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2010 Overall impression: It is always difficult to talk objectively about one's children. This is what we have to do as winegrowers when we describe the new vintage every year: it is like our youngest child. This year, the key word will certainly be "balance". However, it was by no means easy. Once again, the various components in the grapes all beat their previous records, in quantitative terms. The winegrower's skill this year was in adapting to nature's generosity, in order to achieve a perfect balance.
The main climatic feature of this vintage: a dry year with an arid summer.
The weather during the growing season, from early April to late September, was the driest since 1949. Total rainfall was just over half the average for the past 60 years: 225 mm compared to the usual 400 mm. (For your information, the wettest summer was 1992, with nearly 700 mm! Interestingly, 2005 was the second-driest vintage after 2010, with 229 mm).
This water deficit caused dehydration in the vines, concentrating the grape juice and producing the highest values ever measured, particularly in terms of sugar content.The very cool nights promoted the accumulation of anthocyanins, so the 2010 red wines are the deepest-coloured in recent years.
Our team started leaf-thinning as early as the end of June. We removed the leaves on the east- and north-facing sides in the fruit-bearing zone. This ventilates the grape bunches so that any humidity dries more rapidly. It is also beneficial in a drought, as it reduces evapotranspiration via the leaves.Bunch-thinning started in mid-July, to reduce the yield on each vine and spread it more evenly. The objective was to produce less than one bottle per vine.
After this operation, mainly aimed at controlling quantity, we decided to carry out bunch-thinning a third time in each plot this year. The focus was essentially on quality, eliminating any second-growth grapes from the upper part of the canopy and removing any late- or poorly-set fruit (underdeveloped grapes due to problems during flowering). Finally, we trimmed some grape bunches for the same reason, cutting off the parts commonly known as "winglets".
We maintained relatively low temperatures during fermentation, to preserve the fruity aromas. Skin contact was relatively short this year, as there was no need to "flesh out" the wines.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to make the best blend, as the wines had certainly never reached such a high level of overall quality. That was the paradox: to identify the wines, among all the samples of each grape variety from each plot, that would compose the best-balanced blend. We did not hesitate to set aside wines from the best vineyards if they had too marked a structure and were likely to spoil the overall balance. We spent one month testing over thirty blends before we found the "Holy Grail".
However, this quest for perfection required a number of sacrifices. The "first wines" represent less than half the total production at both estates. As yields in 2010 were the lowest in the past 10 years, the production of our "first wines" is significantly lower than last year ‒ indeed, this is one of the smallest vintages since 1991.
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.
2010 Château Haut-Brion
This wine is a superb ruby-red colour with purplish highlights. The initially closed-in bouquet opens up nicely on aeration. The wonderfully subtle aromas follow through in quick succession, starting with oaky overtones, followed by red-berry fruit, leading into terroir character: cocoa powder, roasting coffee, and Havana cigars. The initial softness on the palate gradually evolves to reveal the tannic backbone. Despite their dense structure, the tannins are amazingly silky. The overall freshness carries the flavours through into an aftertaste that goes on and on. This wine has all the depth and smoothness of the 1989, the density of the 2000, the freshness of the 2005, and the richness of the 2009. This 2010 Château Haut-Brion is so ideally well-balanced, it verges on perfection. This vintage, we are celebrating the 75thanniversary of Mr. Clarence Dillon's acquisition of Château Haut-Brion in 1935. This outstanding wine is the best tribute we could possibly pay him.
2010 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
This wine is a deep purplish-red in the glass, with brilliant highlights. Initially slightly reserved on the nose, it develops a fascinating complexity on aeration. Fresh red-berry fruit is accented by hints of warmer aromas, such as cocoa. The initial impression is very soft and soothing on the palate, but the tannic structure gradually affirms its presence, combining firmness with great finesse. This wine confirms our assessment from recent vintages that Le Clarence de Haut-Brion can certainly be considered a great wine.
Drought and cool temperatures contribute to optimal ripeness
The sum of summer temperatures in 2010 was close to that of summer 2009 (962°C compared to 982°C), but significantly colder than those of 2005, which totaled 1052°C. These cool temperatures had a substantial influence on the balance of our wines, preserving a good level of acidity and an attractive aromatic freshness.
Very little precipitation (only 267 mm) from March to August 2010 generating a drought of similar intensity to that of 2005, when only 227 mm of rain fell.
Another characteristic of the 2010 vintage is the low temperatures especially during the first three weeks of August, which allowed good acidity levels to be preserved in the grapes while maintaining an attractive aromatic freshness.
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