2022 Château les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
The 2022 Les Carmes Haut-Brion was picked 5-20 September with 70% whole bunches (three vats contained 100% whole cluster that was co-fermented), matured in 70% new oak, 20% in 18hL casks and 10% in amphora. It underwent a long, six-week infusion in the vat at a maximum of 26° Celsius, just over a week longer than usual.
It is extremely precise on the nose with blackberry, briary, crushed stone and hints of curry leaf. The palate is just beautiful. Sculpted tannins, fine-boned, lend this Les Carmes unerring symmetry and focus. This is loaded with mineral-laden dark berry fruit and feels seamless toward the finish.
I am not inclined toward hyperbole. Nevertheless, this is the best Les Carmes that Guillaume Pouthier has overseen.
Drink 2030 - 2070
Neal Martin, Vinous.com (May 2023)
Technical Director Guillaume Pouthier follows his majestic 2020 with another riveting wine. The 2022 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is, quite simply, unforgettable. A wine of tremendous energy, the 2022 saturates the palate with inky red/blue fruits, lavender, sage and mint, showing remarkable density that builds into a lasting finish enshrouded by seamless tannins.
The 2022 is a co-ferment of 40% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot done with 70% stems that saw six full weeks on the skins. Élevage is 70% new oak, 20% 18HL cask and 10% amphora. It is an incredibly modern wine that marries Bordeaux classicism with hints of Northern Rhône and Piedmont inflexions.
All the elements are so well-balanced that nothing sticks out. Instead, the wine's profound beauty leaves a lasting impression.
Drink 2030 - 2062
Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com (May 2023)
The 2022 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 26% Merlot, 90% ageing in oak (70% new barriques, 20% 18hl casks) and 10% in amphoras. Deep garnet-purple in colour, it pops out of the glass with lifted notes of redcurrant jelly, wild blueberries, blackcurrant pastilles, and lavender, leading to cerebral wafts of the cast-iron pan, dark chocolate and dusty soil with a hint of liquorice.
The red and black berry flavours do pirouettes on the medium-bodied palate, featuring incredibly fine-grained tannins and fantastic tension that shimmer the very long mineral-laced finish. As usual, the alcohol is 13.5% (the stem inclusion absorbs some alcohol during fermentation), and the pH is 3.64. This vibrant, showy, immediately impactful wine flies in the face of traditional Bordeaux, carrying it off with bags of grace and style.
A slight carbonic character from the whole bunch juxtaposed with a rock-solid structure thanks to the ripe stem tannins creates a unique signature. I personally love it, but if you're a Bordeaux purest, this might not be your cup of tea.
Drink 2030 - 2065
Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Independent (May 2023)
This is a truly delicious Pessac Léognan that shows just how much Carmes Haut-Brion sets itself apart, showing grip and stretching out through the palate. Don't expect the same character as you will find elsewhere in this vintage.
Fragrant aromatics, roses, violets, crushed rocks, fennel, and aniseed, with texture and tannic heft. Fresh dark fruits, edges of bitter Bendick mints, smoked caramel, slate.
70% whole bunch, no irrigation, cover crops instead on the clay-limestone soils (when picked, the grapes were at 14.4%, came down to 13.5% after vinification using stems and specific yeast). 40hl/h yields, 70% new oak, 3.6ph.
Drink 2030 - 2050
Jane Anson, JaneAnson.com (May 2023)
The remarkable 2022 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a strong candidate for the title of wine of the vintage. It's also one of the most singular, characterful wines being produced in the region today.
Unfurling in the glass with complex aromas of blackberries and cherries mingled with notions of exotic spices, orange zest, pencil lead, rose petals and vine smoke, it's medium to full-bodied, deep and concentrated, with a velvety attack that segues into a layered, seamless and multidimensional mid-palate framed by rich, powdery tannins.
Pure, perfumed and penetrating, this blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot is a brilliant success that caps a decade of relentless work by Guillaume Pouthier, and his team that has seen Les Carmes Haut-Brion emerge as one of Bordeaux's leading estates.
It checks in at a mere 13.5% alcohol, with a very healthy pH of 3.64.
Yohan Castaing, Wine Advocate (April 2023)
Deep crimson colour. Slightly reserved aromatically but has floral notes (lily, iris) as it opens. Dense with a beautifully suave texture, the tannins are powerful but refined. Luscious but fresh and long on the finish, the oak (70% new barrels) is completely absorbed. Both seductive and restrained. Marked freshness for the year. Will need to check the evolution.
Drink 2028 - 2047
James Lawther MW, JancisRobinson.com (April 2023)
This is so umami with sea urchin character that gives you sea salt and dried seaweed aromas and flavours. The integrity and richness are so impressive with an exotic character, yet it is so classic and fine in structure.
13.5% alcohol. 70% whole cluster fermentation. 40% cabernet franc, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 25% merlot.
A new model for Bordeaux?
James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com (April 2023)
I think one of the legendary wines in the vintage will be the 2022 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, which comes from a tiny vineyard not far from Haut-Brion and is based on 40% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest Merlot, vinified with 70% whole clusters, and aged 70% in new barrels, 20% in foudre, and 10% in amphora.
You wouldn't know it by tasting it despite mostly being destemmed. It has a classic bouquet of ripe blackberries, cassis, leafy herbs, graphite, and violets, while in contrast, the C Des Carmes Haut-Brion, which is vinified with just 30% stems, is marked more by its stems. Full-bodied, concentrated, beautifully balanced, and with a rare mix of purity, freshness, and power, it will rival the 2018 as one of the finest vintages ever produced from this address.
It's worth noting that this estate has a unique terroir in Pessac that includes some limestone in the soils, and this worked particularly well in 2022.
Don't miss this wine.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (May 2023)
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.
A white grape variety that is believed to have originated in Egypt. It takes its name from a village in the Saone-et-Loire departement where it is grown to produce Pouilly-sur-Loire. It is widely planted around the world though more often as a table grape than for wine production.
It was first planted in Alsace in the 17th century and is generally blended with other grapes and sold as Edelzwicker. The authorities are not keen on the grape and have banned any new plantings. It is a relatively easy variety to cultivate although its naturally high vigour means it is not suited to very dry and very fertile soils.