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. Produced from 58% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is initially a brooding mass of minerals, earth, spice, liquorice, truffle, tobacco, roses, cloves and canelés. The palate is seriously impressive with huge amounts of luxurious, velvety fruit. Pure flavours of sweet wild berries, blueberries and crème de cassis last and last as the classy, corseted, fine boned, tannins envelope the mouth with more sumptuous fruits. This is more flamboyant and sweet fruited than Haut Brion at this early stage. Magnifique!
Haut Brion’s sister property has a habit of trumping its more illustrious sibling. Owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon S.A., La Mission’s vineyards lie in the same suburbs as those of Haut Brion on deep gravel croupes interspersed with clay. The cepage is not dissimilar in the red wine (48% Cabernet, 45% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc) although the Haut Brion Blanc (formally Laville Haut Brion) has a lot more Semillon in the blend than Haut Brion Blanc.
Stylistically, La Mission Haut Brion rouges is more accessible and open than the deeply mineral and slightly introverted Haut Brion when young, but given time the Haut Brion will begin to show its power. Both wines reward long term aging to be at their best.
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.