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News

The 2015 vintage: Following in the footsteps of the greatest vintages

Spring 2015 (April, May, and June) was very dry. This was conducive to excellent flowering conditions, both quick and even. July was also a dry month. The effects of water stress were obvious in plots with the youngest vines.  Fortunately, it finally rained on July 26th (14 mm), which gave a new impetus to the young Merlot vines and enabled véraison, or colour change, to take place unhindered.

The level of precipitation from March to June was much lower than the average of the last sixty-years.  These drought conditions slowed down vegetative growth starting in July.  This allowed the vine's vigour to be channelled into ripening the fruit.  Another consequence of the cumulative dry, hot summer weather was very thick skins.

This led us to look after the vines with the greatest of care, giving tailor-made attention to each one. Leaf and bunch thinning were thus carried out to varying degrees and at different times.  These two operations occurred early in the season and were intense for Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but took place later and were less intense for Cabernet Sauvignon and the white wine varieties. Going through the vines repeatedly to pluck leaves and thin bunches improved ventilation and enhanced ripening.

August was hot as well as rainy – which everyone in Bordeaux had been hoping for. This rain enabled the vines to maintain the necessary water reserves and to provide requisite nourishment for perfect ripeness. The harvest began in September under a clear blue sky. Thanks to this ideal weather, we were able to wait for optimum ripeness for each grape variety.

All the conditions are there to allow 2015 to join the greatest vintages of Haut-Brion and  Mission Haut-Brion.

 

Red wines

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 
The colour is very deep with attractive red highlights. The first impression on the nose is of ripe fruit. Swirling in the glass shows the bouquet's intensity and complexity.  2015 Clarence is tasty and full-bodied from the very first, going on to show refined, tight-knit tannin. The wine leaves an impression of freshness and plenty of volume, but without heaviness.

57% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon – The harvest lasted from the 8th of September to the 5th of October.

 

Château Haut-Brion
Very beautiful, deep, garnet-red colour.   The nose is ripe and concentrated.  After swirling in the glass, it becomes more complex with hints of very ripe – but not excessively so – red and black fruit. There are also liquorice nuances and a soupçon of clove. The wine starts out with a very soft mouth feel and immediately shows tremendous volume and depth in every respect, with flavours reminiscent of ripe fruit and cocoa beans.  The long aftertaste features mocha and slightly bitter coffee nuances. Barrel ageing will undoubtedly bring out more of this wine's greatness and confirm its place among the finest vintages of Château Haut-Brion.

50% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon – The harvest lasted from the 8th of September to the 5th of October.

 

White wines

La Clarté de Haut-Brion
2015 La Clarté has a very attractive, expressive nose of citrus, especially grapefruit, with lemon nuances. The wine starts out very rich and attractive on the palate with medium volume, as well as plenty of depth and attractive flavours.

27% Sauvignon Blanc, 73% Sémillon – The harvest lasted from the 28th of August to the 8th of September.

 

Château Haut-Brion 
White Château Haut-Brion has a complex nose revealing hints of mango, lychee, pineapple, rose petal, and pepper. The Sauvignon Blanc comes through beautifully here.  The wine is full and fruity on the palate, going on to show breadth, richness, and a superb, saline mouth-watering aftertaste.

69% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Sémillon – The harvest lasted from the 28th of August to the 7th of September.

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History

Château Haut-Brion Thomas Jefferson, the american ambassador to Paris and later President of the United States of America, visited Haut Brion on May 25th 1787 commenting in his journals about the soils of the vineyards as well as mentioning that there were four vineyards of first quality Château Margaux, Château Latour Ségur, Château Haut Brion and Château La Fite. He also wrote:"Haut Brion is a wine of the first rank and seems to please the American palate more than all the others that I have been able to taste in France.“ Jean de Pontac began constituting the Haut-Brion vineyard, in the Graves region, in 1525.

 

His descendants went on to produce "New French Claret," the precursor of today's great wines. Their efforts enabled Arnaud III de Pontac to sell his wine under the estate's name as early as 1660. Called “vin de Pontac”, then Haut-Brion, it gained a fine reputation and enormous success in London. The first of the Bordeaux great growths was born. Through the centuries, the owners and managers of Haut-Brion have been obsessed with perpetuating the château's reputation for quality. Classified a First Growth in 1855, Haut-Brion has done everything possible ever since then to maintain its standing. To perpetuate its Grand Cru status, an estate and its constituent parts have to be maintained over the centuries, suitable grape varieties for each plot have to be chosen, and a relentless selection process carried out. Today, a great American family, the Dillons, has been continuing this tradition for seventy years.

Manager Jean-Bernard Delmas retired in 2003, and was succeeded by his son Jean-Philippe Delmas. Prince Robert of Luxembourg who has acted as an administrator at Haut-Brion since the age of 18, became in 2008 Président Directeur Général of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

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Vineyards

The vineyards are on a small rise about 27 metres above sea level. It contains a very deep layer of gravel – perfect for growing wine. Just over 48 hectares are planted with 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc. Château Haut-Brion is together with Latour the Premier Cru that has been most consistent for the last 100 years, never going through a phase where their wines were not worthy of their Premier Cru status.

 

This is not taken for granted by the present management and they are making great efforts to not only keep the quality of their wine but also always trying to improve small details. Fortunately, they are not using extraction machines or other voodoo methods of concentration, but rather seeking concentration by lowering the yield per vine. This has subtly changed the style of the wine to make it more approachable earlier but without losing the true character of Haut Brion - the connaisseurs Premier Cru.

The selection of optimum rootstocks and clones has been a large task at Château Haut-Brion, pioneered by Jean-Bernard Delmas, which has greatly contributed to the quality of the plant material in the vineyard. The long-term aim has been to lower yields, not by green-harvesting but by ensuring healthy and balanced vines. The average age of the vines is approximately 35 years with the oldest parcels dating back to the 1930s, planted with an average vine density of 8000 vines/ha.

 

Harvesting takes place by hand and each parcel is worked by the same team of workers to increase the teams’ familiarity with the individual vines. The harvest of the white grapes takes place very early due to the proximity to the city of Bordeaux which results in a warmer microclimate and thus earlier ripening. The white grapes are picked as late as possible, sorted and then pneumaticly pressed in whole bunches. There is no skin contact and fermentation takes place in oak barrels with indigenous yeast. After sorting in the field, the red grapes are destemmed, crushed and moved to a special double-tank with fermentation taking place in the top and malolactic fermentation in the bottom, using gravity to move the wine. Previously ageing took place in 100% new oak casks lasting 18 months. This has been reduced to 35% new casks and wine destined for the second wine Le Clarence is aged in 25% new oak. The white wine is aged in 40-45% new oak for 10–12 months. Château Haut-Brion has its own cooperage.

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Winemaking

What makes the Haut Brion wines so different than La Mission Haut Brion's? The fierce competition that had existed between Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion over several years, which rose to a peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, ended when Domaine Clarence Dillon acquired La Mission in 1983.  Today Both are joining each other in a part of Graves, which at the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before the Médoc vineyards became popular, was the centre of bordelais winemaking. Most other vineyards in this part of Graves are long gone and the vineyards of La Mission and Haut Brion are now surrounded by highrise office buildings and housing estates within the the expanding city of Bordeaux itself. The soil is similar to that of Haut Brion, as is the proportion of the grape varieties. Both contain roughly 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The difference is mainly to be found in the way the wine is made once the grapes reach their respective cellars. 

 

La Mission was pioneering wine making in the 1920s by introducing glasslined metal fermentation tanks.These were more hygienic and easier to clean than the traditional wooden vats, but the biggest advantage was the ability to cool the vats during the fermentation by running cold water on their outside. Too warm fermentation temperatures could kill off the yeast before fermentation was finished, and there was then an increased risk of bacteria converting the residual sugar into vinegar leading to volatile acidity. The practised method of lowering the fermentation temperatures at this time was to add sacks with ice to the must, thereby cooling but also diluting the wine. By fermenting at lower temperatures important aroma products were retained in the wine and the wine could be kept on the lees for a longer time, giving a wine with deeper colour and more extract. 

 

At Haut Brion, after sorting in the field, the red grapes are destemmed, crushed and moved to a special double-tank with fermentation taking place in the top and malolactic fermentation in the bottom, using gravity to move the wine. Previously ageing took place in 100% new oak casks lasting 18 months. This has been reduced to 35% new casks and wine destined for the second wine Le Clarence is aged in 25% new oak. The white wine is aged in 40-45% new oak for 10–12 months

 

Soil: gravel soil with a subsoil of clay and sand Production area: 48 ha Grape varieties: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 42% Merlot Average age of vines: 37 years Harvest method: by hand with the sorting out on trailers Winemaking: computer controlled pumping-overs and thermoregulation according to the temperatures of the must and the marc Ageing: 18-22 months in 80% new barrels

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5 different wines with 144 vintages

Winemaking since 1521

  • Jean-Philippe Delmas

    Manager
    I prefer to talk about ecosystem rather than terroir. I include in the ecosystem: the soil, the plant, the microclimate, the relief and other factors. Then, it depends on the sensitivity of the wine grower and wine maker. Either you respect the ecosystem, or you make a wine without taking into account the ecosystem. We choose to respect the ecosystem.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  13 wines 

My TOP Bordeaux from 2010 vintage / Deep ruby in colour, the Lafite has wonderful aromatics, with a gorgeous perfume of violets, cedar, cassis and blackberries. With its velvety tannins and layered, delicate flavours, there is a succulent juicy character to its fruit profile, accented with hints of violet. It is a gorgeous wine that is filled with delicate layers of flavours and at the same time is not heavy or dense. This is clearly a very successful vintage for Lafite in both style and intensity, producing a wine that will outlive the outstanding 2009. 100 points

2d 4h ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  18 wines 

The Friday evening went with friends and Bordeaux's best wines. We started with the almost perfect Haut Brion 1945 and ended the perfect Yquem 1976 vintage. A total of twenty bottles were shared with our friends at our home.

10d 9h ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Petrus 2009 / 100 points / If a wine's aroma can be sexy, then this is it: Vibrant mixed spices, sweet, ripe plums, blackberries and violets. The wine has amazing density and richness with Petrus' signature layers of flavours including hint of game, anise and exotic Asian spices that go on and on. This is an intoxicating wine that will be a hedonists' delight in its youth or after decades of aging.

20d 2h ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Latour 1973 surprise d all of us - 96 points?

20d 2h ago

 Nathan Long, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  13 wines 

1982 was without question one of the great vintages and from a financial viewpoint the most important year in the 20th century for Bordeaux: the vintage brought wines of superb class in not small quantities. The growing season progressed ideally. An early flowering was followed by a hot and dry summer. The resulting wines are meaty and possess powerful tannin structure.

21d 6h ago

 Hannu Kytölä, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Friday evening with Latour 1959, Lafite 1990, Mouton 1989, Haut-Brion 1995, Margaux 1982 etc.

22d 32min ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Last evening was a real " Voyage autour du monde" along with the top 24 wines that wine countries can offer, and there was only four of us enjoying them...Unfortunately, quite a lot of bottles remained half empty, but not the Petrus 2003, Cheval Blanc 1947, Screaming Eagle 1999, Pingus 1995, Haut-Brion Blanc 1995, Lafleur 1996 etc.

26d 1h ago

 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  161 wines 

Bordeaux 2016 vintage!

1m 1d ago

 Andrew Caillard MW, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  126 wines 

Every now and again one stumbles across a paradox that confounds the accepted natural order of things. The 2016 Bordeaux vintage was born out of a growing season that was near-catastrophe and near-perfection. After the Hesperian Dragon’s relentless torment, the Titan God Atlas had seemingly kept the sky aloft with the help of a Phoenix. Following five months of diabolical weather patterns, a warm to hot dry summer arrived in the nick of time, not only saving a vintage, but creating one of the most spectacular vintages in a lifetime.


 The sense of relief in Bordeaux must have been as thrilling as avoiding the bullet of Russian Roulette, or the adrenalin of surviving a base-jump. The razor’s edge has never been so exquisitely fine. While the end result is not always perfect, with the odd abrasions here and there, the overall quality of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage is remarkably consistent with many Chateaux making some of their best wines in 50 years. Typically, the wines have deep colours, pure fruit aromatics, generous saturated flavours, dense rich tannin structures and bell clear acidities. Precision, freshness, elegance, smoothness and “delicate opulence” are words that are being used by various Chateaux to describe their wines.


 The Bordelais are, of course, the world’s greatest spin doctors. They leave snake charmers for dead when it comes to the art of mesmerising. The newly opened and impressive Cité du Vin, which sits on the banks of the Garonne River in Bordeaux, sparkles like a polished turd; a monument to the exaggerations and optimism of this particular type of fine wine game. Momentum is achieved through belief. There is no room for wavering or self-doubt.

1m 3d ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  75 wines 

In 2016 Pauillac has made some excellent wines and on the top, Mouton has made something very special and might be wine of the vintage competing with Petrus. Lots of estate has made excellent wines from Pauillac this year. Saint-Estephe has also made stunning wines and Cos d'Estournel has made one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted from them. Northern Médoc is far better in 2016 than in 2015, but for me, 2016 on a whole delivers more. 2015 for me eas a bit hyped even if the wines were very good indeed. 2016 probably has the edge over 2011 as well that is seriously undervalued in the market, but will give many some surprises for the future.

1m 5d ago

 Markus Del Monego / Best Sommelier in the World 1998, MW (Germany)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  272 wines 

BORDEAUX VINTAGE 2016 / Tasting "en primeur" is a challenge every year. The wines tasted are showing a tendency only and it is still the beginning of a longer process of evolution and maturation in the barrels. There might be some changes during the next year and a half until the wines will be bottled, but already today the tendency is quite clear. For most of the red wines it will be an outstanding vintage, a vintage for Cabernet, old vines, limestone and clay soil. It was a challenging year for the vintners. An incredibly wet spring was worrying the winegrowers and at the beginning of June, the spirits were down. However warm and dry weather between June 3 and June 11 creating an close to ideal situation for the flowering and good weather conditions starting in mid June changed the nature of the vintage. The fine weather continued into July and August. The month of August was featuring hot weather and a remarkable amount of sunshine but the absence of rain let to water stress. Heavy rain in mid September set an end to water stress and when the sun returned on September 20 the vintage was saved as there was excellent weather till to the end of the harvest. The effects were various. the white wines are on a good quality level and display fruit and flavour but the acidity is lower than in previous vintages and the white wines show an opulent and rather soft style. The noble sweet wines are extremely pure and are more on the rich and powerful side than on the freshness. For the red wines originating from the right terroirs and old vines, the vintage an be called outstanding. Water stress was managed well on limestone and clay terroirs, Cabernet varieties did extremely well and old vines found water even during the stressful dry periods of summer. In some few red wines the tannins are slightly harsh, almost bitter, a result of water stress and/or intense extraction. In general the red wines are on an excellent level with an advantage for the left bank, mainly the Médoc area, and the classic great terroirs of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. 

1m 10d ago

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