About this WINE
Château les Carmes Haut-Brion
Château les Carmes Haut-Brion is a 10.3-hectare wine estate in Pessac-Léognan on the Left Bank of Bordeaux. The property was established over 400 years ago. It takes its name from the Carmelites, the order of monks that tended it for almost 200 years. Once a little-known neighbour of the world-famous Châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, things have changed rapidly here in recent years and it is today one of Bordeaux’s most exciting names. In 2010, the estate was acquired by Patrice Pichet, a French property developer. He quickly enlisted the dynamic Guillaume Pouthier as winemaker and director, and this has been a truly hot property ever since.
The wine here is stylistically unique within Bordeaux. This is in part due to the vineyard: the estate sits just outside the city of Bordeaux, with some limestone soils to complement the more typical gravel and clay. There is a high proportion of old-vine Cabernet Franc, rarely seen to any great extent on the Left Bank. The team has worked very hard to understand the specificities of each plot and sub-plot, enabling them to react to specific needs – but only where necessary.
Guillaume Pouthier is also a serial innovator. He is a proponent of whole-bunch fermentation, which is virtually unheard of in Bordeaux. Extraction, an important winemaking process, is handled differently here too: Guillaume uses a very gentle method of infusion rather than the more typical pumping-over or punching-down. The wines are matured in a combination of new French oak barrels, large oak casks and amphorae.
In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the classed growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.