Bordeaux 2016: Chateau Haut Brion

Bordeaux 2016: Chateau Haut Brion
We are delighted to be able to offer small quantities of two of the most exceptional wines from 2016: Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion. These sister chateaux share the same exquisite terroir in the gravelly suburbs of Pessac, and the same winemaker par excellence, Jean-Philippe Delmas. However, the wines are quite unique, possessing strong individual personalities.

It is not really possible to pick a favourite, both are quite exceptional, albeit in completely contrasting styles. The Mission is opulent, charismatic, a bit of a peacock, charming all that taste it with its beautifully pure fruit and pure cashmere tannins – one can’t help but be seduced. The Haut Brion is strikingly different, it is reserved, brooding, highbrow, and requires a degree of supposition. It’s all evidently there, a dark complex core, intricate minerality that speaks of the outstanding, stony terroir, framed with sophisticated and profound tannins. It is a wine of epic proportions, and at this early stage undoubtedly the more backward of the two. We expect the tables to turn at some stage in the future as is so often the case with these two monumental wines.

‘The 2016 La Mission Haut Brion is a blend of 57.5% Merlot and 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon picked between 19 September and 14 October, one of the longest ever. "We had to be patient and wait for each plot," Jean-Philippe Delmas told me. "It took longer than usual." As is customary, I allowed my sample, and likewise all the wines poured at this tasting, around 40-45 minutes to open since they always transform in the glass. It has a clean and precise, quite understated bouquet with fine mineralité, cold stone aromas infusing the black fruit. This has incredible precision, perhaps even more pixelated than the "gaff over the road" Haut-Brion. The palate is medium-bodied with supple and lithe tannin. I appreciate the line of acidity here, the smoothness and harmony that takes your breath away. Every atom is infused with life-affirming freshness. It is a wine bridled with incredible focus and delineation. I thought that the 2015 La Mission Haut-Brion flirted with perfection. The 2016 has that extra edge, a "je ne sais quoi" that leaves you reaching for the thesaurus looking for superlatives. Drink 2026-2070. 98-100/100’. - Neal Martin,

‘The 2016 Haut Brion is a blend of 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc that was picked between 19 September and 13 October. Jean-Philippe Delmas told me that this represents a touch more Merlot than last year's vintage. It clearly has a more powerful and intense bouquet compared to the La Mission Haut-Brion, although maybe not the same killer level of detail and delineation. The palate is beautifully balanced with arching tannins that insistently grip the mouth. There are layers of black fruit, minerals, sea salt and a touch of crushed violets. Unlike the 2015 Haut-Brion, this is more linear, stricter and you could argue more nimble on its toes. Yet maybe it does not quite have the same depth and labyrinthine complexity that made the 2015 such an astonishing wine. Nevertheless, this 2016 is not far behind and it will be fascinating to compare in the future. Drink 2026-2070. 97-99/100’. - Neal Martin,

We can also offer even smaller quantities of the two white wines from these illustrious estates. These are perhaps the rarest and most intense examples of Pessac Leognan Blanc. Hurry to avoid disappointment…