Happy Friday to you all. We have a very exciting feature today, examining two of the most famous chateaus in Bordeaux. Living in the limelight, Chateau Haut-Brion is one of the most famous estates in the world. The estate is one of five Premier Cru Classé (First Growth) wines, and the only one produced in Pessac just outside the city of Bordeaux. It differs from the other wines on the list in its geographic location in the north of the wine-growing region of Graves. Of the five first growths, it is the only wine with the Pessac-Léognan appellation and is in some sense the ancestor of a classification that remains the benchmark to this day. The Château Haut-Brion estate dates back to April 1525 when Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon, the daughter of the mayor of Libourne and seigneur of Hault-Brion, who brought to him in her dowry the land. In 1533 bought the title to the domain of Haut-Brion, while construction of the château was started in 1549. In 1649, Lord Arnaud III de Pontac became owner of Haut-Brion, and in 1660 we see the first records of Chateau Haut-Brion wine in the cellar of English king Charles II, a king who obviously had an exquisite palate. Today this estate is known for some of the most prestigious red and white wines in all of Bordeaux. The estate has 48.35 hectares (119.5 acres) devoted to red grape varieties, with a distribution of 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, and 2.87 ha (7.1 acres) to white grape varieties, distributed with 52.6% Sémillon and 47.4% Sauvignon Blanc. Both the red and white wines from Haut-Brion need at least 10 years to show well in the glass.
2006 vintage in Bordeaux was highly challenging. Following a cold and wet winter, the growing season had an excellent start with a hot and dry June and July. August had a cool and wet month for the region and then September had some early heat. When the grapes were ready for harvest, there were major rains, which hit both the Left and Right bank. Some of the Left bank appelations were highly affected by the rains. Famed wine writer, Jancis Robinson, remarked that sorting of the grapes was essential for good wine and that there was a large gap between the first wines of each estate and their second wines, due to the inclement weather of September.
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion is considered by many to be the greatest Graves wine after Haut-Brion and in some vintages is considered the superior wine of the two. La Mission-Haut-Brion is situated just across the road from Haut-Brion in the commune of Talence in the southern suburbs of Bordeaux. With the expansion of the city, these properties are literally right outside the city proper. Since 1983, both properties have been under the same ownership, Domaine Clarence Dillon S.A. La Mission-Haut-Brion's vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 48%, Merlot 45%, Cabernet Franc 7%) are set on a large (up to 18 metres deep in places) gravel bank that also has some clay. La Mission Haut-Brion ferments their wine in temerpature-controlled, stainless steel vats and then ages their wine in new French oak (100%) for 18 months prior to release. Typically these wines need more than 10 years to show their stride.
While I absolutely loved the intoxicating richness and complexity of the 2006 Chateau Haut-Brion (WWB, 95), the 2006 La Mission Haut-Brion (WWB, 93) was an incredible animal of its own, showing less of a forward fruit profile and more elegance and balance, compared to the intensity of the Haut-Brion. These both were incredibly structured wines, both possessing a long potential for cellaring. Of the two, the Haut-Brion shows the greatest cellaring potential, as I can see this cellaring past 2040. The 2006 Chateau Haut-Brion is the highest scoring Bordeaux wine that I have sampled in the past year.
Here are my tasting reviews of the 2006 Chateau Haut-Brion and the 2006 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion
2006 Chateau Haut-Brion- The 2006 Chateau Haut-Brion is a stunning effort from this famed estate. Comprised of 57% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc, the wine needs more than a one hour decant to display its dazzling aromatics and flavors. The wine starts with overwhelming aromas of mocha, sage, anise and cassis. The red blend has gorgeous and rich flavors of anise, smoke, spicebox, cassis and tar with coffee grounds. Moderately tannic right now, this wine is just starting to have these intense dark and black fruit flavors integrate. This wine has a sumptuous blend of flavors and minerality, with an exceedingly long finish. This is an incredible effort from Haut-Brion in a difficult vintage. Drink 2016-2040- 95
2006 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion- This famed estate dates back to 1664, in which Madame de Lestonnac bequeathed the domaine of La Mission Haut-Brion to the Peres Lazaristes, a congregation founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. Thomas Jefferson was a huge fan of this estate and brought back 125 bottles to his personal cellar in 1787. The red wine starts with gorgeous aromas of sandalwood, black cherry, wild blackberry and suggestions of coffee grounds. There are medium weight flavors of anise, cassis, coffee and blackberry. This is balanced and lithe wine that will cellar beautifully into the next decade and is showing its elegant side. This is an excellent effort from this estate under less than perfect growing conditions. Drink 2016-2030- 93