There is an amazing dual hit of black fruit and fine-grained tannins here, which is rounded off with a wonderful creaminess. The fruit is encased in a huge structure, which is not always easy to assess when tasting en primeur, but it has a lovely fleshiness to it and the wine is multi-layered with flavours evolving in the mouth. Notes of cocoa, vanilla and tar show towards the finish and it all ends completely seamlessly. The tannins are extremely ripe and well-integrated. Ch. Haut-Brion is often understated at this stage, which serves to underline how fine this wine will be.
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.
A heterogeneous vintage, 2017 will remain in the memory of a lot of vintners with very mixed feelings. An early bud break put hopes very high for a good vintage. These hopes were destroyed by a frost period of historical dimensions. On April 20 an 21 as well as on April 27 and 28 the frost destroyed 30 to 50% of the harvest in the Gironde area, though the best terroirs and famous appellations have been less affected. An early and regular flowering set new hopes. Summer was very dry and the harvest was quite early, even accelerated by rain at the beginning of September. This was rather a problem for the Merlot grapes than for Cabernets. The Cabernet-Sauvignon took advantage of a dry Indian Summer.
Overall the vintage produced remarkable dry white wines above the qualities of 2015 and 2016. The sweet wines took advantage of a fast and regular Botrytis resulting in great wines. The red wines are in general more heterogeneous. However, concerning the wines tasted and presented below, it is a vintage without aromas of peppers and vegetal components, therefore suggesting a good ripening level. For the vineyards suffering frost, often the second generation of grapes had to be used to produce wine. These wines are less impressive than the previous vintages. The best terroirs were offering wines with expressive fruit with a character allowing a good evolution.
On the left bank, Pauillac was doing remarkably well as well as Saint-Julien and generally the vineyards facing the river. On the right bank the situation is much more heterogeneous, with very good results on the plateau calcaire of Saint-Emilion and the centre of the plateau de Pomerol. Overall fruit is dominating the tasting notes and at this early stage, the aromatic expression is mainly based on red and dark berries and stone fruit for the reds.
For the whites the range goes from yellow fruits and citrus fruits up to tropical fruits especially in the sweet wines. Looking back to the last vintages ending on "7" it seems, that this vintage again respects a certain "7"-Tradition. It is a vintage bringing back Bordeaux to its roots, offering a very classic wine style with lower alcohol levels than in the previous years but with often excellent aromatic expression. 2015 and 2016 have surely been better vintages than last year, but based on a first impression 2017 seems to be better than 2014. The evolution will show, that 2017 is far from becoming a "forgotten vintage". Some nice surprises will be waiting for us.
Markus del Monego MW