Château Haut-Brion 2016 (Pre-Arrival)
• Domaine: Château Haut-Brion
• Appellation: Pessac-Léognan
• Classification: First Growth, Premier Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Of the five rarified First Growths estates, only Château Haut-Brion is located outside Médoc. It is situated on the southside edge of the city of Bordeaux, in a region traditionally known as Graves, but more recently identified as Pessac-Léognan after the carve-out of the new appellation. What once was without doubt the countryside, the surroundings around the property nowadays show signs of urban sprawl over nearly two centuries. In any major wine region, some producers inevitably fall victim to rampant commercialization. Not so for Château Haut-Brion. This First Growth estate retains its authenticity throughout the centuries. Château Haut-Brion may lack the fanfare other First Growths have, but it has been adored by many wine lovers. From Thomas Jefferson - America’s first wine connoisseur, to Queen Elizabeth II whose cellar stocks this wine, to the well-respected wine critic, Robert Parker Jr, this First Growth château continues to retain its authenticity and captivate audiences throughout the ages.
Château Haut-Brion was first planted in 1553 and is considered the oldest First Growth. The sprawling, ancient vineyards of Château Haut-Brion date back to 1st century AD, and Roman coins can be found scattered in its heavily graveled vineyards. Haut-Brion was considered a “cru” vineyard as early as the 15th Century. Interestingly enough, Haut-Brion was the subject of the first ever tasting note from Samuel Pepys, the author of The Diarist in 1663. He wrote that he, “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with.” Even though he was no Robert Parker or James Suckling, he still knew a great wine when he had one.
Throughout the ages, the estate captured the hearts and minds of many, especially the ruling class and political elite. King Charles II served Château Haut-Brion at his coronation after the English monarchy was restored, initiating the century-spanning love affair between England’s ruling class and Haut-Brion. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Haut-Brion was considered a viticultural darling throughout Europe, culminating its achievement of First Growth status during the 1855 Classification. Château Haut-Brion passed through a number of hands, including those of foreign ministers, aristocrats, and financiers alike. Less than a century later, it was purchased by American Financier Clarence Dillon in 1935. He pioneered several innovations at the estate – such as using tractors in the vineyards, stainless-steel fermentation tanks in the vat room, and a bottling process on property. The signature squat bottles -- reminiscent of old decanter models -- are exclusive to Château Haut Brion and immediately recognizable.
Thanks to the visionary legacy of one of the most talented and gifted wine administrators Bordeaux has ever known, Jean Delmas, Château Haut-Brion was a leader in propagating high quality Bordeaux varietals. The 127 acre estates hosts carefully selected varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. They take well to the light gravely topsoil mixed with a deeper layer of clay that is signature to the region. From state-of-the-art clonal selections to practices such as crop-thinning – a technique also used at the incomparable Château Pétrus -- the winemaking team at Château Haut-Brion leaves nothing to chance. The combination of science and the particular terroir allows Château Haut-Brion to produce both excellent red and white wines with unmistakable elegance.
Production here is smaller than some of the other first growths, and everything is painstakingly tended to by a staff of under 100 people. The wine spends a long time resting in new oak barrels – approximately 30 months. At Château Haut-Brion, both red and white wines steal the show. With a micro production of 800 cases a year, Château Haut-Brion Blanc lends a remarkable strength and astonishes many a drinker year after year. It is considered one of the finest wines in all of Graves.
The red wines of Château Haut-Brion have a captivatingly mineral, smoky quality that sets them apart from the other First Growths. Due to the predominance of Merlot, the wines remain are considered accessible - even charming at times - and please many palates. They are not to be underestimated, however, as the best vintages can age potentially 30 years. Fortunately for many a buyer, the wines of Haut Brion are often more affordable than any of the other First Growth wines and significantly over deliver. With the perfect combination of innovation, tradition, and an almost stubborn sense of authenticity, Château Haut-Brion remains in class of its own.
"The 2016 Haut-Brion is blended of 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc. Medium to deep garnet-purple colored, the nose is at once profound and arresting, offering drop-dead gorgeous Morello cherries, lilacs and red rose scents with a core of Black Forest cake, warm blackcurrants and blueberry preserves plus wafts of sandalwood and underbrush. Medium-bodied, the elegantly crafted palate is completely packed with intense floral, mineral and cassis-laced flavors with a firm frame of very finely pixelated tannins and seamless freshness, finishing very long and achingly stunning." - Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (11/30/2018, Interim Issue), Rating: 100, Drink from: 2025-2070
"The 2016 Haut Brion is a blend of 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc that was picked between 19 September and 13 October. Jean-Philippe Delmas told me that this represents a touch more Merlot than last year's vintage. It clearly has a more powerful and intense bouquet compared to the La Mission Haut-Brion, although maybe not the same killer level of detail and delineation. The palate is beautifully balanced with arching tannins that insistently grip the mouth. There are layers of black fruit, minerals, sea salt and a touch of crushed violets. Unlike the 2015 Haut-Brion, this is more linear, stricter and you could argue more nimble on its toes. Yet maybe it does not quite have the same depth and labyrinthine complexity that made the 2015 such an astonishing wine. Nevertheless, this 2016 is not far behind and it will be fascinating to compare in the future." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/28/2017, Issue 230), Rating: 97-99, Drink from: 2026-2070
"As to the reds, the 2016 Haut Brion is a prodigious, legendary wine in the making, although it’s not for those seeking instant gratification. Deeper colored and more concentrated than the La Mission Haut Brion, it reveals a purple/ruby color as well as a sensational bouquet of blackcurrants, cassis, cigar tobacco, cold fireplace, violets, and lead pencil. Deep, masculine, structured, and mineral-laced, it has a stacked mid-palate, full-bodied richness, building tannins, and a firm, blockbuster styled finish that lasts for close to a minute. A wine for the ages, don’t even think about opening bottles for at least 7-8 years. It should keep for half a century. The blend in 2016 is 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6.5% Cabernet Franc." Jeb Dunnuck, Bordeaux 2016: Firing On All Cylinders (2/28/2019) Rating: 98+