Château Lafite cracks open its first Chinese vintage

SEA BREEZES, blue skies and sun-soaked vines: springing to the reader’s mind may not be the northern Chinese province of Shandong, an industrial heartland of shipbuilders and oil refineries. Yet it pumps out two-fifths of China’s wine, too. Yes, much of it is state-produced and lousy—but there are a few glowing exceptions. Among the 63 wineries of the Penglai valley is that of Château Lafite Rothschild, a world-famous Bordeaux beloved of rich Chinese. On September 19th it uncorked its first local bottles.

Scepticism abounded when its owner, Domaines Barons de Rothschild, put down roots a decade ago. (A branch of the Rothschilds owns shares in The Economist’s parent company.) “Lafite in lala land?” wondered Grape Wall of China, a wine site. Midsummer monsoons drench the region, a no-no for sophisticated growers.

Lafite confounded the naysayers, as a tough reporting trip undertaken by this correspondent, for a tasting and tour with the Rothschilds at la propriété, confirmed. Priced at 2,388 yuan ($335) a bottle, the Domaine de Long Dai 2017 was rated as “outstanding” by James Suckling, a wine critic who says that Lafite has built “what must be the best winery in China”. It contains cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and marselan. The range of soils and microclimates across...

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