|President||Jacques and Sylvie Guideneau|
|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||1,000 cases|
|Second Wine||Les Pensées de Lafleur|
|Interesting Fact||Lafleur is made in such minute quantities that even some of the most prominent wine critics in the world have not had the good fortune of tasting some of its legendary vintages- making it one of the rarest and most exclusive wines in Bordeaux.|
One of the rarest wines in the world, thanks to the tiny production volumes and the degree of care and attention that goes into every bottle - reflected in the château motto, “qualité passe quantité” - Lafleur is a name that emanates exclusivity. In true artisan fashion, every vine is pruned manually and standards are some of the highest in Bordeaux. If the grapes aren’t perfect one year then there may be no vintage at all, as happened in 1987, or just a handful of barrels will be completed.
A totemic estate, a shrine to a time in which wine-making was a labourious, personal affair where châteaux were owned by people rather than multinational corporations, each of the 12,000 bottles produced annually is a labour of love. Whilst Pétrus may be its equal in Pomerol, it is the quality of exclusivity which sets Lafleur apart, and for this reason surviving bottles of legendary vintages such 1945, 1947 or 1961 are highly prized with very few seeing the light of day, never mind the auction room floor. Even slightly more contemporaneous vintages such as the 1982 regularly fetch at least £2,400 per bottle.
In 2012 Lafleur was among a few select labels named by Anthony Hanson of Christie’s as fine wine brands that present the most reliable returns both at auction and on the exchange market in general. International buying, particularly that from the Far East, is beginning to favour top quality producers outside the Left-bank First Growths. Indeed, Aussino cellars, one of China’s biggest wine retailers, when announcing their intention to begin promoting Right-Bank estates over those on the Left, specifically mentioned Pomerol as an appellation of special market interest for the future. Therefore, whilst investors have always found reliable returns in Château Lafleur, the coming years could represent a new golden age for the tiny, legendary château.
For Robert Parker Jr., Château Lafleur is “one of the most distinctive, most exotic, and greatest wines – not only in Pomerol, but in the world.” Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve say “the wine amply deserves its high prices”. The wine’s average critic ratings from the Wine Spectator for vintages from 2000 onwards have been just one point shy of the average for Pétrus over the same period and yet prices for Lafleur are average less than a third of Pétrus’ asking price. So while it may be pricey, in terms of top Pomerol producers, Lafleur represents great value from a quality/price ratio perspective. The chateau has earned an average RJP score of 94 in its vintages since 2000, reflecting the consistency in quality produced here in the modern era.
Sitting at the top of the Pomerol pyramid, with only Pétrus approaching it in terms of quality and reputation; Lafleur’s origins lie in Château Le Gay. In the mid-18th century, the Greloud family parcelled up their lands to divide between their two sons, Emile and Henri, birthing Château Le Gay and Domaine de Lafleur respectively. From the beginning, Lafleur was one of the most prestigious properties in Pomerol.
Upon his death, Henri Greloud bequeathed his estate to his son Charles, who in turn sold it in 1915 to André Robin, husband to his granddaughter and under whose tenure the standing of the château was in the ascendant. André left Le Gay and Lefleur to his daughters, Thérèse and Marie, committed spinsters, who held the properties until 1984, overseeing the production of monumental vintages such as 1947 and 1982. Upon Marie’s death, Lefleur was rented out by her surviving sister to her nephew Jacques and his wife Sylvie Guideneau.
Over a number of years, the gentle and patient Guideneaux gradually renovated the vineyards and modernised the cellars. When eventually the owner Thérèse passed away, the Guideneaux sought to gain control at Château Lafleur, and succeeded though not without difficulty.
Chateau Lafleur Pricing
Highest rated vintages for Chateau Lafleur
An utterly awesome wine, the only problem with the 2000 Lafleur is that I indicated its maturity window would be 2012-2040+. Based on two tastings of it, I would now argue 2020-2060+. Yes, it is that backward, but it has extraordinary potential. Dense ruby/purple to the rim, this fabulously concentrated wine has a sweet nose of kirsch liqueur intermixed with licorice and subtle floral notes as well as a hint of truffle in the background. It is stacked and packed on the attack, with a multi-dimensional mid-palate of unbelievable intensity of concentration and richness, yet at the same time all this power is allied to striking elegance, purity, and depth. This is great Bordeaux, a profound Lafleur, and in about ten years, much of its magic should begin to be unleashed. If you can find it, it is an extraordinary wine, and as expensive as it was a decade ago, it will look cheap compared to prices for more recent vintages.
The 1982 Lafleur, at least for my palate, while qualitatively no better than Mouton Rothschild, Latour, and La Mission Haut Brion, is off the charts in terms of the hedonistic and intellectual pleasure it gives me. I have only a few bottles remaining in my cellar, and this 1982 is still a young wine. The extraordinary intensity and purity of the kirsch liqueur and licorice, the remarkable opulence, the thickness and richness, yet the ability to seem fresh with laser-like precision are all things that must be tasted to be believed. This wine is showing a little bricking at the edge, but has off the chart concentration as well as a viscous texture and unreal purity and fruit. It is as close to some of the legendary 1947s that were produced in Pomerol as anything made in the last thirty years. This is a remarkable wine! Anticipated maturity: now-2030. Release price: ($325.00/case)
An absolutely prodigious blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot, the 2009 Lafleur displays the tell-tale characteristics of this great estate. Kirsch liqueur, licorice and floral notes are intermixed with raspberry in a very full-bodied, super-intense, opulent and multi-dimensional style. Extraordinarily dense and pure, but not heavy by any means, the intensity, texture, and richness of the 2009 Lafleur are reminiscent of the perfect 1982. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2040.
This wine goes from strength to strength, and is developing even better than I initially expected. More backward than most of the big, Cabernet Sauvignon-based 1990 Medocs, it is full-bodied and viscous, but not as thick or oily as the 1982 can be. The 1990's fresh, pure black raspberry, incense, and minerality characteristics result in a young, legendary wine. Still deep ruby/purple to the rim as well as extraordinarily intense, it is 4-10 years away from full maturity, and should evolve for another 30+ years. It is an amazing achievement! Release price: ($1800.00/case)
Soft, fruity, but very charming, this wine offers up plenty of ripe black cherry fruit intermixed with some incense, spice box and tobacco leaf. Drink it over the next 5-6 years.
The exotic, nearly over the top 2003 exhibits a southern Rhone-like characteristic of kirsch liqueur intermixed with raspberries and flowers. Sweet fruit, high levels of glycerin (the alcohol is less than 13.5%), and high but silky tannins have resulted in a broad, expansive, terrific example of Lafleur that should be at its finest between 2008-2025. Along with Petrus, this stunning, full-bodied 2003 is a candidate for the top wine of Pomerol.
The 2005 Lafleur is tight and austere at present, but unquestionably enormously endowed. It displays a dense ruby/purple hue as well as a beautiful bouquet that only emerges with coaxing. Aeration is essential in order to release the subtle, restrained scents of licorice, kirsch liqueur, black truffles, and flowers. In the mouth, there is compelling richness, depth, and intensity, but the wine’s power, full body, forbiddingly backward style, and high tannins suggest significant cellaring will be required. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2050.
The 2006 Lafleur, which I had not tasted from bottle prior to this visit, merits 95 points. One of the vintate’s most brilliant wines, this blend of 61% Merlot and 39% Cabernet Franc is neither as dense nor complete as the 2008, but it is structured, closed, and austere (as are many 2006s at present). It reveals a plum/purple color along with a beautifully sweet nose of black and red fruits intermixed with incense as well as a steely/iron-like smell. More open on the palate than the 2008, with more obvious spice and earthy undertones, this powerful Lafleur should be drinkable in 5-7 years, and will last for three decades. The tiny Lafleur vineyard, which was harvested between October 8-14, produced a wine with an atypically high percentage of Cabernet Franc. Proprietor Guinadeau stated that the Cabernet Franc was among the finest he had ever harvested.
The 1989 Lafleur, tasted side by side with the 1990 on two occasions in 2002, plays it closer to the vest. The wine needs far more coaxing to produce the licorice, black cherry liqueur, earth, and truffle notes from the nose. In the mouth, the wine is full-bodied, tannic, backward, and very tightly knit, with mouth-searing levels of tannin and extremely high extract. The tannins are firmer, the fruit seemingly less sweet, but still extremely ripe, and the evolutionary process is far slower in the 1989 than the 1990. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2045. Last tasted, 8/02.
This wine was incredibly tannic and backward from cask, but out of bottle it has shrugged off the excess tannin and seems to be developing far better than I thought it would. The color is dense/ruby purple, and the wine shows notes of sweet kirsch and blackberry liqueur, with a liquid minerality and a hint of violets. The wine is full-bodied, quite tannic, very dense and backward, but gorgeously concentrated, pure, and intense. This looks to be a classic Lafleur meant for significant long-term aging. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2040+. Last tasted, 11/02.