2018 Chateau Haut Brion
Château la Mission Haut-Brion is a Bordeaux wine from the Pessac-Léognan appellation, classed among the Crus Classés in the Graves classification of 1953. The winery, located in close vicinity of the city of Bordeaux, belongs to the wine region Graves, in the commune of Talence with additional property in Pessac.
The château also produces a second wine from younger vines, La Chapelle de la Mission, since the 1991 vintage, and the dry white wine Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc since the 2010 merger of Château Laville Haut-Brion.
American wine critic Robert Parker awarded the maximum one hundred points for the 2000 La Mission Haut Brion, making it six occasions Parker has given the estate this score. Jancis Robinson, MW describes La Mission as "the quintessential insider's wine" while David Peppercorn, MW holds the estate's consistent performance over the last century as justification to classify La Mission as a Premier Cru, as was done to Château Mouton Rothschild in 1973. In 2009, the Liv-ex Bordeaux Classification considered Château La Mission Haut-Brion as a potential First Growth along with Château Mouton Rothschild and the four estates classified in 1855: Château Haut-Brion, Château Margaux, Château
The first vines appeared on the gravel hillsides of Haut-Brion in the first century AD. In 1521, Château Haut-Brion became the first Bordeaux vintage to be named after its terroir, not after the owner or the parish, the first luxury wine brand in the world, obtaining the rare distinction of Premier Grand Cru Classé (Classified First Growth) in the 1855 classification, the only vintage not in the Médoc to receive this prestigious title.
Château Haut-Brion is the oldest of Bordeaux's five first growths, and one of the most famous wines in the world. Located in Pessac-Léognan, south of the city of Bordeaux, the château is rather far removed from its counterparts, all of which are found in the Médoc.
The vineyards were established in the 1530s by the Pontac family, changing hands several times throughout the ensuing centuries. Historical evidence shows that Haut-Brion was drunk by King Charles II and Thomas Jefferson, and the famous London diarist Samuel Pepys was also a fan of the wine.
The estate was acquired by American Francophile Clarence Dillon in 1935 and has been managed by the family since.
Haut-Brion is notable as being the only first growth in the Graves region south of Bordeaux city – Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Latour are all in Pauillac, while Château Margaux is – unsurprisingly – in Margaux.
Haut-Brion's red wine, also known as the "grand vin" is its key line, comprising most of the château's output. However, it is also unusual in the classified growths that it has a corresponding white wine that shares the simple Haut-Brion name (although this is far from unusual for estates in the Graves and Pessac-Léognan, which regularly produce both red and white wines) and is often dubbed "Haut-Brion blanc", even by English-speakers.
The majority of the estate's 51 hectares (126 acres) of vineyard is planted to red varieties with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot covering 48 hectares (118 acres) while three hectares (7.5 acres) are given over to Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
The château's second wine has been known as La Clarence de Haut-Brion since 2007.
The Haut-Brion cuvée tends to have more Merlot than the wines from the Medoc, with Cabernet Sauvignon in more of a supporting role (this is reflected in the vineyard). As such, Haut-Brion is more rounded and softer than other Left Bank wines. The château describes the wine as having an empyreumatic (charred organic matter) bouquet.
The property is on the outskirts of Bordeaux, and is now surrounded by encroaching buildings and roads. It is also flanked by La Mission Haut-Brion, which was bought by Haut-Brion's owners in the early 1980s.
The Dillon family also own several other Bordeaux estates, the most famous of which is Château Quintus, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (formerly Château Tertre-Daugay).
100 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The 2018 Haut-Brion is composed of 49.4% Merlot, 38.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11.9% Cabernet Franc. Deep garnet-purple in color, the wine needs a lot of swirling before it begins to release a whole complex melody of notes, one at a time to begin: tilled earth, followed by pronounced licorice, then crushed rocks, then the preserved plums. Eventually, it all comes together into a fascinating crescendo of intense crème de cassis, rose oil, wild blueberries and kirsch notes, giving way to quiet, persistent leitmotif scents of cinnamon stick, truffles and redcurrant jelly. The medium to full-bodied palate delivers all this and more, revealing tightly wound black fruit, red berry and exotic spice layers within a solid, wonderfully plush frame and seamless freshness, finishing with epic length and loads of earth and mineral sparks. This is a profound, highly intellectual, multilayered baby, which will require a good 7-8 years to begin to sing its incredible song, then should cellar a further 40 years at least. By way of reference, think 1989 with more restraint and even greater purity. (LPB) (3/2021)