Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of the most important Pessac-Léognan wineries and an excellent ambassador for the character of the wines emanating from this southern Bordeaux appellation. Held in high regard due to the exceptional nature of its terroir and the elegance and profundity of its wines, Smith Haut Lafitte also has the virtue of marketing its products at relatively moderate prices.
The estate looks back on a long history and owes part of its name to a Scottish negociant, Georges Smith, who was responsible for its wines starting to encounter renown and for the fame they found on the British market in the 18th Century. Acquired in 1990 by Daniel and Florence Cathiard, the 2015 harvest celebrated 650 years since the estate was first established and the 25th vintage produced by the current owners.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte is also a charming estate and a winery boasting many singular features: the surface area of its vineyards figures among the most extensive in Bordeaux at 78 hectares (67 dedicated to red and 11 to white varieties); it has its own cooperage (together with Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Margaux, they are the only three in the region); and the winery is situated in a collection of buildings of great architectural beauty, impressing everyone who visits, and with construction spanning different epochs, mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Complementing them in recent years has been the addition of a luxury hotel and spa, very tastefully designed and in keeping with the local style, managed by the Cathiards' daughters. The fact that Daniel and Florence Cathiard live at the property is not surprising since this family and the whole team make every effort to ensure the estate maintains its excellent standards.
The fine reputation of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards is due to their altitude (lafitte in old French means 'hill', 'elevated ground') and gravelly soils, with pebbles deposited by the River Garonne millions of years ago, resulting in the unmistakable smoky character, the flintiness, of this house's wines. The soils are poor, with stones covering the surface that retain the heat, and also deep, providing very good drainage and extremely rich in geological terms, as is shown by the large number of fossils found in the sub-soil; these soils constitute an ideal home for the Cabernet Sauvignon vines, the primary variety in the red wines, enabling them to come to fruition and express themselves in all their splendour. Arising from this mineral richness is the magnificence of the estate's two great wines, red and white: refined by the silica, with the powerfulness imparted to them by the soil’s limestone composition, and unctuous and fresh, thanks to the presence of clay.
At Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, they are meticulous and exacting in their work and in all procedures, considering themselves indebted to Nature. This respect and admiration goes far beyond organic cultivation and promoting biodiversity. At Smith Haut Lafitte they amalgamate tradition and the most advanced technology: from working the fields with horses to utilising satellites for determining the grape ripening process, using organic fertiliser and recycling carbon dioxide for turning into bicarbonate of soda. Work in the winery is no less rigorous: a reception table with a visual selection of the grapes that has been going since 2008, opens the doors to a spectacular winery, where the wine-making room is equipped with large truncated cone-shaped wooden vats, and the cellar, which is set underground and one of the region's most impressive, has the capacity to accommodate over 1,000 barrels for ageing the wine.
All in the interests of protecting the eco-system and preserving the highly-regarded vineyards, and for maintaining year after year the excellence of wines which for many years, centuries even, have enjoyed an excellent reputation.