Home > History of Wine > Samples and specimens at Chateau Lafite

Samples and specimens at Chateau Lafite

Chateau-Lafitte a Pauillac [4]

Chateau-Lafitte a Pauillac [4]

It appears that Mabel Hubbard Bell’s descriptions of the three main cellars at Chateau Lafite are more detailed than most, though she does not specifically answer what the “sample bottles” contained.[0]  Unfortunately, descriptions of Baron Rothschild’s private cellars appear to be rare.  Francis Beatty Thurber described the private cellars as containing “collected vintages of every year from 1810 to the present time, nearly all of which were in bottle.”[1]  These bottles included “specimens of the products of the Lafite vineyards” as well “other well known vineyards for comparison”.  These bottles were “systematically arranged, according to the various dates of production.”  Another visitor described the “private cave of the Rothschilds” as containing “80,000 bottles of the finest wines, not only of Medoc, but of Spain, Germany, and Italy.”[2]  A separate observation from the same period of “those wonderful cellars” describes “thousands of dozens of priceless bottle wine” from “every great growth and vintage of the present century.”[3]

We know from other accounts that the bulk of the vintage was sent off of the estate to merchants.  It appears then that “sample” or “specimen” bottles of Chateau Lafite were kept from part of the vintage.  These bottles were stored in the private cellars and represented vintages back to the beginning of the 19th century.  Whether these were bottled at the chateau and the quantity bottled are not yet known.  It would be interesting to determine if chateau-bottling, in part, stemmed from the practice of retaining samples.  If anyone has further descriptions of the private cellars please let me know!

[0] “[E]ach grape was [c]ut off with scissors!” The early bottled vintages of Chateau Lafite. Hogshead wine. URL: https://hogsheadwine.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/each-grape-was-cut-off-with-scissors-the-early-bottled-vintages-of-chateau-lafite/
[1] Thurber, Francis Beatty. Coffee, from Plantation to Cup. 1881. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=AIIPAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Wheeler, Jewit Edward. Current Opinion, Volume 3. 1889. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=lgI8AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Chapman and Hall. The Fortnightly Review, Volume 53. 1890. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZRo_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] Danflou, Alred. Les Grands Crus Bordelais. Premiere Part. 1867. Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique. URL: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b86256511

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