2018 Château les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
This powerful, full of complex layers of raspberry, blackberry, smoked earth, rosemary and turmeric spice, but running underneath it all is clear salinity and grip. The personality and poise of this wine overtakes the vintage, not an easy thing to do in a year that is as powerful as 2018 and on a warm site such as Carmes Haut-Brion. Touches of saffron and salt-licked as it opens, sage, freshly grilled dried herbs and gourmet espresso and brioche. Enjoyable. 3.62pH, and harvest at almost 1% ABV higher than you find in the final bottle. Ageing takes place in a mix of 25% new oak, 5% oak casks, and 10% amphoras, with 55% stems during fermentation, and natural yeasts.
Jane Anson, janeanson.com (Feb 2022)
About this WINE
Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
A little-known neighbour of châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion in the Pessac-Léognan region of Bordeaux, Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a jewel of a property, positioned on the same bank of gravel (graves) as its more famous namesakes.
The name derives from the friars, known as ";Les Carmes"; who owned the property between the 16th and 18th century.
The vineyards are planted with an unusually small quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), the lion's share going to Merlot (50%) and Cabernet Franc (40%), this is reflected in the style of the wine which is rich in aromatics and has incredible finesse.
The wine spends 18 months in oak barrels, one third of which are new each vintage.
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.
Recommended Châteaux: Ch. Haut-Brion, Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, Ch. Pape Clément, Ch Haut-Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, Ch. Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Ch. Carmes Haut-Brion, Ch. La Garde, Villa Bel-Air.
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.
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There's no one quite like Guillaume Pouthier. Pessac’s warmer climate allows him to use whole bunches (52% this year), and the wine is aged in new oak (75%), large oak (16%) and terracotta (9%). He prefers to age reductively. The result is unique but fabulous: a ripe but exceedingly floral nose, and brilliant vivacity with an almost tapenade note on the palate. For all the ripeness, the tannins are very positive but absolutely correct for the wine. Really impressive. Drink 2024-2040.
Blend: 37% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot
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