Chateau Raymond-Lafon is owned and run today by the Meslier family, brothers Jean-Pierre and Charles-Henri and sister Marie-Françoise. Their father, Pierre, was manager at nearby Chateau d’Yquem for 27 years and introduced many of the techniques he learnt there when he bought the property in 1972.
The chateau is non-classified, as it was only created a few years before the official classification of 1855 and had not had time to establish its reputation. Today it is widely renowned as producing wine of an equal quality to its First Growth neighbours and, in some years, the quality approaches that of Chateau d’Yquem itself.
It is situated on the gentle slope just to the north of Chateau d’Yquem, to the east of Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey and to the west of Chateau Suduiraut. The soil is very varied, typical within Sauternes, with gravel, clay and some sandy areas on top of limestone. This helps to give the wine its complexity and ensures production in even the most difficult weather conditions.
Of the 18 hectare estate some 16 hectares are planted with around 80% Semillon vines and the remaining 20% with Sauvignon. As the property was very run down when purchased by Pierre Meslier in 1972 with only a few hectares planted, the majority of the vines date from that period and are now at full maturity some 40 years later.
Viticulture is vinification are the domain of Charles-Henri. Yields are very low, typically under 10 hectolitres per hectare, a result of hard pruning and selection of only the finest botrytis grapes during picking. Traditional techniques and great levels of care are practised with fermentation in 50% new oak barrels and 2-3 years of oak-ageing depending on the nature of each vintage. This makes the wines of a very serious tone with the natural complexities from the vineyard magnified and enhanced by the treatment in the cellar.
Bill Blatch Tasting the sample blend of the 200 hl selected for the Grand Vin (comprised of the middle lots, the early and late ones having been earmarked for the second wine) is more difficult than tasting the individual lots, even though these are extremely regular: all at 150 to 170 of residual, all presenting great freshness of that preserved orange kind of fruit but with secondary spicier, meatier and more complex notes just appearing now. This is well set up to expand its girth around such liveliness during its 2 years in barrel.
Neal Martin – 90-92 points. The 2011 Raymond Lafon was picked from three tries representing six lots (the first and last de-selected for the second label) between September 19 and October 5, the earliest harvest since 1893. It has 149 grams per liter residual sugar and a pH of 3.83. It has an understated bouquet of honey, grilled almond, pineapple and quince aromas. It comes across as tight and not expressive at this early stage, but that will certainly change. The palate offers a light, almond and quince-tinged entry and it represents a lighter, feminine take on the vintage. It is a Raymond Lafon that will be beautifully balanced and endowed with a precise finish that neatly offsets sweetness against acidity. Drink 2013-2028.
Bill Blatch Not a classified wine as they had only been going for 5 years when the classification was made so they didn’t bother, but we treat it as a First Growth. Tremendous sensation of vibrancy in this wine. Pretty rich, 139g of sweetness, but a lovely acidity and above all this vibrancy which gives tremendous complexity to the minty flavour. It has a tone – this wine will never be a dull wine! It will probably go for a hundred years and will probably keep something of this character as it gracefully ages.
Neal Martin – 92-94 points. The Chateau Raymond-Lafon has a reticent nose at first that finds its voice after a few swirls of the glass, offering dried mango, almond and a touch of quince, all with fine delineation and intensity. The palate is medium-bodied with good acidity and tension, the minerality really coming through towards the beautifully composed finish. This is a very accomplished Raymond-Lafon that will repay cellaring.
Bill Blatch This is a positive, strong-flavoured wine, with loads of chunky fatness coming out of the Sémillon and with the botrytis strongly apparent in the form of quite heavy glycerine.At 138 g/l residual, it is on a par with many others, but it has not been fermented out beyond 13°8, procuring a very fine honeyed texture and avoiding excess of power, so the result is gentle for such a flavourful wine. In addition, there is a good acid balance that stitches it all up nicely. As at Fargues, this will be kept in barrel longer than others, so will certainly soften a little more during its élevage. Quite clearly this château kept right on top of the botrytis.
Neal Martin – 92-94 points. There is a little SO2 on the nose at the moment. The palate is well balanced with a citric entry, touches of apricot and lime, tightly coiled towards the finish with the acidity slicing through the viscous honey fruit with a touch of Tropicana. Again, this is a very focused, tensile Sauternes with beguiling clarity.