2017 Cru Classé Pessac-Léognan


The 2017 Smith Haut Lafitte was not affected by frost and is therefore a classic blend matured in 60% new oak. The bouquet demands a little encouragement from the glass this year, eventually opening with floral scents, more iris than violet, flanked by blackberry and bilberry. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin that comes across just a little chalky in style. This feels very cohesive and comes replete with a detailed and nuanced finish that might lack the flair and volume of the 2016, but it is certainly sustained and persistent. Give this four to five years in bottle and subject to optimal barrel maturation this may well land at the top of my banded score. Drinking range: 2022 - 2045 Rating: 93-95 Neal Martin, 2018)

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There was less than 15% of frost loss here. A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2017 Les Hauts de Smith is deep garnet-purple in color with expressive crème de cassis, plum preserves and blueberry pie scents plus touches of spice box, dusty earth and unsmoked cigars. Medium-bodied and giving up a lot of vibrant red and black fruits in the mouth, it has a soft, rounded-tannins backbone and refreshing lift to the finish. Rating: 89-91 Lisa Perrotti-Brown, 2018)

This sits a long way above the second wines this year, and here they are very close to recent successes, with excellent juice running right through the cassis, bilberry, liquorice, dark chocolate and charcoal notes. It's an extremely classical, sculpted vintage with a lovely grilled edge that gives a gourmet, confident feel. It has a velvety texture and finely-placed, flexible tannins that are clearly going to age well. This is a real success, and a testament to their attention to detail - for example, they had 105 pickers in 2016 but 160 pickers in 2017, because with the September rain they wanted to go more quickly. Half of the vineyard is now farmed biodynamically, with full conversion expected for 2020. 60% new oak. 1% Petit Verdot completes the blend given. Drinking range: 2025 - 2040 Rating: 94 Jane Anson, Decanter(Apr 2018)

The 2017 Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte checks in as 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, fermented in oak tanks and aging in 60% new French barrels. It has a fresher, more lively style than normal but shows a beautiful purity and clarity in its crème de cassis, graphite, spring flower, and gravelly mineral-like aromas and flavors. Its acidity is nicely integrated, it has fine, ripe tannin, and a balanced style that’s going to evolve nicely. It’s certainly a terrific wine from winemaker and director Fabien Teitgen. Rating: 93-95 Jeb Dunnuck, 2018)

Smells sweet-fruited and sweetly oaky. Lovely fruit flavour on the palate – dark-red fruit – could perhaps do with just a little more fruit stuffing in the middle but this may just need a bit longer in barrel. Finishes fresh and the tannins are dry and refined. A sleeping beauty perhaps? Drinking range: 2024 - 2037 Rating: 17 Julia Harding MW, 2018)

This is a solid Smith for the vintage with blackberry and blackcurrant character. Full to medium body, firm and silky tannins and a lingering finish. Excellent potential here. Rating: 95-96 James Suckling, 2018)

This has a good core of dark plum and blackberry fruit, with a twinge of licorice snap mixed in. A hint of bramble on the finish, with the vintage’s refined, fresh acidity as well. Rating: 91-94 James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator(Apr 2018)

In this vintage we have a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, a classic blend for the property, with no problem with frost on most of vineyard. The fruit was picked between September 11th and the 29th. The yield was 36 hl/ha. Of the entire harvest, 40% went into the grand vin. The fermentation here included some whole-bunch Merlot, using only bunches with ripe red stems, layered in the vat with destemmed fruit (from bunches with greener stems). It has a quite compelling nose, with blackcurrant fruit, damson too, wrapped up in tobacco and toasted oak scents, clearly very pure and concentrated. This is fresh and hugely convincing on the palate, broad, with a wonderful textural confidence, a creamed fruit concentration, brimming with black cherry, black olive and damson fruit, underpinned by beautifully ripe and polished tannins, lending it a silky composition. It has an impressive construction, pure, silky and very long, and emboldened with ripe tannins. This has huge potential, focused and yet clearly generous too. Overall, very impressive. Rating: 95-97 Chris Kissack, 2018)

Owned by the Cathiard family since 1990, Smith Haut Lafitte has a history that extends back to 1365. Originally owned by the Bosq Family, it was bought by Scotsman George Smith in the eighteenth century, and he gave it his name. He also built the manor house, and shipped the wine back to England.

In 1842, it passed, from his mother, to a M. Duffour-Dubergier, who was mayor of Bordeaux. His work raised the quality level and it was classified Grand Cru in the 1855 classification. The 20th century was mostly about Louis Eschenauer and his company, which distibuted the wines and eventually bought the property in 1958, investing over the time and building the barrel cellar.

The Cathiards fell in love with Smith in 1990, and have lavished care and considerable investment on it since then. Daniel Cathiard was a former ski champion, a member of the famous French Olympic team that included Jean-Claude Killy, and it was at that time that he met his wife Florence. Both have impressive track records of running businesses. Daniel built up the small chain of supermarkets that he inherited, and added a chain of sports shops, the group employing nine thousand people. Florence worked with him and also ran her own advertising company, ending up in a senior position in the McCann group. In 1990 they sold all their business interests to concentrate on Smith, where they have lived since. One of their daughters runs the Caudalie beauty products company (products based on the polyphenols extracted from grape pips), and the other two boutique hotels, including the 'Sources de Caudalie', next to Smith.

The Cathiards have since bought Château Cantelys in Martillac, and also, in 2012, part of the vineyard of Château Le Thil, as well as the house and the park. More recently they have been involved in the consortium which bought Château Bearegard (Pomerol) and Château Bastor Lamontagne (Sauternes).