One of the harder wines to taste during the week, which one often expects in a later picked vintage here. There are plenty of bright, crisp, clean currant-fruit flavours and the fine level of texture gives this wine a very classy mouth feel. The lasting sensations are of a wine with sweetness and rounded ripe tannins. The potential can clearly be seen.
As for the 2012 La Mission Haut Brion, this wine (41% of the total production) continues to perform as it has for nearly a century. At first-growth levels of quality, this is s stunning wine that is full-bodied and very concentrated with notes of graphite, subtle charcoal embers, crème de cassis, blackberry and underlying subtle earthiness. The wine is full and powerful, rich and concentrated. And sure enough, the alcohol level tips the scales at 15% from a blend 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Franc. This is a big, blockbuster La Mission Haut Brion that should age effortlessly for 30-40+ years. However, the tannins suggest that this wine should not be touched for another 5-6 years, as its one of the more backward of the 2012 Pessac-Léognans. Bravo! Drink 2020-2060
The 2012 La Mission Haut-Brion, which represents 41% of the total production, is a blend of 62% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of tobacco leaf, forest floor, underbrush and red as well as black fruit aromas jump from this aromatic, seductive, open-knit La Mission. Medium to full-bodied, round, generous, lush and flattering to taste, even at this young age, it is built along the stylistic lines of the 2001 or 1999. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. Like its bigger sibling, the second wine, the 2012 La Chapelle de la Mission, was the result of a harvest that occurred between September 17 and October 9. (Keep in mind that the micro-climate of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion is essentially within a highly developed suburb of Bordeaux.) Drink 2013 - 2033
Tasted blind at the Southwold 2012 tasting, the 2012 La Mission Haut-Brion showed brilliantly. It has an intense, floral bouquet with rose petals and strawberry preserve, hints of sous-bois and tobacco gently unfolding in the glass, gaining more earthiness as it aerates in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, broad and spicy with hints of bell pepper suggesting high quality Cabernet Franc. It fans out gloriously with a sustained tertiary finish that completes what is a wondrous La Mission Haut-Brion from Jean-Philippe Delmas and his team. Drink 2020-2050
The Grand Vin was picked between 19th September until 9th October and it is a blend of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon raised in 75% new oak. There is no Cabernet Franc this year since it did not achieve full ripeness. This blend is actually the inverse of the 2010. It has an alluring bouquet which given the blend, has a Right Bank personality as La Mission. Hints of cedar and bay leaf emerge with time. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and good structure. This is a very focused, very harmonious La Mission, very controlled with a sense of confidence on the finish that will need a couple of years to absorb the wood. It disguises the 14.9% alcohol well, perhaps more than recent vintages. This is a great success.
62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromatic and a little lean but very sophisticated. Lots of energy here. Extremely ramrod straight with lots of fine tannin. A very long-term wine. Super demanding with its heavy charge of tannins. Still quite inky and ambitious in the extreme. One of the more youthful wines of the vintage. At the moment just a little stringy. Neat and certainly no blockbuster. 14.95% Drink 2023-2040
Features pure, racy, floral cassis, violet and bergamot notes, with a long, mineral-tinged finish. Very expressive, this represents a noticeable step up from the second wine in this vintage. Tasted non-blind. —J.M.
Owned by the Dillon family since 1983, La Mission Haut Brion is without doubt one of the mostexceptional wines of Bordeaux. Across the road from Haut Brion, it regularly competes with its moreillustrious older sibling and has even outperformed Haut Brion in certain vintages, such as 2006 when Wine Spectator suggests that it "could be the wine of the vintage".
Stretching from the rather unglamorous southern suburbs of Bordeaux, for 50 km along the left bank of the river Garonne, lies Graves. Named for its gravelly soil, a relic of Ice Age glaciers, this is the birthplace of claret, despatched from the Middle Ages onwards from the nearby quayside to England in vast quantities. It can feel as though Bordeaux is just about red wines, but some sensational white wines are produced in this area from a blend of sauvignon blanc, Semillon and, occasionally, muscadelle grapes, often fermented and aged in barrel. In particular, Domaine de Chevalier is renowned for its superbly complex whites, which continue to develop in bottle over decades. A premium appellation, Pessac-Leognan, was created in 1987 for the most prestigious terroirs within Graves. These are soils with exceptional drainage, made up of gravel terraces built up in layers over many millennia, and consequently thrive in mediocre vintages but are less likely to perform well in hotter years. These wines were appraised and graded in their own classification system in 1953 and updated in 1959, but, like the 1855 classification system, this should be regarded with caution and the wines must absolutely be assessed on their own current merits.