Château Haut-Brion

Haut-Brion boasts the only property from outside the Médoc to be included in the 1855 Classification, and its history can be traced back further than its Médoc First Growth peers.

Famed diarist Samuel Pepys even mentions it in his writings. The property is situated in what is now Pessac-Léognan, in the suburbs of the ever-encroaching city of Bordeaux.

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The History

The estate was rescued from a state of disrepair in 1935 when it was purchased by American financier Clarence Dillon. Since then, Haut-Brion has enjoyed a steady and continual resurgence to a position of supremacy. Dillon’s great-grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, now runs the estate. However, Haut-Brion’s reputation is heavily influenced by the Delmas family. George Delmas was manager and wine-maker until 1960, when his son Jean-Bernard took over.

Jean-Bernard was more visionary than his father and spearheaded a number of important innovations. Upon his 2003 retirement, his son Jean-Philippe took over as Directeur Générale.

The vineyard is comprised of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc. A truly stunning white wine also hails from this vineyard, an exquisite blend of 63% Semillon and 37% Sauvignon Blanc. Production is smaller than at the other First Growth Wines, totalling about 20,000 cases. That amount is shared between the Grand Vin and a second wine, the Clarence de Haut-Brion. The latter was originally known as the Bahans-Haut-Brion but changed denomination in 2007 to honor the vineyard’s savior, Clarence Dillon. Production of this wine is minute, less than 800 cases most years.

The red wines are fermented in stainless steel vats, after which the wine will spend 22 months or more in new oak barrels. It is then bottled, unfiltered. The white wine is fermented in new oak barrels, after which the wine spends another year to 15 months on its lees in barrel before bottling.

The white wine is truly sensational. One could compare it, in class, to a top-flight White Burgundy Grand Cru, but its scarcity means that it is rarely seen.

Make no mistake, the red wine is no less extraordinary than its white counterpart. It displays textbook Graves characteristics of cigar-box, currant, earth, smoky spice and cassis. The Haut-Brion’s high Merlot content, compared to other Médoc First Growths, gives it a voluptuous edge without detracting from its ability to age perfectly.

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