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The only property from outside the Médoc to be included in the 1855 Classification, Haut-Brion’s viticultural history can be traced back further than its Médoc First Growth counterparts. Samuel Pepys even mentions it in his diaries. Situated in what is now Pessac-Léognan, the property finds itself now in the suburbs of the ever-encroaching city of Bordeaux. After falling into a state of disrepair the estate was purchased in 1935 by Clarence Dillon, an American financier, since when it has enjoyed a steady and continual resurgence to a position of pre-eminence. Dillon’s great-grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, now runs the estate, but a key influence in the reputation which Haut-Brion enjoys today is the Delmas family. George Delmas was manager and wine-maker until 1960, when his son Jean-Bernard took over. Jean- Bernard was a visionary figure, responsible for a number of important innovations, and on his retirement in 2003 his son Jean-Philippe took over as Directeur Générale. The vineyard is planted to 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc. A stunning white wine is also made, from a part of the vineyard which is 63% Semillon and 37% Sauvignon Blanc. Production is smaller than at the other First Growth Wines, totalling about 20,000 cases, shared between the Grand Vin and a second wine, formerly called Bahans-Haut-Brion but changed in 2007 to Clarence de Haut-Brion in recognition of Clarence Dillon. Production of Haut Brion Blanc is minute, less than 800 cases in most years. Beginning with the 2009 vintage a new white wine was introduced in the place of Clarence: La Clarté de Haut-Brion, the offspring of Domaine Clarence Dillon's two prestigious white wines: Château Haut-Brion Blanc and Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc. Fermentation of the red wines takes place in stainless steel vats, after which the wine will spend 22 months, sometimes more, in new oak barrels before being bottled unfiltered. For the white wine fermentation takes place in new oak barrels, after which the wine spends a further year to 15 months on its lees in barrel before bottling. The white wine is truly sensational, equivalent in class to a top-flight White Burgundy Grand Cru, but its scarcity means that it is rarely seen. The red wine is no less extraordinary; at its best it displays text-book Graves characteristics of cigar-box, curranty fruit, earth, smoky spice and cassis. The high Merlot content, compared to the Médoc First Growths, gives it a voluptuous edge, but does not in any way detract from its ability to age.
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The Ch. Haut-Brion stable did the business in 2012 and Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is testament to that. Menthol notes appear on the nose with blackcurrant fruit mixed together with lighter red berry and forest fruit notes. There is an understated class on offer here. The palate is open and generous with a nice touch of spice to mix with the redcurrant and sweet fleshy plum fruit. This has that Graves minerality to it and certainly feels like its big brother with the volume turned a few notches down. It is one to look out for. Hong Kong Fine Wine Team
Case price (6)
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Bottle 6 x 75cl
Case price (6)
Case saving £106.44
At present still dominated by new wood characters - however underneath there is concentrated, powerful fruit bolstered by ripe, firm tannins. Potentially the finest La Mission of the second half of the 1990s, and maybe since 1990.
Bottle 12 x 75cl
Manager Jean-Philippe Delmas (Jean Delmas' son) has every right to be enormously proud of his wines this year, not least his jewel in the crown, First Growth Ch. Haut-Brion. The 2006 is as powerful and masculine as ever, a taut, brooding mass of seriously intense ripe plum, strawberry and damson fruit packed with earthy minerality and spice. The nose is rich and chocolatey, while the huge tannins on the palate suggest that this is one to lay down to enjoy in your dotage. Made from 57% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc this is a very serious, very impressive and very intense Ch. Haut-Brion.
Ch. Haut-Brion has yet gain produced a fabulous wine in 2009. With subtle red fruit aromas mingling with bramble fruits on the expressive palate, this is powerful stuff with ripe, firm tannins, glorious depth and resounding flavours. This is the masculine counterpart to the silky femininity of La Mission, and as such will require a few more years before its brooding power is clear for all to see.
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Case saving £387.24
This monolithic Haut-Brion has a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%) and yet retains a wonderful elegance. A cigar-box nose leads into such complexity on the palate where balance is the key. Despite the enormous indices of tannins and acidity, it has a glorious freshness. It was more closed than La Mission, as Haut-Brion often is, and promises to be truly great. (23% Merlot, 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc) (Nick Pegna, Berry Bros. & Rudd)
With most of the classy Cabernets going into the Grand Vin the second wine is 71% Merlot, which explains the lush, plummy juiciness of this wine. There's nothing remotely rustic about this wine, however, with a fine thread of purity running through the core of the wine, elegant tannins and a long finish.
Imperial 1 x 600cl
The blend this year is 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc. The team here were particularly impressed by the quality of the Cabernets this year and this was borne out by our own tasting as we noticed great complexity on the bouquet. Aromas of crushed rocks mingle with black fruits, while on the palate there is a fine, precise purity and outstanding balance.
D. Magnum 1 x 300cl
Coming joint second in our list of Left Bank First Growths in 2008 (along with Mouton, with Ch. Latour in the lead) Ch. Haut-Brion seriously impressed us this vintage. With a nose of dark, brambly spice this was evidently restrained but still had layer upon layer of complex fruit character. The tannins were assertive but coated in a fantastic ball of dark fruit that suggests they will mellow wonderfully with time. Only 35% of the total production went into the Grand Vin this year and with only 7,000 cases made, it is the smallest production since 1992. This is a rarity: buy up while you can.
I have always struggled with tasting the array of wines we are very lucky to try here even in great years like 2010/2009 and 2005. This year I finally got it! Now, I’m not saying that this is better than those legendary vintages but I could understand it. This is a beguiling beauty with sublime First Growth class. Maybe as it is 2013 and less concentrated it was was easier to comprehend at this early stage. Almost like when you cut a fine malt whisky with water, a less dense vintage shows the details more readily. Whatever the reason the wine is beautifully balanced, deep, multilayered with a wonderful and long finish. If the First are the same price as 2008, which I believe they need to be to work I’d be keen to buy this as well as Mouton and Margaux. Simon Staples - Asia Sales Director
H/Bottle 12 x 37.5cl
There is an amazing dual hit of black fruit and fine-grained tannins here, which is rounded off with a wonderful creaminess. The fruit is encased in a huge structure, which is not always easy to assess when tasting en primeur, but it has a lovely fleshiness to it and the wine is multi-layered with flavours evolving in the mouth. Notes of cocoa, vanilla and tar show towards the finish and it all ends completely seamlessly. The tannins are extremely ripe and well-integrated. Ch. Haut-Brion is often understated at this stage, which serves to underline how fine this wine will be.
This outstanding Haut-Brion may not have the opulence of Mouton or the sheer class of Latour but its power, breeding and structure arguably make it the most complete First Growth in 2007. It is a Cabernet-dominated Haut-Brion with 44% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc alongside 43% Merlot. A majestic nose with bitter chocolate hints is followed by a palate of immense power (for 2007) with gloriously rich, sweet black fruit, minerals, tobacco and mocha and big but velvety tannins. With perfect balance, weight and poise, Haut-Brion is in another dimension to almost every other 2007 we have tasted. Bravo.
Very perfumed nose of red and black fruits, almost exotic. Gorgeous texture on the palate fills the mouth, sumptuous. Great intensity, abundant but ripe tannins, very long. Magnificent. In the words of Robert Parker, 'A strong argument can be made that this great First Growth is the world's most elegant and aromatically complex wine'. In 2005 it lives up to such an exulted billing. An intoxicating bouquet of sun-kissed red and black cherries abounds with hints of roasted coffee bean and mocha. This is a brooding, sleeping giant of a wine with monumental levels of fruit but an exquisitely fine demeanour. Intense and mouthfilling with wonderful length, it has all the classic earthy mineral Haut Brion richness that you would expect. This is power and elegance par excellence.
Magnum 6 x 150cl
As usual, the 2005 Bahans-Haut-Brion mirrors its bigger brother, but is softer with more forward fruit as well as lighter tannin. Its aromas and flavors are similar to those of Haut-Brion. It should last a lot longer than its forwardness would suggest (the 1989 is still drinking beautifully), drinking well for 15 or more years.
Winemaker/administrator Jean Delmas considers this to be his best wine since 2000. Only 55% of the production - a blend of 61% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc - has gone into the hedonistic Grand Vin. Enticing aromas of ripe, spicy plums and raisins with nuances of tobacco, minerals and vanilla entice you to take a sip. It is completely delicious, with notes of Swiss chocolate, sweet fruit, toast and cinnamon spice and fine tannins. An exceptionally pure, round and extremely polished wine.
Ironically Ch. Haut-Brion has produced one of its closest rivals this year, its second wine Ch. Bahans Haut-Brion. A whopping 73% Cabernet Sauvignon (plus 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet-Franc) make this a more solid wine than usual. Very masculine in character, it exhibits notes of mown grass, mint and black fruits on the nose. This is beautifully balanced with pure fruit, silky tannins and a long, fresh finish. (Simon Staples, BBR Fine Wine Director)
Dark crimson in colour with a typically rich aromatic nose of creamy black fruits, mocha coffee and vanilla. On the palate the wine displays superb depth of fruit and is harmonious and equisitely well balanced.
The connoisseurs’ first growth, and notably the one with the smallest production. The 1996 is a completely different wine to the slightly brutish 1995. This has an ethereal lightness to it. Approachable now though with many, many years ahead.
An astonishingly rich and dense wine that is unquestionably the wine of the vintage. Massively endowed with a huge nose of cassis and wild mushrooms,and a palate bursting at the seams with layer upon layer of super ripe black fruits. The finish is outstanding. A legendary wine.
Deep red colour with hints of tawny at the rim. Very expressive bouquet, typical Graves earthy, warm tobacco leaf and cigar box. On the palate a real kernel of sweetness on the mid-palate, lovely texture in the mouth, very well balanced, fresh, with a long, exemplary finish. Ready to drink now with great pleasure but not in any way tiring.
There is 52% Merlot in the blend and it shows in an enticing, opulent aroma of plum and blackberry. A little more backward than the other wines in the Haut-Brion stable so far, but all the ingredients are there to make a brilliant wine. There is a great depth of ripe fruit, impressively fine tannins, lovely balance and excellent length. It is superbly fresh and has exceptional potential for the future. (52% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot)
It is most surprising to report that on 3/12/09, despite the reputation of 1999 as an early-maturing vintage, this wine at 10 years old was still significantly unresolved. All the classic Haut Brion markers were present; restraint married with opulence, sweet yet savoury, woodland against exoticism, but all sheathed, not by tannins, but by a surly compression of the layers, so that each had to teased into recognition. Despite this, the wine was impressive, possibly currently in a quiet phase from which it may emerge relatively soon. Nevertheless, all the detail and nuance of a First Growth was there, and the wine clearly stood above the others in the tasting. A little patience may be required. I’ll make sure I try it again soon, and report back. (Mark Pardoe MW, BBR Wholesale - Tasted at the St Emilion, Pomerol, Graves and Sauternes Cellar Tasting, 03/12/09 )
Opaque dark purple/black colour with an opulent viscosity. Hedonistic aromas of spice, leather, earth, tar, herbs and lively sweet, ripe fruit jump from the glass. This is exceptionally concentrated with a glorious mouth-filling palate of low to medium acidity with extra ripe tannins providing a much earlier drinking date than other vintages of Haut Brion. An extraordinarily long finish adds to its sheer class.
Arguably the wine of the vintage, this is classic Haut-Brion. Initial sampling indicates that it is a complex wine with layers of gorgeous ripe fruits and herbaceous notes, a medium body and perfect balance.
The second wine of Ch. Haut-Brion (renamed in 2007 from Bahans de Haut-Brion) shows the same seam of pure class in 2009 as the fantastic Grand Vin. Softer but riper with fabulous fruit, this has a beautiful seam of minerality which clearly denotes its roots in this fine terroir. The château consider it to be the greatest second wine at Haut-Brion since 1989, and with only 7,000 cases made of this little gem, it won't be around long.