The five Bordeaux First Growths: Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux and Haut Brion represent the pinnacle of winemaking on the Left Bank of Bordeaux. Blue-blooded, aristocratic and immense wines, they are what most people imagine when they think about fine wine and where most collections start.
But what is it that makes them so special and why are they so revered? We’ve put together a brief profile of each that gives a potted history of each, along with an outline of the style and substance of each of these great estate.
Chateau Latour – Pure, Towering and Immense Pauillac:
Pauillac’s Chateau Latour is the most brooding, powerful and intense of the five First Growths. Latour sits on one of the worlds great terroirs and the soils, which stretch down to the Gironde and are a combination of gravel over clay result in monumental wines that are frequently among the finest made in any given vintage.
Latour is notable for its incredible consistency. Its incredible terroir and peerless attention to details mean that Latour can be relied upon to be excellent almost regardless of vintage. Even in the more challenging years, Latour is never less than exceptional.
Unlike its fellow First Growths, and almost every other Chateau in Bordeaux, Latour does not release its wines en primeur. Instead, it keeps stocks back and ages at the Chateau, releasing vintages only when deemed to be closing in on the lower end of their drinking windows.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild – The Epitome Of Elegance:
Perhaps the most famous name in fine wine, Lafite stands for all that is exclusive, luxurious and, for want of a better word, ‘fine’.
Lafite is all about elegance, poise and sophistication. It is often the most reserved of the First Growths but has a quiet confidence and immense quality that make it all the more alluring. This is Bordeaux at its most complex, layered and nuanced.
The quality here comes from the deep, deep gravel on which the vines sit. This soil gives the signature elegance to the wine and an effortless quality in the way it delivers its jaw-dropping quality.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Opulent, Luxurious and Glamorous:
The third of the Pauillac First Growths, Mouton is the newest addition to the First Growth club having been promoted in 1973 to the top tier.
Mouton sits on a beautiful terroir that is 98% gravel and perfect for growing the Cabernet Sauvignon that makes up the vast proportion of the final blend.
Mouton is the most opulent and flamboyant of the First Growths and renowned for rich cassis, cigar and cedar on the nose and a luxurious mouthfeel. Whereas rivals can sometimes be backward and shy, especially in youth, Mouton tends to be open, inviting and impressive whenever it is opened.
Interestingly the Chateau commissions a world-famous artist to design the label each year.
Chateau Margaux – The Musigny of Bordeaux:
Margaux as an appellation of famed for wines with enthralling aromatics. Chateau Margaux is the benchmark and can be utterly intoxicating. As Jane Anson once wrote, “this is the Bordeaux that is often compared to the Musigny Grand Cru.”
The soils here are lime and clay under a very fine gravel. It is this combination that gives the soaring aromatic intensity for which the wine is so revered.
Chateau Haut Brion – A Connoisseur’s Choice:
On the outskirts of Bordeaux itself, Pessac’s Chateau Haut Brion has a track record of excellence matched by very few wines from anywhere in the world. 100-point scores from multiple critics are seemingly routine and vintages such as the legendary 1989, among the finest wines ever made.
To called Haut Brion historic couldn’t be more of an understatement. Wines from here were served to King Charles II on his restoration to the English Crown in 1660 for example.
The quality that made it famous then continues now and Haut Brion is a reference point estate for what can be achieved in any given vintage. As it’s close to the city, it benefits from a little extra warmth than many other producers and combines an aromatic complexity that can rival Margaux, with a balance, depth and complexity like that of Lafite.
Haut Brion is often thought of as a real connoisseur’s choice when it comes to the First Growths and its very easy to see why. It’s a wine that should form an important part of any Bordeaux collection.
If you enjoyed our profile of the Bordeaux First Growths, you can view more of our journal content, here.
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