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News

2019 Vintage

The mild and dry 2018-2019 winter period led to a rather precocious budbreak, on March 1st.

Then, in spring, with the cool temperatures, the vine grew slowly. The flowering was beautiful, with neither shatter nor millerandage. The vine growth was supported by consistent, steady rainfall in June, with the vine developing a very beautiful, uniform surface. From the end of June, the year 2019 was marked by several heatwaves. The month of July, which was particularly hot, ranks as the third-hottest July on record, after July 2006 and 2013, registering a record- breaking 42°C (107.6°F) on July 23rd.

A HOT AND DRY SUMMER

In August, the temperature variation between cool nights and hot days favored the development of anthocyanins (which color the grapes and tannins). These periods of intense heat resulted in relatively slow ripening, on the cabernet francs and sauvignons in particular, but did not stunt the vine.

Ripening progressed smoothly across all of the white varieties - which were ready in time for harvesting season - as well as on the earliest merlots.
In September, the long-awaited rain arrived on the 9
th of the month, returning from the 21st to the 25th, without any consequence on the grape clusters.

In between these two rainy episodes, the dry, hot continental air accelerated the final ripening stage for all the red grape varieties.

Harvesting of the whites began on August 29th. The grapes were in perfect health. The hot weather during the final stage of maturation had us concerned about lessened acidity, particularly on the semillon grapes. For that reason, we decided to switch the usual order of harvesting.

After picking the first batches of ultra-ripe sauvignon, we immediately picked the golden bunches of semillon in order to retain as much freshness as possible for this grape variety. We then finished picking the sauvignon. A customized approach to harvesting in order to let the grapes express their best!

The first, blind tasting of the white wines confirmed that reversing the harvesting order was the right choice this year: the sauvignon wines have a ripe character without excess and a very good acidic balance. The semillons, meanwhile, have a very interesting acid matrix. The white harvest is generous and of very high quality.

 

QUALITY RESULTS FOR THE THREE RED GRAPE VARIETIES.

The harvesting of the reds began a little later, on September 10th.
The harvesting conditions for the merlots were particularly beautiful and warm. The perfectly ripe, sugar-rich grapes yielded wines that are rich, structured and generous on the palate.

For their part, the cabernet francs were picked after a period of rainfall that did them good. This grape variety is surprising for its level of aromatic and gustatory maturity, as well as for the silken quality of its tannic matter.

September rains also proved particularly beneficial to the cabernet sauvignon grape variety, allowing it to attain perfect maturity.
The red yields were also generous, with a high quality for all three red grape varieties, on par with the 2009 vintage.

 

 

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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Inside information

Library

Both designed by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the Château Haut-Brion library as well as the museum of objects related to the history of the vineyard created in 2009 demonstrate the importance given to culture and heritage for the Dillon family.

The oldest books in the estate’s collection can be found in the Château Haut-Brion library, which today contains over a thousand works, the oldest going back to 1516, written in Latin by the Neapolitan poet Francesco Mario Grapaldi.

The library also contains old Haut-Brion harvest records from the 18th and 19th centuries, journals detailing the work performed by the different workers and harvesters, the weather reports for several centuries and a collection of precious letters written by the owners and visitors to the estate. One of these is particularly moving, as it was hand-written by Count Joseph de Fumel in 1794, only a few weeks before he was guillotined. In the letter, he leaves instructions to Sieur Giraud, the Haut-Brion steward, concerning the care to be given to the vines, the best dates for harvesting, the number of workers to hire, the wages to be paid, when to cut the vines and how to maintain the château and its outbuildings “in his absence”.

 

The library complements the remarkable collections of artworks and antiques gathered in the three winegrowing estates belonging to the Dillon family. As all three were built on land that had grown vines since Roman times, it is only logical that some of the first artefacts linked to wine production are lovingly stored here. At Haut-Brion, there are Roman, Greek and Etruscan relics, including amphora, coins and all kinds of drinking receptacles. La Mission Haut-Brion contains one of the largest collections of rare engravings by the German artist Albrecht Dürer. His 16th century engravings illustrate the religious and philosophical ideas familiar to the Lazarists, the founders of the estate. The art collection, which is mainly 18th century, is perfectly showcased in the beautiful surroundings of the Parisian residence and Le Clarence restaurant.

The cultural heritage is palpable, with the sense that even though more than 80 years have passed since the purchase of Château Haut-Brion by Clarence Dillon in 1935, his heirs are keen to continue the traditions through the company that bears his name, Domaine Clarence Dillon.

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5 different wines with 163 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.

 Boire du Bon, Wine Blogger (France)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  5 wines 

Haut Brion 1971 : very dark, earthy, showing tobacco, moka. 


This wine needs air to developp

21d 5h ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  100 wines 

I'll repeat myself with the phrase, "Pomerol is one of the strongest districts in 2018"! The truth is that it's s an accurate and valid statement. Despite not tasting Petrus and Lafleur, to name some of the big hitters, I can assure, that there is enough exceptional goof for every taste from Pomerol. As everywhere in Bordeaux, there also are very few wines under the usual standard in Pomerol.


 

1m 14d ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  4 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Château Mouton-Rothschild 1959 / Another perfect bottle. This has been a long-time favorite with mint and fresh basil, as well as currants and dried fruits on the nose. It turns to dried flowers. Full-bodied with spices, berries, and light eucalyptus character. Christmas cake too. Full body with velvety tannins. This bottle was almost mid-shoulder height, but it was a perfect wine.

4m 7d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  20 wines 

2011 Quintorelli Giusseppe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – A lighter more elegant Amarone that is beautifully composed, well balanced with a lingering finish. The magic of this wine is the lightness which belies its intensity and concentration. Long finish with layers of floral notes that surfaces at the end.

5m 2h ago

 Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  tasted  4 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  41 wines 

Montrachet, 2002 Domaine Des Comtes Lafon.
Montrachet, please notice. No Le, as the plot is on the Chassagne side. Here was a wine which took its time to come out of the glass. At first I was a little underwhelmed, but after ten minutes or so, the richness, concentration, and indeed a succulence almost like a red wine, began to appear. We have something which is quite oaky, still quite youthful, full bodied and very classy indeed: the depth unmistakably of a grand cru. Quite splendid!

5m 9d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  47 wines 

Domaine Etienne Sauzet Montrachet Grand Cru 2017
Incredible intensity and depth in this Montrachet in 2017. Focused, complex with layers of toasted nuts, white flowers and lots of minerals. Wonderful example of this grand cru vineyard. The wine stands out as clearly the most complex and intense from Sauzet. From 50-60 year old vines; only 4 barrels made.


99 points

5m 12d ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  23 wines 

The 2011 Comtes Lafon Montrachet showed some banana on the nose and palate, with a tropical sweetness and a touch of glue. It was initially a bit awkward on the finish, but Alberto noticed it got better and drier with food, becoming his favorite. I agreed that it got better, and so Pitts, channeling his inner Tony the Tiger and proclaiming, ‘it’s great!’ (95p).

6m 16d ago

 Stephen Tanzer, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Haut-Brion . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Petrus 1961 / Deep red-ruby color with an amber edge. Utterly singular perfumed, high-pitched aromas of loganberry, cherry and flowers. An awesomely concentrated wine of huge power and depth. Chewy with extract and wonderfully sweet and rich. Shows the strong iron note I often get from merlot on the Pomerol plateau, along with superripe suggestions of cherry liqueur and dark chocolate. Finishes with great grip and length, and a bit less sweetness than the middle palate would suggest. Drink now through 2020.

7m 14d ago

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