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Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 98p / In terms of the brilliant complexity and nobility of the aromatics, scorched earth, black currants, plums, charcoal, cedar, and spices, the 1990 offers an aromatic explosion that is unparalleled. It is always fascinating to taste this wine next to the 1989, which is a monumental effort, but much more backward and denser, without the aromatic complexity of the 1990. The 1990 put on weight after bottling, and is currently rich, full-bodied, opulent, even flamboyant by Haut Brion’s standards. It is an incredible expression of a noble terroir in a top vintage. While it has been fully mature for a number of years, it does not reveal any bricking at the edge, and I suspect it will stay at this level for another 10-15 years ... but why wait? It is irresistible now.
Château Haut-Brion is the oldest and by far the smallest of the "Premiers Grands Crus" vineyards of the Gironde 1855 classification. Château Haut-Brion is one of the few remaining family-owned domains of the Bordeaux region with a history going back to the 16th century. It has been owned by the American Dillon family since 1935.
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.
1990 AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR
The wine is not as supple and velvety as the 89. Its structure is, more of a classic vintage. Comparable to the 88, showing complexity, finess and elegance which define Haut-Brion's great years.
Sum of temperatures : 3438 °C
Rain : 291 mm
Days where temperature above 30 °C : 32
Harvest : from 04/09/1990 to 28/09/1990
Current vintage notes
A warm winter so an exceptionally earlym budding. The start of spring was cold but summer was exceptionally hot and dry. Littlerain in September allowed an abundant and very healthy crop.
Early, uniform flowering, a hot but unspectacular summer and an exceptionally hot period at the end of August 1990 and the first half of September. It was this heat that allowed the record harvest not only to fully ripen, but also to concentrate the fruit. Harvesting began on September 14 and was completed before the start of heavy rains on October 2. Another reason for the success of the vintage was that most châteaux had invested in their cellars and were able to work with such a large and hot harvest. It was now possible to control fermentation temperatures better than in previous warm vintages, such as 1947. The grapes produced wines with such a high level of natural alcohol that chaptalization became unnecessary. They showed deep color, high and unusually sweet tannin levels and better acidity than expected, as well as great concentration of fruit. The hype was great, particularly thanks to the advent of new wine magazines - this was the vintage that cemented Robert Parker's reputation. Prices rose quickly and haven't looked back since. I remember that all Premiers Crus (including Pétrus) were offered to end consumers for around 50 euros en primeur in 1983.
The scene of the arrival of the 1990 vintage was quite different. There was a surplus of very good to great wine on the market – for the first time, there was talk of three great vintages in succession. This led most châteaux to drop their prices by around 20% from their 1989 prices, even though the quality was exceptional. There had been a steady increase in prices during the 1980s, but they had now more or less returned to the opening prices of the 1982s. This was again a record harvest, but as most châteaux had already introduced a "second wine" and were more selective regarding quality, there was actually less wine bottled under the name "Grand Vin" than in 1982.
We have been following these two vintages since they were young, as they were both precocious and easy to drink from the start. The best wines from both vintages are spectacular, but the overall quality is much higher in 1990. Here, the wines have been equally successful on both sides of the river, and even the small châteaux have produced something special. We always found most Right Bank 1982s to be overly alcoholic and lacking in structure; Indeed, many age quickly.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|912€ +26.8%||719€ +15.6%||622€ +1.8%||611€ +1.5%||602€ +1.7%||592€ +0.9%||587€ -10.5%||656€ -6.2%||699€ +124.8%||311€ +114.5%||145€|