Posted on | September 24, 2014
Written by | W.R. Tish
Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) unveils two new reds.
Some brands roll out line extensions faster than you can say “Moscato.” Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) takes a more measured approach. After all, the icon red of their Chilean estate Los Vascos is called “Le Dix” because it was first released a full 10 years after the original Cabernet. This fall, Pasternak Wine Imports is proudly hitting the streets with not one but two new wines. The focus of each is a timely, well-made, reserve-level red wine; and both are designed to enjoy now.
Making a Splash in St. Emilion
In Bordeaux the focus is a logical leap, across the river to the Right Bank. The DBR (Lafite) St. Emilion Réserve Spéciale is not so much an innovation as an affirmation of excellence and diversity by a family firm that has been making wine in Bordeaux for five generations and currently across four properties. Diane Flamand and her winemaking team already have proven their Left Bank mettle, with a powerful, well-structured Pauillac Réserve Spéciale (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot).
With the fresh and fruity 2012 St. Emilion (82% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon), Flamand has crafted a wine whose aromatic invitation (berries, licorice) is followed with a food-friendly roundness. “You have a very soft and round attack and then well-integrated tannins,” Flamand describes, “and at the end a very nice freshness and good length.”
In short, this is classic Bordeaux in an approachable, Merlot-driven style, a wine of Lafite pedigree at an affordable price point (SRP $41.99).
Carrying the Carmenere Torch in Chile
DBR’s stake in Chile was planted in 1988 with the acquisition of Viña Los Vascos in the Colchagua Valley, where vines have thrived since 1750. Under the supervision of Eric Kohler, Technical Director for DBR (Lafite)’s International Estates, Los Vascos, with its 1,600 contiguous acres under vine, is treated with the same hands-on attention and held to the same standards as the producer’s French properties.
Here, DBR’s new project is the winery’s first take on Carmenere, Chile’s signature grape. With Carmenere’s rediscovery in Chile now well-told in America, the wine is entering its post-honeymoon phase; novelty alone won’t cut it. Which is why the introduction of the Carmenere Grande Réserve comes after three years of development by the Los Vascos technical team. Working on canopy management, irrigation, control of yields and the exact right time for picking, the goal was to isolate fruit that could provide optimum typicity, picked with just the right ripeness.
The Carmenere is estate-grown like Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Grande Réserve, but unlike the Cabernet it is unblended. “We are looking for perhaps a more pure expression of the variety,” Kohler explains. “We are not obliged, but for us, because the Carmenere grape is particularly interesting, with a strong character, we will try each year to do 100%.” Stylistically, the wine is generous with ripe fruit and spicy aromas; it displays “a freshness, close to greenness; not vegetal, but varietal” against a frame of soft tannins.
Like its sibling from across the Atlantic, the Carmenere Grande Réserve (SRP $19.99) represents a convergence of winemaking skill and terroir, yielding wine for immediate enjoyment. What else do these two wines—born in two different hemispheres—have in common? Above all, the Lafite house style of harmony, elegance and finesse. The Carmenere partly uses barrels made by DBR (Lafites)’s own cooperage in France. “We don’t like too much oak,” notes Charles Chevallier, Technical Director of the Bordeaux Chateaux. “By experience, the flavor of the wine has to be the most expressive component.”
One more parallel: both new red wines will enjoy a social media boost as well as energized street sales as the Pasternak sales force bolsters established placements and opens new ones across the country starting October 1st.