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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.
NEWS: BORDEAUX 2021 VINTAGE by Pros: What do the critics think?
Antonio Galloni, Vinous: “The 2021 Bordeaux turned out to be such a surprise. The weather conditions were difficult, and yet the best properties turned out magnificent and classic wines that will absolutely delight readers who appreciate freshness and energy. The restrained alcohols and mid-weight structures will remind readers of Bordeaux before the 2000s. The best wines offer a striking combination of old-school classicism with modern precision. The quality is inconsistent, however, so choosing carefully is essential. Still, there's a lot to love about 2021."
At the Wine Advocate, William Kelley was one of the first to publish his report on the vintage, with largely positive comments on the region's top estates. He underlines his thoughts by reminding his readers: “We may have lost the habit of tasting wines with a moderate alcohol level and a classic pH en primeur, but anyone who appreciates the great Bordeaux reference wines of the 1980s and 1990 should seriously think about what the 2021s might have to offer in 10-15 years. It’s a style of wine that could come from nowhere else. »
Matthew Jukes: “In many cases they can rightly be said to have triumphed over Mother Nature through their tenacity, experience and tireless work ethic, and the best wines are singular in their purity, freshness and their unusual resonance... If a château has a noble terroir, a fully dedicated team, cutting-edge technology (to sort clean, pure, ripe fruit from the weaker berries) and a slice of luck, then it doesn't there is no excuse not to make fabulous wine... This is a classic example of a vintage where each wine must be tasted individually... Suffice it to say, I have found some exquisite wines in 2021, and they are all pure, long, refreshing, perfectly elegant and refined, and the quintessence of the vineyard plots from which they were harvested.
Decanter's Georgie Hindle also notes the marked contrasts with recent blockbuster vintages: "It's not a big, opulent, sumptuous year [...] The heat and sunlight just haven't been enough to produce the sunny fruits, high alcohol and uber glamor on display in great vintages like 2016 and 2018. However, what we get instead is freshness and elegance, racy acidity, more spirits weak, balance where it is successful and a real sense of terroir and grape signatures in the glass. She also reminds us of the benefit of this more restrained style: “It is likely that they will present earlier consumption opportunities compared to more robust and mellow vintages. »
Jane Anson (who has the advantage of being based full-time in Bordeaux) had several ideas about who would inevitably be more successful in 2021. The first came down to the estate's resources: "It's undoubtedly a vintage which rewards estates that have a talented team of full-time collaborators who work in the vineyards throughout the year, and who know their terroir. It rewarded skillful and timely decision-making. Those who subcontracted vineyard work were at a disadvantage. » The best wines of the vintage revealed in his opinion: “Classic balance and lower alcohols. Malic acid levels were high at harvest, but after malolactic fermentation, pH and acidity levels were overall classically balanced, resulting in wines that were fruity and supple in texture. And finally, unlike vintages where all the hard work could be done in the vineyard, the complex work in 2021 only continued in the cellar, “Skillful winemaking. We have gotten into the habit of repeating that wine is made in the vineyard. This is of course still true, but in 2021 it was abundantly clear that the best wines are also sometimes made in cellars.
Honest Grapes: Let’s not forget the white ones either. The quality here is more consistent than the reds, and Jancis Robinson proclaims that "in general, the dry whites are brilliantly crisp, aromatic and well-defined with ample fruit, while the sweet whites are some of the best ever, though that most of them are produced in catastrophic quantities.” Haut Brion & La Mission produced sensational whites, among the “finest sets of dry whites since 2017” for William Kelley. Meanwhile, Georgie Hindle reports that "the whites are excellent and perhaps more consistent across the board, with plenty of freshness, vibrancy and clarity on the palate."