Smith Haut-Lafitte 2023 – A Royal Vintage


Author: Solomiia Begun

Recently, in Bordeaux, France, the premiere showing of the 2023 vintage took place. These exclusive tastings for select wine professionals occur once a year and are known as Semaine des Primeurs – En Primeur Week, or Grands Crus Weekend. During this event, Grand Cru class châteaux open their cellars and present the exclusive 2023 vintages to buyers and wine critics invited from around the world. It is here that the purchasing mechanisms are initiated, the most significant investment decisions are made, and pricing policies are established. This is where the sales volumes available to collectors, wine brokers, and experts are determined. This year, a representative from DRINKS+ was among the select few to join the first tasting.

For the 18th consecutive year, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux organized the Grands Crus Weekend, an exceptional event that gathers enthusiasts from around the globe. The international press had the opportunity to interact with over 100 château owners and, upon their invitation, visit the estates to understand the nuances of the latest Bordeaux vintage.

DRINKS+ reviewers had the great honor of being invited by the owners of Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, located in the heart of the Pessac-Léognan appellation.

Château Smith Haut-Lafitte has been a sponsor and a member of the Wine Travel Awards community for several years, and we have frequently highlighted its charms, both in interviews with top officials and in informational materials.

The history of the château dates back to the 14th century. In 1990, Florence and Daniel Cathiard fell under the château’s spell, purchased it, undertook extensive restoration work, and fully dedicated themselves to their new passion – the art of wine. Today, this magnificent estate is a true historical, cultural, and tourist gem. In every detail, in every corner of the château and park, one can feel the owners’ desire to convey their passion for winemaking and their pursuit of excellence… It truly is a fairytale Grand Cru!

Despite the incredible busyness of the Château Smith Haut-Lafitte owners during Semaine des Primeurs, they found a few moments to speak with a D+ representative, allowing us to obtain a brief comment for our readers about the presented vintage.

Florence and Daniel Cathiard:

The uniqueness of this terroir lies in the natural drainage of the soil, which forces the roots of the vines to draw water and mineral salts from great depths. Additionally, there is the ‘mirror’ effect of the sun, which reflects off the stones, heating them and aiding the ripening of the grapes, resulting in a luxurious palette. This gives the wines their minerality and aromatic complexity. These characteristics truly reflect this exceptional terroir.

As part of one of the oldest châteaux, since 1959, our wines have been classified as Grands Crus Classés for both red and white wines in the Graves classification. Thanks to its exceptional terroir, the estate produces elegant, outstanding, and concentrated wines. There are six different labels in total, including those named after the château itself, as well as LES HAUTS DE SMITH and LE PETIT HAUT LAFITTE – both red and white. We are particularly proud of our whites, as not all local châteaux produce them as successfully.

We love and respect nature, and we have been working extensively in the green direction. Since 2019, our wines have been certified organic. This is a very complex system and hard work. We use organic compost and plow with horses to avoid damaging the delicate slopes of the vineyard where we produce our white wines. We protect the soil by planting hedges and trees and installing beehives on the estate. Moreover, tending to the woodland areas and hedges enhances the harmony with nature that we constantly strive for. We firmly believe that viticulturists are the best landscape architects.

Château Smith Haut-Lafitte produces wines exclusively from the Graves Gunziennes terroir (87 hectares) in the Pessac-Léognan appellation. Over the past few decades, the style of our wines has significantly evolved: from very powerful with oak notes to elegant, refined yet intense, with dominant aromatic complexity. You will experience all this when tasting this particularly memorable release.

Why should the 2023 vintage be remembered?

Because His Majesty King Charles III, accompanied by Queen Camilla, visited our château during the 2023 harvest. He shared with us his commitment to preserving biodiversity and his passion for organic farming.

At Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, he observed the grape sorting process, even personally helped to make a barrel (!), tasted the 2005 vintage—the year of his wedding—and met with the team during a thorough tour of the estate. The meeting with him and the tour for the royal couple through the park, cooperage, vineyards, and cellars will forever remain in our memory!

Tasting Notes

Smith Haut-Lafitte Red 2023

The aroma is very expressive, with beautiful notes of red and black fruits, a wonderful blend of Morello cherry, blueberry, and blackcurrant. Upon aeration, there’s a prevailing spicy note with hints of cloves, licorice, and eucalyptus, followed by darker and smokier notes of graphite and pencil lead. The wonderful aromatic complexity is typical of these soils.

Beautiful density and excellent texture. The wine is full-bodied and dense with excellent balance. The tannic structure is present, mature, with a very nice texture and a velvety touch. A very refined vintage that combines strength and elegance with a beautiful tannic structure.

This vintage received high ratings from leading wine experts: James Suckling: 98-99, Jeb Dunnuck: 96-98, Jancis Robinson: 17, Jeff Leve: 96-98, Decanter: 97, Chris Kissack: 95-97, Vinum: 96-98, Galloni Vinous: 95-97, Terre de Vins: 98, Weinwisser: 19+, Drinks Business: 95-97, Yves Beck: 96-98, Figaro: 95-97, Markus Del Monego: 99.


Smith Haut-Lafitte White 2023

It has a radiant color of lime blossom, saturated with honey. Very aromatic with a wonderful basket of yellow and white fruits, offering excellent initial impressions. Then unfolds an incredible complexity of delicate notes of acacia flowers, linden, and charming spicy nuances. The taste impresses with its freshness combined with mature beauty. The first impression on the palate is freshness, followed by fullness, the expression of maturity, creaminess, and richness, induced by the perfect ripening of the grapes. The taste is broad, powerful, but always supported by harmonious acidity, refreshing it. The taste lasts very long, full of richness, and gradually the freshness gives way to a climax. The aftertaste is gentle and remarkably fresh for white Bordeaux.

As for the aromatic palette, we find a wonderful blend of yellow fruits: peach, apricot, fresh mango, combined with the freshness of citrus notes and pink grapefruit. The floral-spicy aspect, thinner and more delicate, emerges later, signaling a very good aromatic complexity, which ends with a very long, typical taste of this terroir, acquiring a distant tone of flint.

Ratings from leading wine experts: James Suckling: 97-98, Jane Anson: 98, Yves Beck: 96-98, Vinum: 97-99, Jeb Dunnuck: 95-97, Weinwisser: 19, Jancis Robinson: 17.5, Neal Martin: 95-97, Falstaff: 95, Decanter: 95, Drinks Business: 95-97, Markus Del Monego: 99.

This year’s wine is truly classical. It’s real Bordeaux, fit for kings.