With the 2018 vintage of Anseillan, Château Lafite Rothschild has introduced its first new wine since the creation of Carruades de Lafite in the late 19th century. A blend of 48 percent Merlot, 39 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 13 percent Petit Verdot, this first release of Anseillan du Château Lafite Rothschild is the result of a project that began in 2014. Named for a 16th century hamlet that has been part of the Lafite estate since it was fully assembled by Baron Elie de Rothschild in 1970, Anseillan has a suggested retail price of $99.
“The initiation of the project dates back to 2014, during a blending session for the Lafite team. It started out slowly, at first making just a few hundred magnums every year,” Saskia de Rothschild, DBR Lafite’s executive chairwoman explained. “We waited to see how those bottles evolved. In 2021, we tasted all the trials we had produced for every past vintage and found there was something there. That’s when the team decided to release this wine with the vintage 2018.” By no small coincidence, the Rothschild family also celebrated the 150th anniversary of their acquisition of Château Lafite in 2018.
The Anseillan vineyards surround the hamlet, which can be viewed from the windows of the Lafite Rothschild chateau, which is illustrated on the stripped-down two-tone label. The stone house, typical of the region, sits at the top of a gravel outcrop close to forests, marshlands and fields of grazing cows. The vineyards are currently being overhauled and will be used to test new growing techniques that will continue to enhance their biodiversity. Since taking on the role of executive chairwoman in 2018, one of Saskia de Rothschild’s main initiatives has been to eventually convert all the domain’s vineyards to organic and biodynamic.
“The Anseillan vineyard is an incredible playground in terms of terroir as there are three different soils, gravelly, clay and clay-limestone,” said Louis Caillard, Lafite’s director of viticulture. “Today, we are responsible for restructuring it for the fifty or hundred years to come.” After harvest, grapes from the various plots are vinified separately in concrete, wood and stainless-steel tanks, aged in barrels made by the domain’s own tonnellerie and then blended before release.
Anseillan 2018 has an intense violet color and aromas of black cherry, blackberry and baking spices. It is full in the mouth, with flavors of purple fig, cassis, dark chocolate, clove and a touch of smoke that permeates the lengthy finish. It is drinking well right now, but rigorous tannins will mellow with another year or two of bottle aging. The perfect drinking window is from now through 2028.
Saskia de Rothschild says that the team’s objective for this well-priced wine is that it will be “. . . shared at restaurant tables around the world that have sometimes forgotten how good it is to open a bottle of Bordeaux.” While the current retail price of $1,500 for a Château Lafite Rothschild 2018 keeps it out of the reach of many restaurant patrons, Anseillan’s accessibility levels the playing field for those who want to enjoy a bottle of Lafite’s finest outside of their own home.