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Wine and diplomacy at Château Haut-Brion
International diplomacy is a tradition at Château Haut-Brion. Thomas Jefferson (US ambassador to France at the time) visited the estate in 1787 and Talleyrand (Napoleon's foreign minister) owned Haut Brion from 1801 to 1804. Douglas Dillon was also a highly-reputed American ambassador to France.
A new page of history was written on the 18th of June, when Prince Robert de Luxembourg welcomed the German foreign minister, Mr Guido Westerwelle, accompanied by his French opposite number, Mr Alain Juppé, who is also Mayor of Bordeaux.
Prince Robert de Luxembourg took the two ministers on a tour of Château La Mission Haut-Brion and showed them a collection of rare engravings by Albrecht Dürer (a famous German artist from the early 16th century) while there. Seeing as fine dining lends a precious helping hand to diplomacy, this visit was followed by lunch in the Château Haut-Brion dining room.
All the wines had special meaning for the two guests: 1990 Château Haut-Brion Blanc (year of German reunification), 1989 Château Haut-Brion (year the Berlin Wall fell), 1961 (Mr Guido Westerwelle's birth year), and 1995 Château La Mission Haut-Brion 199 (year that Mr Juppé was first elected Mayor of Bordeaux). These vintages are also among the most prestigious produced by Domaine Clarence Dillon. Franco-German friendship was unquestionably strengthened thanks to the visit by the two ministers.
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.
A VERY OUTSTANDING YEAR / The purplish-red color is the first sign of this wine's concentration. When swirled in the glass, it displays a deep, warm, very ripe bouquet. 2009 Château Haut-Brion is full of flavour from beginning to end. It is so rich and concentrated that we are tempted to use the word "thick". However, this thickness is in no way synonymous with heaviness thanks to a counterbalancing freshness. 2009 Château
Haut-Brion is reminiscent of 2005 in terms of power, but is even more concentrated. It also has the ripeness and mouthfeel of 1990 and 1989. To summarize, 2009 Château Haut-Brion can be said to be a cross between 2005 and 1989. We are now able to say that it is the most beautiful wine the estate has ever produced.
Merlot Noir 46%
Cabernet Sauvignon 40%
Cabernet Franc 14%
Temperature sum : 3 455 °C.
Rainfall : 388 mm
Number of days over 30°C : 22
Harvesting began : August 31st – October 6th.
Current vintage notes
Winegrowers are cautious by nature. However, this year, we are throwing this legendary caution to the wind to announce the birth of a beautiful and very great vintage. The newborn is so magnificent and full of promise that it is difficult to contain our enthusiasm. We will not beat about the bush: 2009 is extraordinary, undoubtedly worthy of a place of honor in the Hall of Fame along with the
legendary 1929, 1947, 1949, 1959, 1961,1982, 1989, 1990, 2000, and 2005 vintages.
James Suckling, 100/100:
"Aromas of forest floor, currants and blueberries, with hints of fresh tobacco and sliced mushrooms. Turns to orange peel and blueberries. Full-bodied, with incredible structure. This is so powerful in tannins, yet so polished. This is the most structured Haut-Brion that I have ever tasted. This has 15% Cabernet Franc, which is more than normal and perhaps giving the wine a little more tannic structure. A monumental Haut-Brion made to age for centuries. I have never tasted a young Haut-Brion, with such spellbinding power and depth. A modern 1945 or 1961 HB? Better than the legendary 1989? Try in 2021."
What a blockbuster effort! Atypically powerful, one day, the 2009 Haut-Brion may be considered to be the 21st century version of the 1959. It is an extraordinarily complex, concentrated effort made from a blend of 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Cabernet Franc with the highest alcohol ever achieved at this estate, 14.3%. Even richer than the perfect 1989, with similar technical numbers although slightly higher extract and alcohol, it offers up a sensational perfume of subtle burning embers, unsmoked cigar tobacco, charcoal, black raspberries, wet gravel, plums, figs and blueberries. There is so much going on in the aromatics that one almost hesitates to stop smelling it. However, when it hits the palate, it is hardly a letdown. This unctuously textured, full-bodied 2009 possesses low acidity along with stunning extract and remarkable clarity for a wine with a pH close to 4.0. The good news is that there are 10,500 cases of the 2009, one of the most compelling examples of Haut-Brion ever made. It requires a decade of cellaring and should last a half century or more. Readers who have loved the complexity of Haut-Brion should be prepared for a bigger, richer, more massive wine, but one that does not lose any of its prodigious aromatic attractions.” -Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (100 Points)
Right up there with 1947, 1961, and 2005, 2009 is a year of almost exaggeratedly (for Bordeaux) flamboyant, opulent wines with elevated ripeness and low acidity. The tannins are unusually ripe, while the wines are quite voluptuous in style. The Left Bank recorded more sunlight hours than legendary vintages such as 1947 and 1982, and grapes had higher sugar concentrations than 2003 and 2005. The key was significant diurnal temperature swings that allowed grapes to handle the hot daytime temperatures. An exceptional vintage across the board.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|659€ +0.8%||654€ -4.4%||684€ -9.3%||754€ -25.2%||1 008€|