Haut-Brion Blanc is as renowned as it is scarce, with only about 8,000 bottles available per vintage for a very demanding market. It is often regarded as the greatest white of Bordeaux, although Haut-Brion Blanc’s sibling, Laville Haut-Brion, sometimes equals and occasionally surpasses it. The white vineyards at Haut-Brion are planted to 63 percent Sémillon and 37 percent Sauvignon Blanc, a weighting that gives this wine its particularly plush combination of Sémillon-driven body and Sauvignon-influenced scent of musk. Haut-Brion Blanc ages beautifully.
White Bordeaux does not come much more layered and powerful than this. Strong oak roasted nut notes are evident on the nose but dissipate quickly on the palate. Taut yet shapely refreshing but rich. A large framed wine that manages to find harmony. Alongside exotic touches of stone fruit there are some wonderfully energising fruit characteristics of crystallised lemon rind, grapefruit and lime. Long, complex and very intense without being too weighty.
2010 Overall impression: It is always difficult to talk objectively about one's children. This is what we have to do as winegrowers when we describe the new vintage every year: it is like our youngest child. This year, the key word will certainly be "balance". However, it was by no means easy. Once again, the various components in the grapes all beat their previous records, in quantitative terms. The winegrower's skill this year was in adapting to nature's generosity, in order to achieve a perfect balance.
The main climatic feature of this vintage: a dry year with an arid summer.
The weather during the growing season, from early April to late September, was the driest since 1949. Total rainfall was just over half the average for the past 60 years: 225 mm compared to the usual 400 mm. (For your information, the wettest summer was 1992, with nearly 700 mm! Interestingly, 2005 was the second-driest vintage after 2010, with 229 mm).
This water deficit caused dehydration in the vines, concentrating the grape juice and producing the highest values ever measured, particularly in terms of sugar content.The very cool nights promoted the accumulation of anthocyanins, so the 2010 red wines are the deepest-coloured in recent years.
Our team started leaf-thinning as early as the end of June. We removed the leaves on the east- and north-facing sides in the fruit-bearing zone. This ventilates the grape bunches so that any humidity dries more rapidly. It is also beneficial in a drought, as it reduces evapotranspiration via the leaves.Bunch-thinning started in mid-July, to reduce the yield on each vine and spread it more evenly. The objective was to produce less than one bottle per vine.
After this operation, mainly aimed at controlling quantity, we decided to carry out bunch-thinning a third time in each plot this year. The focus was essentially on quality, eliminating any second-growth grapes from the upper part of the canopy and removing any late- or poorly-set fruit (underdeveloped grapes due to problems during flowering). Finally, we trimmed some grape bunches for the same reason, cutting off the parts commonly known as "winglets".
We maintained relatively low temperatures during fermentation, to preserve the fruity aromas. Skin contact was relatively short this year, as there was no need to "flesh out" the wines.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to make the best blend, as the wines had certainly never reached such a high level of overall quality. That was the paradox: to identify the wines, among all the samples of each grape variety from each plot, that would compose the best-balanced blend. We did not hesitate to set aside wines from the best vineyards if they had too marked a structure and were likely to spoil the overall balance. We spent one month testing over thirty blends before we found the "Holy Grail".
However, this quest for perfection required a number of sacrifices. The "first wines" represent less than half the total production at both estates. As yields in 2010 were the lowest in the past 10 years, the production of our "first wines" is significantly lower than last year ‒ indeed, this is one of the smallest vintages since 1991.