x
  • Country ranking ?

    186
  • Producer ranking ?

    9
  • Decanting time

    2h
  • When to drink

    now to 2030
  • Food Pairing

    Pork Tenderloin

The Tb points given to this wine are the world’s most valid and most up-to-date evaluation of the quality of the wine. Tastingbook points are formed by the Tastingbook algorithm which takes into account the wine ratings of the world's 50 best-known professional wine critics, wine ratings by thousands of tastingbook’s professionals and users, the generally recognised vintage quality and reputation of the vineyard and winery. Wine needs at least five professional ratings to get the Tb score. Tastingbook.com is the world's largest wine information service which is an unbiased, non-commercial and free for everyone.

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99 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 Tasted 7 Times With Consistent Notes One of the greatest 1961s, La Mission-Haut-Brion has been fabulous to drink for the last 5-10 years. Where well-stored, this wine will continue to drink well for 10-20 years. More developed and drinkable than the 1959, it remains a thick, rich, super-aromatic wine with a textbook Graves bouquet of tobacco, barbecued meats, minerals, spices, and sweet red and black fruits. Dense, full-bodied, alcoholic, and super-rich, this soft, opulently-textured wine makes for a fabulous drink. 

96 points Wine Spectator

 A truly classic Bordeaux that epitomizes complexity and distinction in a red wine. Well-defined but beautifully integrated aromas and flavors of cedar, earth, tobacco, chocolate and plum make it memorable, while a lively, firm texture keeps it fresh to drink. A fabulous taste experience from start to lingering finish. 

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The Story

La Mission Haut Brion is situated in Bordeaux' southern suburb, Talence. From 1919 and until 1983, it was Woltner family, who had owned this property. Under Woltner's reign, La Mission Haut Brion experienced one of its greatest period with string of fine vintages and was considered then as fully on the level with First Growths and sometimes even better than these. In 1983, owners of Haut Brion purchased La Mission Haut Brion and today its Jean Philippe Delmas, who's responsible for this property.

 

La Mission-Haut-Brion's vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 48%, Merlot 45%, Cabernet Franc 7%) lie on a large (up to 18 metres deep in places) gravel bank interspersed with clay. The wine is fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats and then matured in oak barriques (100% new) for 18 months. The wines of La Mission Haut Brion are rich, oaky and powerful and need at least 10 years of bottle ageing before they should be broached.

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Wine Information

Château La Mission Haut-Brion 1961

Château La Mission Haut-Brion’s tasting notes :

This is a wine of a rare perfection. In spite of its 30 years, it tastes very young. A great wine, rich but very elegant. Truffle, game, heavy fragrances are the distinctive marks of this elegant full wine.
A unique bottle. Suave but complex, an
exceptional harmony make this wine difficult to describe. An impression of harmony and fullness on the palate Marvelous today, but can still age for many more years.

Weather conditions
Sum of temperatures : 3294 °C
Rain : 213 mm
Days where temperature above 30 °C : 27
Harvest : from 12/09/1961 to 25/09/1961

Current vintage notes
At Château La Mission Haut-Brion a short period of intense cold at the end of May caused "exceptional coulure" (the lack of pollinization due to wet or cold weather). A hot summer, but above all very dry (the driest on record). A very fine September yielded a harvest with good maturity and concentration. Harvesting began on September 12th and ended on September 25th.


Chris Munro, Head of Christie's London Wine Department: “A tremendous start to the year 2014 for wine at King Street, London, which realised remarkable results selling 97% by lot and 98% by value. The sale saw strong international participation throughout, which was led by seven bottles of rare Château La Mission-Haut-Brion, 1961 selling for £12,925. There was fierce bidding for a fine collection of Unico from Vega Sicilia, consigned directly from Spain, as twelve bottles of the 1970 fetched £4,465 Elsewhere in the sale, fine Burgundy from Henri Jayer continued to draw bids from around the globe as we saw five bottles of Echézeaux 1983 making £8,225 well above its pre-sale estimate.

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Vintage 1961

1961 - the greatest Bordeaux vintage ever?

I’m writing this during the en primeur campaign and notice that the Bordelais château-owners and négociants have been unusually quiet this year. I have followed this part of the market from a distance for close to 30 years now and have been told about a large number of “vintages of the century”. After the wines have been bottled and sold or the other way round, as the case is in Bordeaux, these claims tend to be modified.

Who are the serious contenders for the title “The Greatest Vintage Ever”?

During the 19th century there were a number of vintages with a great reputation made from pre-phylloxera vines. These include the legendary “Comet vintage” 1811, 1864, 1865, 1870, 1893, 1895 and 1899. Most are too old for anyone now alive to have tasted them at their peak.

During the 20th century claims have been raised for the vintages 1900, 1921, 1929, 1945, 1947, 1949 (by me), 1959, 1961, 1982, 1989 and 1990.In the present century already three out the eight vintages produced – 2000, 2003 and 2005 – have been mentioned by an overly excited wine press as candidates for the title, as well as the superb duo - 2009 and 2010.

In the book “The 1,000 Finest Wines Ever Made” 1961 is the Bordeaux vintage mentioned most often, with 22 châteaux. 1945 is mentioned 19 times, 1947 16 times, 1982 14 times and 1959 13 times.

What is the definition of a great wine?

It is a wine that has an extra dimension giving you an unforgettable drinking experience – in other words, a “Wow!” effect. It is a wine that has a long drinking span. It has to be good to drink young, but it must also be able to age for a long time without losing its attractiveness.A good vintage produces wines fulfilling these requirements.

A great vintage, however, is equally good in all major regions of Bordeaux, both on the left and right bank. It is also a vintage where something special was produced in all the different appellations, from the lowest Cru Bourgeois to the mightiest Premier Cru.

1961 fulfils these requirements better than any other vintage.

It was the vintage where the most incompetent winemaker just couldn’t make a poor wine and the wines drank very well at an early stage; in most cases they still do so to this very day.

Some extremely impressive wines were produced in 1945, but these were mainly from the left bank and a large number of the wines had excessively high tannin levels, which made them increasingly dry as they aged.

1947 produced the most stunning wines on the right bank but many wines on the left bank had problems with volatile acidity.

1959 produced a number of wines that are at the same level and sometimes even a bit higher than the corresponding '61s, and some experienced wine critics like Michel Bettane prefer 1959 to 1961. But 1959 doesn't have the same consistent quality at all levels.

1982 undoubtedly produced many very impressive wines but I feel that the wines from the right bank lack structure and have not aged very well and only very few wines from Margaux and Médoc were a great success.The twin vintages of 1989 and 1990, or 2009 and 2010 may come closest in overall quality, but it is too early to judge their ageing abilities yet.

 

What made 1961 so special?

It was a very small crop, the smallest since the Second World War. This was partly due to coulure (cold weather at the time of flowering) and in some parts because of frost on the night between 30th and 31st of May, together reducing the yield per vine to about a third of the usual size at that time (which, compared to today’s harvests, seems miniscule). This concentrated the minerals and potency of the vine amongst the few remaining grapes and was the reason for the success of minor châteaux, which would normally produce much higher yields than would be good for their wines.

August and September were both hot and extremely dry. This drought caused the ripening to take longer than the usually mandated 100 days. The harvest was delayed until 22 September, but enjoyed perfect conditions. Because of better cellaring techniques the wine-makers avoided the hard tannins of 1945 and the volatility of the 1947s. The wines have a very deep colour, a seductive nose and full-bodied, concentrated mature fruitiness, with enough tannins and acidity to give the wines structure and freshness.

I arranged a major tasting of more than sixty 1961s in 1989 and all the wines were very good, even from minor châteaux or from more famous properties that had not produced anything worthwhile for a very long time and some that have not done it to this day.

I also arranged a tasting, together with Dr. Peter Baumann, of fifty wines in November 2001. I had expected a large number of these to now be over their zenith but was amazed to see that many had not seemed to age at all during these intervening 12 years. With very few exceptions they were still very much alive.

 

The wines:

Margaux and Médoc

This is usually the most variable and disappointing group at any horizontal tasting with a large number of underperforming châteaux.

The star of this group and a serious candidate for the wine of the vintage is Château Palmer.

It first reached fame in 1978 as it won the famous Dr. Taam tasting in Holland. It is a precocious wine that was drinkable before most premier crus had softened and many tasters have underestimated its longevity. I remember arranging a tasting for Château Palmer in 1995 where I decanted the wine just before the tasting, believing it to be past its best. It did not show very well so Peter Sichel, the co-owner of Château Palmer, suggested that we decant the bottles planned for dinner five hours before serving them. It had then fully opened up showing all its softness and warmth coupled with power and strength for a long life. One of the best wines after Palmer and Château Margaux, which will be covered in the group of the premier crus, is Malescot St. Exupéry. Brane Cantenac, Giscours, Cantemerle and La Lagune are all still good but need to be drank soon.

 

Graves

La Mission Haut Brion is a fantastic wine, more powerful and concentrated than the soft and charming Haut Brion. Other very good ones include La Tour Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut Bailly and Pape Clément.

 

St. Estéphe

Cos d'Estournel is very good, Montrose is now shedding its tannins, whereas Calon Ségur needs drinking, having given much joy over the years.

 

St. Emilion

1961 is one vintage where I prefer Figeac to Cheval Blanc; both are very good but Figeac shows more complexity and elegance. I prefer Cheval Blanc's '64 to its '61. Ausone and Canon are both lovely elegant wines but they do not have the concentration of a top '61. Two very underrated wines are L'Arrosée and La Gaffelière – both are very impressive and still bargains if you are lucky enough to find them.

 

Pomerol

The two rarest and most expensive wines from '61 both come from Pomerol. Pétrus and Latour-á-Pomerol. Both are tremendously impressive – Latour-á-Pomerol with great sweetness, richness and concentration. Pétrus with similar richness but with even more power and structure. I have never had the pleasure of drinking these two giants next to one another but expect Pétrus to have the longer life expectancy. Vieux Château Certan is a wonderful mature wine, as is Lafleur. A wine I have also found very good over the years is Château Gazin. It did then include grapes from a parcel of the best part of Pomerol, now belonging to Château Pétrus. I don't have any tasting notes on Trotanoy or L'Evangile, but both have a great reputation.

 

St. Julien

My personal favourite here is Ducru Beaucaillou, possibly the most elegant of all wines. I have drunk it twice this year, and it was not showing any signs of ageing at all. It is closely followed by Gruaud Larose and Léoville Las Cases, both very impressive. Léoville and Langoa Barton did not have a very good period then and are, like Léoville Poyferré, disappointing for the vintage. Talbot and Branair Ducru are good but need drinking soon.

 

Pauillac

Both Pichons are good but I prefer Pichon Baron as it has more structure and concentration than the slightly overripe Pichon Lalande. Lynch Bages is still very good just like Pontet Canet. Pontet Canet was bottled by several négociants, and the one to drink is the Cruse-bottling which was the unofficial château bottling at the time.

 

The Premier Crus

The star here is Château Latour. It is the most majestic of wines and the wine that will become the new collectors’ item for millionaires as Mouton '45 and Cheval Blanc '47 start to fade away.

It has great concentration of cabernet fruit with a firm tannic structure. Truly an iron fist in a silk glove, only now opening up to reveal its true greatness. It is also the wine that was ranked in first place in “The 1,000 Finest Wines Ever Made”.

Château Margaux made its finest wine since the legendary 1900 and it is still wonderful to drink. Mouton is a luscious wine on a par with its wonderful '59.

Haut Brion is soft and lovely but not as great as its '59. Lafite shows big bottle variation as it was still bottled from cask to cask at the time and over a long period. At its best it is very fine and delicate with little power but great elegance, at its worst it is a tired wine with no body or fruit left.

Unfortunately great quality coupled with small quantity always leads to high prices, and this is particularly the case with the 1961 Bordeaux. However, all true winelovers should have at least once in their lifetime have drunk a good '61 to know what a perfect claret can taste like. 

Jan-Erik Paulson

READ ALSO NEAL MARTIN*S ARTICLE ABOUT 1961 VINTAGE

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

41 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Medium, Brick red and Bright

ending

Long, Smooth and Lingering

flavors

Tobacco, Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Licorice, Voluptuous and Leather

nose

Intense, Complex, Ripe and Charming

recommend

Yes

taste

Average in Acidity, Medium tannin, Complex, Balanced, Concentrated, Youthful, Full-bodied, Rich, Ripe, Elegant and Drying tannins

Verdict

Excellent and Transparent

Written Notes

The 1961 La Mission Haut Brion was a perfect bottle.  I wrote, ‘so great’ three times.  Its charcoal, gravel and leather married perfectly with its mature fruit flavors of cassis, blackberry and chocolate.  The character of this wine really stood out.  It just felt like another class of wine whether weight or society.  This was an anytime, anywhere bottle (99).

  • 99p

Fabulous aromas of mocha, chestnut and tobacco. Thick, rich, broad and voluptuous, with powerful extract contributing to an impression of great grip. A wine of compelling sweetness. Strong but smooth tannins spread out to coat the entire palate. Late note of saddle leather. This, too, is still developing. Drink now through 2020.

  • 94p
Close to 1955 La Mission in terms of style and quality, but without same intensity on the nose and palate. There was however no doubt, that this wine was sublime and of extremely high quality. Will last for another 5-7 years in the cellar.
  • 96p
Magnum
  • 97p
Load more notes

Information

Origin

Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux

Vintage Quality

Outstanding

Value For Money

Very good

Investment potential

Average

Fake factory

There is a possibility

Glass time

2h

Highlights

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94p
 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  La Mission Haut Brion 1961  ( Château La Mission Haut-Brion )

"Just tasted the world's oldest official vintage - 1727 - still very drinkable and elegant - have you tasted it"

8y 9m ago

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