According to the Lafite Web site, the Lafite vineyard was organized by the Ségur family in the 17th century, and the estate soon garnered a reputation as a top-level winemaking estate. Jacques de Ségur is credited with planting the vineyard in the 1670s and early 1680s.
In the mid-18th century, the site notes, King Louis XV, guided by the Maréchal de Richelieu, strongly approved of the wine, "and it was soon the subject of much ado at Versailles." Thomas Jefferson, as ambassador to France in the days before the French Revolution, developed an affinity for the finest French wines, among them Chateau Lafite.
At the Universal French Exposition of 1855, the wines of France were classified, and Château Lafite was one of only four to receive the highest classification - premier cru. The others were Château Latour, Château Margaux and Château Haut-Brion. The classifications remained unchanged until 1973, when Château Mouton Rothschild, the appellation of another branch of the Rothschild family, was elevated.
In 1868, Baron James de Rothschild purchased Château Lafite, and the family name was added. The wine has endured many disasters: two world wars and German occupation; phylloxera (a destructive aphid) and mildew; the Great Depression. After World War II, the Barons de Rothschild regained possession of the estate, and Baron Elie de Rothschild restored the business. It is now under the management of his nephew, Baron Eric de Rothschild.
The Web site lists among its best vintages - wines with intensity and concentration, combined with a light, velvety texture, the hallmark of great French wine - the years 1945, 1947, 1949, 1959, 1961, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.