The class of a top second wine very often reflects the origins and quality of the terroir of its Grand Vin. This is most certainly the case in this superb wine from the Ch Haut-Brion stable. With Merlot as the dominant grape variety at 55% in this blend, it is full of rich bramble and plum aromas. In the mouth it has a wonderfully rich succulence, supported by some powerful, chunky intensity, with hints of a gritty tannic structure, providing depth and complexity. DR
The 2016 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is a blend of 51.3% Merlot, 13.1% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2.6% Petit Verdot. It has a little more fruité compared to the La Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion, yet not quite the same mineral tension or complexity. The palate is medium-bodied with supple black fruit, a fine line of acidity and gentle grip, but I would be seeking a little more personality and depth towards the finish. That said, it does have commendable freshness, but my money would be on the La Chapelle this year. Drink Date 2020 - 2032
Dark crimson. Intense nose that's very Haut-Brion. Fine, restrained and just a bit low key. But very classy fruit and oak. Would give a lot of pleasure quite young. Drink 2023-2038
This is powerful and intense with lots of minerals, crushed stones and dark fruit. Dense and linear. Minerally and very energetic.
The 2016 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is a dense, powerful wine. I have no doubt that at other times in Bordeaux's history, the 2016 Clarence could have passed for Grand Vin in terms of its quality. Gravel, woodsmoke, tobacco, incense and dried flowers infuse a core of dark red stone fruits in this powerful, voluptuous second wine from Haut-Brion. This is a tremendous showing.
As with La Mission Haut-Brion and La Chapelle, there is a beautiful signature here running from grand vin to second wine, a clear indication of quality. This is a little more intense than La Chapelle, which was pretty and floral, showing a firmer side with cassis and blackberry. A gorgeous, confident wine. It's very hard to think of a vintage where things are so well constructed and yet so soft. Clarence de Haut-Brion represents 31% of production, from a blend of 51.3% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.1% Cabernet Franc and 2.6% Petit Verdot aged in 33% new oak.
Tense and rather firm and the difference between this wine and La Chapelle is one of nervousness. Le Clarence is very grainy and active and rather firm and dry and this makes it a much harder wine to loosen up and investigate. The power is undoubted but it is also rather gruff and belligerent and this makes it rather massive and blunt at this stage. The future will be bright but I have no idea when this wine will start to drink. It could be as far away as fifteen years...
Made with 31% of the total production at Haut-Brion, this second wine is noticeably lighter and more forward than the Grand Vin. It’s a subtle, refined, scented red with raspberry and black cherry flavours, a hint of dried herbs and good underlying structure. 2022-30
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. Situated in Pessac-Léognan in Graves, the estate is the only classified growth located outside the Médoc. Château Haut Brion has the most Merlot and the most Cabernet Franc of any of the First Growths and the 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.