The estate is located in a single block on a gravelly rise; 55 of the 72 hectares are planted with vines. The soil, consisting of gravel dating from the Gunz (or Nebraskan glacial) period, has two unique features. The first is superb natural drainage which forces the vine roots to sink more than six metres into the soil to seek nourishment in the form of water and mineral salts. The second is the "mirror effect", of the topsoil, whose pebbles reflect the sun's rays, helping the grapes to ripen beautifully.
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. Monsieur Duffour-Dubergier, Mayor of Bordeaux and an enthusiastic winegrower, inherited Château Smith Haut Lafitte from his mother in 1842 and brought the wine up to great growth status. Impressed by Smith Haut Lafitte's excellent quality, the Louis Eschenauer company distributed the wine all over the world as of the early 20th century, deciding to buy the estate in 1958. Since the Eschenaueur period came to an end, a great deal of money has been invested in the estate, notably in the construction of a superb underground cellar holding over 2,000 barrels. In 1990, Daniel Cathiard fell in love with the property and joined the list of prestigious owners, firmly intending to further enhance Smith Haut Lafitte's tradition of excellence. He combined the most modern winemaking techniques and age-old traditional methods: organic compost, return to small wooden vats, ageing on the lees in barrel, etc. Famous around the world for its wonderfully elegant red wine and the sophisticated bouquet of its white, Smith Haut Lafitte undoubtedly deserves the special care that is lavished on it.
Annual production: 8,300 cases (red), 2,500 cases (white) - 5,500 cases of second wine: Les Hauts de Smith
Area under vine: 56 hectares (45 producing red wine and 11 white wine)
Geology: Gravelly soil from the Gunz (or Nebraskan glacial) period
Classification: Graves Classified Growth
Grape varieties: Red: 35% Merlot - 55% Cabernet Sauvignon - 10% Cabernet Franc White: 90% Sauvignon Blanc - 5% Sauvignon Gris - 5% Sémillon Average age of the vines: 30 years
Vine density: 7,500 to 10,000 vines per hectare
Time left on the skins (red wine): 24 to 32 days
Fermentation temperature: Red 30℃; white 20℃
Method of temperature control: Vats with integrated hot and cold temperature control
Type of vats: White: 13 small stainless steel vats Red: 18 oak casks 50 to 80% new barrels (on-site cooperage).
Master cooper: Jean-Luc Itey
Age of the barrels: Red: 80% new barrels; White: 50% new barrels
Duration of barrel ageing: Red: 18-20 months; white: 12 months
Owners: Daniel and Florence Cathiard
Technical director: Fabien Teitgen
Other properties: Château Cantelys Pessac-Léognan red and white
Daniel Cathiard is perhaps best known as a former ski champion – he was a member of the French Olympic team with Jean-Claude Killy from 1965 to 1968. After his father's death in 1970, Daniel found himself running the family's small supermarket chain. Within 20 years, he had transformed it into the tenth largest mass distribution company in France. At the same time, he launched and developed a chain of sporting goods shops - Go Sport - in France, Belgium, Spain, and California. His met his wife Florence while on the ski team in 1965. She worked with him managing Genty and Go Sport for ten years before launching her own advertising firm, later becoming Vice President of McCann Europe in 1985.
In 1990, Daniel and Florence sold all their business interests to buy Château Smith Haut Lafitte. After two years of massive renovations of both the winery buildings and the 18th century manor house, they moved into the château. They live there all year round in order to devote themselves to their life's work – making great red and white wines at Smith Haut Lafitte.
GRAND VIN DE GRAVES(PESSAC-LEOGNAN) 2004 WHITE LES HAUTS DE SMITH
The white grape harvest started very early this year, thanks to an excellent ripening season. The grapes were perfectly ripe with low acidity. Picking took place exclusively in the morning, before the grapes became too warm.
Grape varieties: 95 % Sauvignon Blanc
5 % Sauvignon Gris
*Yield: 36 hectolitres/hectare (total yield for 1st and 2nd wine)
Fermentation The must was cold-settled, then fermented in barrel (50% new oak). The wine was aged on the lees with stirring for ten months.
Picking started with white grapes on September 8th 2004 in a few of the ripest plots at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. The harvest continued until September 27th 2004, ensuring that even the latest-ripening plots were picked in peak condition. The first grapes to come into the cellars produced beautifully fresh wines with good acidity, nice length, and distinctive "Sauvignon" character, while the later-picked plots gave richer, more opulent wines.
The overall blend is a superbly well-balanced 2004 white "Les Hauts de Smith", with good freshness, lively mouthfeel, and concentrated flavour.
The aroma is initially reminiscent of citrus (grapefruit), then develops white and yellow fruit nuances (white peaches and apricots), with hints of fresh bread on the finish.
It is well-balanced on the palate, with fresh acidity, good body, and attractive roundness.
This refreshing, aromatic wine is best enjoyed at 5-6 years' old.
GRAND VIN DE GRAVES(PESSAC-LEOGNAN) 2004 LES HAUTS DE SMITH RED
* A blend of 2004 red Les Hauts de Smith was made after fermentation and ageing, eceiving exactly the same care and attention as lots going into Smith Haut Lafitte's grand vin. All winemaking procedures were identical.
● Yield: 39 hectolitres per hectare for all three red wines produced by the estate: Smith Haut Lafitte, Les Hauts de Smith and Les Hauts de Maujan
● Grape varieties: 55% Cabernet sauvignon 34% Merlot 10% Cabernet Franc 1% Petit verdot
● Fermented in wooden vats at 28-30℃
● Aged for 18 months in oak barrels (80% new). Malolactic fermentation in barrel followed by ageing on the lees with bâtonnage (stirring with a stick) and racking lot by lot.
The 2004 growing season:
After a cold, wet winter, bud burst took place excellently in late March/early April. We observed numerous flower clusters as soon as the growing season started – as many as three per shoot on the young vines (which is relatively uncommon, as there are rarely more than two).
This heralded a very large crop, and can be explained by three main reasons:
● 2 vintages in a row with low yields (2002 and 2003)
● Stress linked to weather conditions in 2003, which caused a reaction in the vines
● Very good floral initiation. This takes place during flowering the previous year. Seeing as weather during flowering in 2003 was very fine, floral initiation in 2004 was very good as well.
All this meant that there was a very large potential crop, which was confirmed by quick flowering and very few shot berries. Thanks to severe pruning and a certain amount of green harvesting in the young vines, we limited yields to a great extent for both red and white wines. The hot, dry weather in June and July were conducive to good flowering and fruit set.
The weather in August, September, and October (hot, but not to excess) produced the following characteristics:
● Slow ripening (excellent for producing aromatic grapes)
● Incomplete ripening in all but vines with a small number of grapes This explains why the grapes at Smith Haut Lafitte were so good, combining:
● Technological maturity
● Phenolic maturity
● Aromatic freshness