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2023 Vintage Report

Winter was marked by relatively low temperatures and heavy rainfall.  Budbreak occurred in mid-March.  The rainy weather and rather warm days encouraged the vine to grow continuously, at a frantic pace.  The teams had to be on the alert, relentlessly observing the vineyard to prevent any risk of disease and to be able to step in rapidly.  The advantageous position of the vineyard, where air circulates well, which limits the length of time leaves retain moisture and the constant watchfulness of the winegrowers in the vineyard made it possible to prevent the development of diseases, in particular mildew, the pressure of which was extremely intense.  

Flowering and then the formation of clusters occurred in excellent conditions, promising an abundant harvest of grapes.  Throughout the whole season, green work, so necessary in this year, was stepped up.  In half of the vineyard, leaf-thinning was done on the sunrise side.  Green harvests were increased, whereas trimming was restricted to maintain the coolness of the soils and to protect the grapes from the risk of sunscald damage, by enabling them to benefit from the shade provided. Harvests of white grapes began on 24th August, in sweltering heat.  As in previous years, the grapes were only picked in the morning and transported in refrigerated vehicles, to protect the aroma precursors.  

This special care was combined with meticulous sorting in the vineyard and on arrival at the vat house.  The first juices of white grapes promised a fresh vintage, with lovely crisp liveliness.  Harvests of red grapes started on 6th September, in good weather conditions, although very hot.  The grapes were ripe and concentrated for all the varieties, with an abundance in phenolic compounds rarely seen before and a very good content of sugar.  As for the juices, they were fresh and fruity.  The bountiful harvest stretched out over 20 days for all of the plots and in weather conditions that remained summery. 

 

 

2020 Vintage

A rainy winter and springtime required swift responsiveness from the teams to go in to do their work in the vineyard at just the right moment. Subsequently, a drought took hold from the beginning of the summer and then, on the contrary, it was necessary to limit work in the vineyard as much as possible, so as to protect the vines from the sun. Two months without rain, interspersed by peaks of very high temperatures slowed down the vine’s growth somewhat and curbed its advance, even though ripeness was very early.

"2020 is a unique vintage in every way. We had to be patient to wait for the ripeness we hoped for, but above all, 2020 will be remembered as a vintage with a very significant human factor. All these conditions make 2020 a remarkable vintage; concentrated wines, sustained by astonishing freshness enable La Mission Haut-Brion 2020 to be a huge success,
in red as well as in white."  
Jean-Philippe Delmas

 

Harvests

The harvests for white grapes began on 19th August, with the sun shining brightly. Given the heat, the main concern was to protect the grapes’ aromas: picking was done only in the mornings and refrigerated transport carried the grapes to the vat house.
At the end of the month of August, harvests of white grapes were completed. A week later, they began for red grapes. This short interlude was necessary and beneficial to attain the perfect aromatic balance and ripeness of the red grapes. When picking them, the challenge was to work in the shade as much as possible, not only to protect the grapes, but the harvesters too. All these precautions and the teams’ patience paid off: on arrival at the vat house, few berries were discarded during sorting by density testing; this was a sign of consistent ripeness and a very healthy, promising crop. When fermentation was only just finished, the juices clearly showed the ripeness already observed in the vineyard.

 

A CUT ABOVEChâteau La Mission Haut-Brion launches the ultimate wine box at Harrods

Harrods has teamed up with one of Bordeaux’s most renowned châteaux to create the limited edition La Mission Haut-Brion “A Cut Above” for the ultimate wine dinner. Each of these six handcrafted cases (£5,000, available from Friday 25 November) comprises four of the estate’s most celebrated vintages – reds from 1982, 1989 and 2000, and a white from 2009 – as well as a set of 12 knives that sport handles made from the château’s own barrel staves: six from a red wine barrel and six from a white one.

The cases were designed and created by Technew, a Swiss workshop better known for producing boxes to house fine jewellery and watches, and the knives are the work of Artisan Coutelier, a French knifemaker that handcrafts fine cutlery. Each case comes with a signed letter from Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president and CEO of La Mission Haut-Brion’s owner Domaine Clarence Dillon – what it says therein, only your dinner guests will ever know.  

 

The launch of La Mission Haut-Brion “A Cut Above” follows the announcement that Harrods will be relocating its prestigious wine store from its home in the 650sq m basement to make way for a 250-seat restaurant. Harrods reassures that the Wine Room will continue in another form, although its new location in the building has yet to be revealed.

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History

As the wines of Bordeaux were classified in 1855 only one château outside Médoc was included, the premier cru Château Haut Brion from Graves.

They were classified into five groups or cru's ranged according to the prices they fetched. It has since been a favourite pasttime of most wine experts to suggest alterations to the original 1855 classification. Château La Mission Haut Brion which was not included in this list can be said to be the first "supersecond" château. It has not quite reached the status and the price of the premier crus, but being in a class of its own above those of the second crus of Médoc. 

 

The property was donated in 1664 to a religious congregation founded by Saint Vincent de Paul – the Lazaristes or the Prêcheurs de la Mission. It was confiscated by the state during the french revolution and then sold in 1792. The ownership changed several times until the Woltner family bought it in 1919. It was the Woltners and particularly Henri Woltner who built up its reputation to where it stands today. It remained in their family until 1983, when it was bought by the owners of its illustrious neighbour, Château Haut Brion. La Mission Haut Brion had been the only real competition to Haut Brion as the best wine of Graves for decades and many wine lovers around the world had feared that the distinct difference in character of the two neighbours would disappear as it was now being made by one and the same winemaker, the brilliant Jean-Bernard Delmas. These fears have fortunately proved to be unfounded with both wines continuing being among the very greatest in the world, but still very distinct and different in style.

 

What makes the wines so different? 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. 

by Tb

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Vineyards

The wines are traditionally more tannic and austere when young, and they demand more patience before the wine starts to get rounded at the edges than those of Haut Brion. When tasting the wines of Haut Brion and La Mission next to each other it is a difference in style rather than quality that determines which wine the taster prefers. I personally have found this to vary from vintage to vintage and from time to time depending on which mood I'm in. The wines from La Mission are generally speaking more powerful and show more upfront concentrated fruit and tannins than Haut Brion, whose wines are among the most elegant and complex wines in the world.

 

In short it can be said that, similar to the wines of Château Latour, they are deep coloured, showing concentrated, majestic fruit combined with a firm backbone of tannin and structure. Another similarity to the wines of Château Latour is a reputation for producing wines of good quality and ageability in difficult vintages.

 

Also included in the sale to the Dillons was Château La Tour Haut Brion. This was for many years used as a second wine of La Mission Haut Brion, that usually meant that the best wine from the two properties was bottled as La Mission Haut Brion and the wine that was not quite up to this standard was bottled as La Tour Haut Brion. This changed and La Tour Haut Brion was again a property in its own right up until the 2005 vintage when it was incorporated into Château La Mission Haut Brion and ceased to exist. The second wine of La Mission Haut Brion is now called La Chapelle de la Mission and is a great buy, particularly in good vintages.

One of the best and most expensive white wines of the Bordeaux region is also produced by La Mission , for many years known as Château Laville Haut Brion and recently renamed Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc.

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Winemaking

La Mission Vintages:

 

2003 has sweet fruit but ages at an alarming rate like almost all 2003s.

2001 is a very good wine from an underrated vintage.

2000 is a giant of a wine. Great concentration and soft tannins. Needs time.

1999 is a charming wine that should be drunk soon.

1998 is still quite tannic but with good fruit.

1997 is quite disappointing with green unripe tannins.

1996 and 1995 are still tannic but will surely become classic Missions with age.

1991 to 1994 are very good examples from these difficult vintages showing how well La Mission does when the conditions are far from ideal. All drinking very well now.

1990 has good silky fruit and soft tannins. Already lovely, but with a great future.

1989 was marked by a very hot, dry summer and the earliest harvest since 1893. Very concentrated roasted fruit and a spectacular wine. Needs a few more years.

The 1988 is very good with ripe and sweet fruit supporting the tannic structure.

The 1987 is fairly good for the vintage.

The 1986 has great concentration of fruit but is also very tannic still. The question here is if the tannins won’t outlast the fruit.

1985 La Mission shows more elegance and balance and is lovely now.

We have always thought that the 1983 La Mission is one of the best wines of this underrated vintage and it is perfect now.

The magnificent 1982 has understandably never been underrated, it is a glorious wine now starting to reach maturity. This should drink well for at least another 30 years.

The 1981 and 1979 are still drinking very well.

La Mission made one of the very few wines in 1978 that still has some future left and is for me the wine of the vintage.

1976 needs drinking up, but is still good for the vintage.

The 1975 is getting to become a legend. Enormously concentrated and powerful with none of the hard tannins so typical of his vintage. Fantastic wine but not really typical in style of a Graves.

The 1974 is the best wine of this vintage and one of the few that still gives pleasure.

1973 is a sweet and delicate wine.

The 1971 and 1970 are both very elegant and stylish wines now fully mature.

To smell the 1966 is like stepping in to a viennese coffehouse and is absolutely lovely now as is the fabulous 1964 (1964 was a much better vintage in Graves than for most parts of Médoc). The 1962 is also very good.

The 1961 is a monumental wine with great concentration of fruit and this will drink well forever.

The 1959 is one of the favourite vintage from La Mission and it has been giving pleasure for a long time and will continue to do so for some time to come. A perfect wine!

Two wines from "minor" vintages that show amazing class and youth are the 1958 and 1950 La Missions.

Beautiful wines were made in 1952, 1953 and 1955 and they are still giving great joy if stored well.

The price for the greatest wine during the 1940s will be fought out between the lovely 1949 and the majestic 1945, we tend to cast our vote for the near perfect 1949.. Also great are the 1947 and the 1948 which are still showing great fruit and style.

The 1934 La Mission is a beautiful wine as is the 1935.

The 1928 La Mission has been showing itself to be a great wine on several occasions.

199, 1896 and 1895 are both delicate wines that still can give pleasure, in particular the 1896

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3 different wines with 126 vintages

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