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.
Mother Nature will have put us to the test in 2013, presenting an early challenge with a wet spring. Hence, difficult flowering conditions caused some coulure (shot berries) and millerandage (abnormal fruit set, with berries of uneven size). This environment paved the way for a small crop and the need for meticulous sorting during the harvest. Fortunately, a hot (especially in July), dry summer enabled the vines to recover from this difficult spring, although not enough to make up for the delay in phenological ripeness. Our vineyards were practically unaffected by the violent hail storms that devastated certain parts of Bordeaux.
The months of August and September were devoted to preparing for a late harvest. This included thinning out late-maturing bunches in each plot to retain only grapes that were ripe from a technological and organoleptic standpoint. Picking started on September 17th for the whites and on the 24th for the reds. The weather alternated between beautiful sunny periods and rainy ones. Combining two qualities essential to winegrowers – patience and vigilance – we had to find just the right balance between waiting for optimum ripeness and anticipating the arrival of rainy spells -generally conducive to the development of grey rot.
We also needed to be very rigorous in sorting the grapes to eliminate the consequences of a poor spring (millerandage) and autumn (grey rot). This was absolutely essential in 2013 in order to produce quality. To achieve this goal, we asked pickers to be extremely vigilant and to harvest only perfectly sound grapes.
In front of each vat room at Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion, a sorting table was installed to produce a further selection prior to destemming and before the introduction into an optical sorting machine (a "tribaie" densimetric sorting machine at Château Quintus) which helped us to fine tune the already meticulous selections made by the pickers and sorters. The alcoholic fermentation went very well and the last vats are now finishing their malolactic fermentation.
The most salient feature of the 2013 vintage is that yields are very small – about 25-30 hectolitres per hectare, compared to 44 hl/ha last year.
The other major characteristic of the 2013 vintage is its quality, which is, of course, our ongoing and overriding concern. We are pleased to confirm that so far the wines show fine structure, reminiscent of such good vintages as 2004, 2007 and 2008.
Our work is now focusing on careful tasting to prepare the final blend – to "construct" the best possible wine for this vintage. This will be followed by barrel ageing adapted to the profile of each wine. Even though Mother Nature did not exactly make things easy for us, we can honestly say as of now that our intimate understanding of our terroirs, combined with advances in sustainable viticulture and oenology, has enabled us to produce quality wines. Such results would unquestionably have been impossible 40 or 50 years ago...