Recently, Daniel and Florence Cathiard, the owners of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, the Wine Travel Awards prize fund sponsor and nominee in The Visiting Card of the Country / Art & History Object category, arrived in Rioja for an exciting announcement: the unveiling of the top 50 World Best Vineyard 2023, a prestigious annual listing that celebrates the finest winery destinations across five continents, showcasing exceptional vineyard experiences from around the globe.
For the Cathiards, this recognition comes as no surprise. Château Smith Haut Lafitte has consistently held its position on this distinguished ranking for four consecutive years, and this year, it attained a remarkable milestone by securing a coveted spot in the top 5. Furthermore, it is the first French winery to achieve this remarkable feat.
Rooted in history that traces back to the fourteenth century, Château Smith Haut Lafitte has flourished under the stewardship of former French Olympic skier Daniel Cathiard and his wife Florence. Their transformative vision, spanning the past three decades, has etched an indelible mark on this quintessential Bordeaux winery, elevating it to a luxurious destination.
The Cathiards’ commitment to biodynamic farming has been central to their success, cultivating vineyards where shire horses gracefully plough the land, surrounded by verdant woodlands, lush orchards, and bustling beehives. This harmonious ecosystem enhances biodiversity, enriching not only the wines’ complexity but also ensuring the estate’s sustainability and minimising its carbon footprint.
The Cathiards have been joined in the business by their daughters. Mathilde, with the estate’s grape seeds and vine cuttings, established the internationally acclaimed beauty brand, Caudalie. Meanwhile, Alice manages the estate, including the five-star hotel Les Sources de Caudalie nestled amidst the vineyards and the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, La Grande’Vigne. The spa, featuring Caudalie Vinothérapie, provides a pampering experience, while a shop, wine bar, pool, gym, sauna, tennis court, and more offer a plethora of activities that can easily extend a visitor’s stay.
For day visitors, the tasting room in the orangery is an absolute must-visit. As you step onto the floorboards, a secret spot-lit stairway unveils itself, leading to the estate’s most treasured collection of bottles dating back to the nineteenth century.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte crafts red and white blends using the seven Bordeaux grape varieties, adhering to biodynamic principles and adopting some technological assistance. Satellite imagery diligently monitors the grapes, guiding the team to determine the precise moment for hand-harvesting.
On their way to the winery, the grapes are lovingly shielded by ergonomic hoods, designed by Daniel himself, ensuring protection from the weather. The estate’s own cooperage empowers the team to masterfully control the oak impact on the wine down to the minutest detail.
In the wake of their latest triumph, we extend heartfelt congratulations to the Cathiard family and the exceptional team at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Their unwavering dedication to winemaking excellence and their commitment to sustainability stands as a true testament to the remarkable spirit of French winemaking.