Why oh why can't we sell the Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion wines. Year after year they produce exquisite wines from some of Bordeaux's most hallowed terroirs – and mature they are some of our favourite wines to drink. And yet commercially they remain the least sought after of the Firsts and pseudo-Firsts. Perhaps 2015 will be the vintage their fortunes change; they have made a spellbinding range. The 2015 Haut Brion is much more reserved than its neighbour, La Mission. Initially introverted, but with aeration notes of blackcurrant, damp earth, forest fruits and savoury notes of cooked meats and crushed stones emerge. This is a more austere and serious character here which is surprising given the higher proportion of Merlot, but this is often a feature of Haut Brion compared with the flamboyant nature of la Mission. One can tell that there is enormous potential on the palate; cool cassis and crème de mûre with an unbelievably persistent haunting air of cool aristocratic crunchy berry fruit. The tannins are sumptuous and firm, coated with cranberry and gravelly, stoney fruit. This is a very grown up, complex wine for the long term.
Haut Brion has arguably been the most consistent First Growth over the past twenty years. The exceptional terroir in the suburbs of Bordeaux has an uncanny knack of producing exquisitel wine whatever the weather throws at it. The estate can be traced back to the 14th century although the current owners can track their lineage back to 1935, when the American financier, Clarence Dillon bought the rather beleaguered estate. Now, Clarence Dillon’s great grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg manages the estate, however, much of the success enjoyed by this estate is down to the Delmas family. Three generations have made Haut Brion their life’s work, George (1921-1960), Jean Bernard (1960-2003) and Jean-Philippe (2003-to present).
The vineyards sit upon two gravel croupes and are planted with 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc for the reds and Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the whites. Aside from the Grand vins, the estate produce a second wine, Clarence de Haut Brion, previously called Bahans de Haut Brion and Clarte de Haut Brion, previously called Plantiers de Haut Brion.
The region has one first growth, Château Haut-Brion, whilst other renowned Chateaux currently doing well are La Mission-Haut-Brion, Pape-Clément, Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Haut-Bailly. Soils are gravely and well-drained and the plantations are similar in proportion to those of the Médoc, consisting mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The region is also well known for its long-lived whites that can be varying blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon oaked or unoaked. The most lauded are Domaine de Chevalier, Haut-Brion, Pape-Clement, De Fieuzal, and Laville-Haut-Brion.