Haut-Brion and other Graves

After a fun dinner and a late night at old Majestic favourite Chateau de Sours (thanks Martin) we started Thursday very early, with an 8 am appointment at Haut-Brion. Chateau Haut-Brion itself is marooned in the outskirts of Bordeaux, and a strong smell of roasting coffee from the factory next door surrounded the estate.

Most years this is one of the most fascinating half-hours of the whole week, and 2009 was no exception. The reds from both Haut-Brion and La Mission are both massive, 14.3% and 14.7% alcohol respectively, but all this framed by balancing tannins and acidity. Marvelous, and very characterful. After a week of writing tasting descriptions I’m struggling for superlatives, so took this quote from the Haut-Brion website. Of course this may have been written through rosé-tinted glasses but gives a true sense of the Haut-Brion 2009:

“The purplish-red color is the first sign of this wine’s concentration. When swirled in the glass, it displays a deep, warm, very ripe bouquet. 2009 Château Haut-Brion is full of flavour from beginning to end. It is so rich and concentrated that we are tempted to use the word “thick”. However, this thickness is in no way synonymous with heaviness thanks to a counterbalancing freshness. 2009 Château Haut-Brion is reminiscent of 2005 in terms of power, but is even more concentrated. It also has the ripeness and mouthfeel of 1990 and 1989. To summarize, 2009 Château Haut-Brion can be said to be a cross between 2005 and 1989. We are now able to say that it is the most beautiful wine the estate has ever produced.”

Unlike most of the top properties, the Dillons also produce white wines that if anything are more exciting than the reds. La Clarté de Haut-Brion, the newly-named second wine to both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, was gorgeous, but blown away by both the top wines. Each is a rich concoction of zesty grapefruit and over-ripe peach, Haut-Brion perhaps being a touch greener that La Mission, but both super-luxurious and a must for those with deep pockets.

Pessac-Leognan and the rest of Graves are not solely represented by Haut-Brion though. Further south-east and outside the city are some properties which showed real verve. Combining some of the richness of the right bank wines and the firmer Cabernet backbone of the Médoc our favourites were as successful as any. Look out for Haut-Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier and Smith Haut Lafitte in our forthcoming offer. It’s easy to overlook these wines in favour of others which get more press, but that would be a mistake.

To follow… our vintage roundup later today.

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