A very classy Haut Brion, which on the day of tasting just pipped La Mission to the post as the wine of the vintage in the Clarence Dillon stable of wines. With hints of iodine and liquorice on the nose, this a very complex wine, with lots of structure and intensity. It has a warm ripe fruit feel with notes of leather and spice; very layered with a classy integration of fruit, tannins, and delicate alcohol. A superb wine.
The Château Haut-Brion 2014 is a blend of 50% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 39% Cabernet Sauvignon picked between 11 September and 10 October cropped at 42.9 hectoliters per hectare raised in 70% new oak (Jean-Philippe Delmas has been lowering the new oak in recent vintages.) The fruit seems a little “redder” than La Mission at this stage with vibrant wild strawberry, blackcurrant and a pinch of dry tobacco, a hint of menthol developing with time in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, that tobacco element becoming a little stronger in the mouth, a little foursquare but like La Mission Haut-Brion, focusing upon precision rather than power. Of course, a superb contribution to the vintage, but I'd place my bets on the "Mish", at least on these barrel tastings.
54% of production. 50% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mid to deep crimson. Not very forthcoming on the nose. Broad burly flavours on the palate, very much in the baked-brick spectrum. Well-managed tannins and in this wine the acidity is not especially marked. But it’s no charmer. Very dry on the end. 14.25% Drink 2025-2042
Features a youthfully muscular edge, but remains elegant despite the heft, with a core of plum, red currant and raspberry fruit, guided by supple tannins and backed by subtle tobacco and spice hints. A light bay thread chimes in on the finish, while a juniper detail adds a pleasant underpinning. Displays admirable concentration, but this will need time to soak up its élevage, as it is always one of the more backward wines of the spring tastings. Tasted non-blind.
Dense and tight now with blackberries, blueberries, iodine, minerals and currants. Full-bodied, firm and closed, yet there’s a persistence and length that is most impressive. Polished and very classy.
The 2014 Haut-Brion is one of the truly viscerally thrilling wines of the vintage. A host of smoke, graphite, licorice and black stone fruit notes hit the palate in a towering, majestic wine of the highest level. Opulent yet also massively tannic, with pulsating acidity in support, the 2014 is absolutely impeccable. Violets, lavender, smoke and savory herbs are some of the notes that add nuance as the wine builds to a rapturous, explosive finish. Readers fortunate enough to find the 2014 can look forward to several decades of pure drinking pleasure. The blend is 50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Cabernet Franc.
From a blend of 50% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a full and deep expression of the vintage. The fruit leads with damson and plum, with black pepper spicing, lovely smoked grilled notes, touches of bramble, with a beautiful tannic hold and life on the finish. Deft and elegant, clearly successful, rich complexity and deceptive in terms of ageing because the tannins are fine but there are plenty of them, gently building up in your mouth over the course of the tasting. Such confident handling of the vintage, as you would expect, relatively high alcohol for the year at 14.25%abv, but barely discernible. Drink: 2025-2045
This has one of the highest alcohols on the Left Bank and it is rather bizarre to think that it is nearly 2% more than Latour, which means that it is a powerful creature with masses of potential and years of life ahead of it. This wine is a much fruitier wine than La Mission and yet the tannins on the finish are drier and firmer. The overall impression is of a wine which requires 15 or 20 years to soften this dry finish and I anticipate that it will be stunning at the end of this period. Right now it is belligerent and somewhat annoyed to have been woken from its slumber. The single, unquestionable sign that this will evolve into a breathtaking beauty is the fruit character on the nose - it is sublime, dreamy and luxurious, focussing on plum, cherry and mulberry macerated fruit.
Haut-Brion is often the least showy of the first growths at this stage and that’s the case once more in 2014. It’s a pretty backward wine, dominated by acidity and tannin at the moment, but with its grassy, leafy fruit lying just below the surface. Elegant and restrained, it’s a connoisseur’s red. Drink: 2025-35
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.