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This is the most immense and large-scaled Haut-Brion Blanc I have ever tasted. Jean Delmas, administrator of the Dillon properties, justifiably felt the 1989 fully replicated the fleshy, chewy texture of a great Grand Cru white Burgundy. Only 600 cases were made of this deep yellow/gold-colored, rich, alcoholic, sumptuous wine. It is amazingly full and long in the mouth, with a very distinctive mineral, honeyed character. The low acidity would seemingly suggest a shorter life than normal, but I am convinced this wine will last 25 or more years. It is a real show-stopper! Sweet, honeyed peach, caramel, and buttery aromas tumble from the glass of this prodigious effort. Anticipated maturity: Now-2025. Last tasted, 1/03.
Haut-Brion Blanc is as renowned as it is scarce, with only about 8,000 bottles available per vintage for a very demanding market. It is often regarded as the greatest white of Bordeaux, although Haut-Brion Blanc’s sibling, Laville Haut-Brion, sometimes equals and occasionally surpasses it. The white vineyards at Haut-Brion are planted to 63 percent Sémillon and 37 percent Sauvignon Blanc, a weighting that gives this wine its particularly plush combination of Sémillon-driven body and Sauvignon-influenced scent of musk. Haut-Brion Blanc ages beautifully.
White Bordeaux does not come much more layered and powerful than this. Strong oak roasted nut notes are evident on the nose but dissipate quickly on the palate. Taut yet shapely refreshing but rich. A large framed wine that manages to find harmony. Alongside exotic touches of stone fruit there are some wonderfully energising fruit characteristics of crystallised lemon rind, grapefruit and lime. Long, complex and very intense without being too weighty.
Bordeaux has become accustomed to precocious vintages, but in 1989 it was highly unusual to be picking grapes in August. After the hottest summer since 1947, with 22 days above 30°C, the harvest was the earliest since 1893. Picking began in the Graves on 21 August, although Haut-Brion waited until 29 August. The challenge was to retain a degree of acidity in the fruit and thus avoid flabbiness.
The harvest is manual and takes place at maximum maturity, so the wine’s alcohol varies from 13% to 14%. Sorting takes place in the vineyard and the grapes are whole-bunch pressed pneumatically; there is no skin contact. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeasts in barrels, but the malolactic fermentation is blocked.
The wine is racked every three or four months, and the ageing period ranges from 10 to 12 months, with little stirring of the lees. In the 1980s it was common for the wine to be aged entirely in new oak, but today that proportion is around 50%. Production ranges from 5,500 to 8,500 bottles.