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Lafleur: The Importance
In the small commune of Pomerol, Château Lafleur stands out for the extraordinary quality of the wine it produces, in such small quantities that its desirability has never been higher. A wine that invokes emotion, Lafleur has been endlessly praised by critics and wine lovers all over the world, with Robert Parker calling it one of his “all-time favorite Bordeaux wines.”
A consistently high-scoring wine, Château Lafleur is incredibly collectible and a collection of several vintages will offer incredible consistency, with no vintage being rated lower than 90 points by Robert Parker and Neal Martin in close to 15 years. The 100 point rated 2005 vintage was described by Robert Parker as a wine that “puts on a display of fireworks”, and speaking of the 2009 and 2010 vintages Stephen Tanzer wrote that “As amazing as the 2009 and 2010 Pétrus are, I think these two vintages from Lafleur are the best pair of clarets made by anyone in 2009 and 2010.”
The rarity of this wine is clear, with only 1,000 cases produced from 4.5 hectares of vines every year, and tiny En Primeur allocations selling out extremely quickly. Lots of Lafleur at a Christie’s auction in 2007 went for 22% above their upper estimates, and in November 2016, magnums of Lafleur reached the highest price of all the lots at a wine auction in Bordeaux. It is hard to define quite what makes Lafleur so special. Pétrus and Le Pin get more press, but Lafleur sits quietly in the background as one of the world's most cerebral wines.
Lafleur: The Insight
Located opposite Château Pétrus, it is important to note that the geographical proximity of these two estates in no way leads to similar final products. Whereas the vineyards at Pétrus are planted with 95% Merlot, the proportion of Merlot at Lafleur is 50% with the other 50% being dedicated to Cabernet Franc, one of the highest proportions of Cabernet Franc planted in any estate in Pomerol. The significant role that this grape variety plays in the final blend brings aromatic intensity and depth and helps to place Lafleur firmly apart from the other wines in the region, and even in the whole of Bordeaux. Parker writes that “Lafleur is a tiny treasure of a vineyard that…year in year out is right at the same level as Pétrus, in some years even eclipsing Pétrus.”
The amount of work that goes into each bottle of Lafleur is painstaking, with plots individually harvested by hand based on ripeness, and selection taking place even amongst bunches. The vines produce painfully low-yields, favouring depth of flavour and intensity over the quantity of grapes harvested, making it clear that the team at Château Lafleur stay very faithful to their motto: “Quality over Quantity.”
The wines of this estate are deep and perfumed, with layers of earth and floral notes, and complexity arises from the mixed terroirs the vines are planted on. Parker writes that “the wines are noteworthy because of the extraordinary density of fragrance and flavour” and that they are "one of the most distinctive, most exotic, and greatest wines – not only in Pomerol, but in the world." They are long-lived, and can often be enjoyed for several decades, often not opening up to show their true potential for several years after release.
The estate also produces another wine, Les Pensées de Lafleur. Created in 1987, this wine receives the same care as the Grand Vin and the vines used in this wine are not, as most second wines of Bordeaux estates, the product of younger vines, but the product of a very particular parcel of land. Although often characterised as a second wine, the intention of the estate was not to create a second wine but to create a wine which expressed the classic Pomerol terroir and blend in contrast to the Grand Vin which stands apart, for one reason, thanks to the unique and varied terroir that the vines are planted on. The wine is packed with fruit and shows great smoothness and length.
Lafleur’s owners, the Guinaudeau family, also own Château Grand Village in Fronsac as well as the “G” Guinaudeau series of wines which produces the G Acte wines and a white wine called Les Champs Libres, which have all received significant praise from critics such as James Suckling and Jancis Robinson, and are always popular during En Primeur campaigns.
Lafleur: The Background
Château Lafleur has been owned by a single family since 1872, when the great-great-grandfather of the current proprietor bought the estate, and the husband and wife team of Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau are now aided by their son Baptiste, showing how this estate has been and continues to be, very much a family affair.
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