are located south of the city of Bordeaux, in the commune of Martillac.

The estate originates in the 14th century with the house of Verrier Du Boscq who planted vines on a gravelly plateau named Lafitte already in 1365. In 1720 it was bought by the Scotsman Georges Smith who added his name to the lieu-dit and who built the manor house of the property.

The Louis Eschenauer Company bought the estate in 1958, after having already distributed the wine from the early 20th century. In 1990, Florence and Daniel Cathiard bought Smith Haut Lafitte and embarked on a major renovation and investment program.

The vineyard area consists of 67 hectares, 56 hectares of which are planted with red grape varieties (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc). The remaining 11 hectares are cultivated with white varieties (90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sémillon and 5% Sauvignon Gris). The vineyards are located on a gravel ridge to the east of Château Haut-Bailly.

The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats and the wine is then matured in oak barrels (50% new) for 15-18 months. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The Grand vin, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, is annually produced in 10,000 cases of the red wine and 2,500 cases of the dry white. The second wine, Les Hauts de Smith, has a production of 5,500 cases, and exists in red, white and rosé versions. The rosé is produced as a Bordeaux AOC.

Château Smith-Haut-Lafite has been transformed during the last decade from being a perennial underachiever to being one of the leading estates in the Graves region. Before the arrival of the Cathiard Family, Château Smith Haut Lafitte - though a Classified Growth of the Graves region - bore the nickname of Sleeping Beauty.

Daniel and Florence Cathiard invested heavily, restored buildings, replaced vats, constructed a new barrel cellar, converted vineyard practices to sustainable farming and paid detailed attention to hand picking, sorting, and practices in the cellar. The proportion of new oak barrels used in the maturation process was increased and a trio of eminent oenologists (including Michel Rolland) was hired as consultants.

Having raised the wine of Smith to the highest level of quality, Daniel and Florence Cathiard were not happy to leave it at that: they also restored the 16th-century tower, renovated the 18th-century chartreuse, refurbished two underground cellars and started up a cooperage on the premises.

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