The Haut Brion tasting is possibly the most professionally organised of all the châteaux tastings in the primeur season. Tasting in quietness in the tower of La Mission, one couldn't help but bestruck by the immense quality of this superb wine. A wine of huge depth with layer upon layer of complexity and a stunning integration between fruit, structure and reserved power. This is a very fine wine with a long way to go and equal in class to any previous vintage of this great estate'swine. DR
As for the 2010 Haut-Brion, it does not have the power of Latour’s 2010 or the intense lead pencil shavings and chocolaty component of Lafite-Rothschild, but it is extraordinary, perfect wine. It has a slightly lower pH than the 2009 (3.7 versus the 2009's 3.8), and even higher alcohol than the 2009 (14.6%). The wine is ethereal. From its dense purple color to its incredibly subtle but striking aromatics that build incrementally, offering up a spectacular smorgasbord of aromas ranging from charcoal and camphor to black currant and blueberry liqueur and spring flowers, this wine’s finesse, elegant yet noble power and authority come through in a compelling fashion. It is full-bodied, but that’s only apparent in the aftertaste, as the wine seems to float across the palate with remarkable sweetness, harmony, and the integration of all its component parts – alcohol, tannin, acidity, wood, etc. This prodigious Haut-Brion is hard to compare to another vintage, at least right now, but it should have 50 to 75 years of aging potential. Anticipated maturity: 2022-2065+. Kudos to the team at Haut-Brion and to the proprietors, the Dillon family, who are now represented admirably and meticulously by Prince Robert of Luxembourg. He has made some changes, and all of them seem to have resulted in dramatic improvements to what was already an astonishing group of wines.Drink: 2022-2065
Following a harvest that finished on October 10, Haut-Brion produced a 2010 that should turn out to be one of its all-time greats ... an amazing feat given what they have accomplished over recent vintages. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc that came in at 14.6% alcohol, the 2010 boasts an opaque purple color as well as a gorgeous perfume of scorched earth/burning embers, blueberries, black currant liqueur and crushed rocks. Full and opulent with nobility, finesse, purity and elegance, this amazing effort possesses extraordinary levels of extract as well as formidable, but sweet, well-integrated tannins. It requires 8-10 years of cellaring and should drink well for 50+ years. Drink: 2019 - 2069
A blend of 23% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, this has a quintessential Haut-Brion nose with that trait of fresh black olives defining the nose straight out of the blocks. It is a little less opulent than La Mission but with slightly better clarity at this stage. The palate displays very fine, succulent tannins and like the La Mission there is a Pauillac-like personality thanks to the graphite imparted by the ripe Cabernet Sauvignon. Wonderful definition towards the finish. This is a superb Haut-Brion.
23% Merlot, 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. 7,800 cases, not 10,000+ as in 2009. 42% grand vin (compared with 57% in 2009). Full, opulent nose in which the classic Haut-Brion aroma is well masked by lots of slightly austere fruit. Very fine tannins – very drying finish. An extremely slow burner. Much drier than La Mission, and at the moment not desperately expressive. Its lips are pursed at the moment, and so are mine tasting it. Unusual to come across such a long-term wine even here. This may not make a massive impact en primeur because it is keeping so much in reserve. Drink 2028-2045
Sappy, dense and packed, with layers of kirsch, melted licorice snap, anise and black tea. Just as dense, if not more so, on the finish, with extra tar, violet and blackberry confiture. There's massive grip on the back end, but this is velvety and caressing. Easily the most backward of the first-growths at this stage. Tasted non-blind. -J.M.
Wonderful aromas of dark fruits with sweet tobacco and lilac character. Blackberries too. Amazing nose. This is tight and powerful with beautiful tannins and a racy structure. It lasts for minutes. Super refined yet muscular style of Haut-Brion due to a much lower percentage of Merlot in the blend. I like the 2009 better. Its more typical. This is 57 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc.
Stunning aromas of beautifully concentrated red fruits, already expressive, even exuberant, a taffeta-like finesse hides great strength for the long term. Drink 2020-45.
Arguably the oldest recognised Bordeaux grand cru, Haut Brion has been owned by the American Dillon family since 1935. The Château was an early moderniser - the first estate to implement steel vats in 1961 - and over the years, their incredible investments have re-established the inherent quality of this property, enabling it to emerge as possibly the most consistent first growth since the 1980s. Second wine is Bahans Haut Brion.
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.