Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2016
Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a wine that harmonizes radiance, power, and depth. This stunning expression of Pessac-Léognan terroir has a hefty amount of Cabernet Franc, which is unusual for the Left Bank. The property is currently helmed by Patrice Pichet, who coveted the vineyards for many years. After acquiring the property in 2010, he spared no expense in renovations as he wanted Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion to express the fullest potential of its terroir. Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is, without a doubt, an extraordinary producer in its own class.
Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion has a history that is inextricably linked with the Pessac-Léognan First Growth property, Château Haut-Brion. Jean de Pontac of Haut-Brion gifted a water mill to a group of friars in the middle of what would later become the treasured vineyards of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. The vineyard was named after a group of Carmelites who managed the estate from as early as 1584 until the French Revolution in 1789. The property was purchased by the Léon Colin family in 1840. It stayed with their descendants for generations until the estate was sold to Patrice Pichet in 2010. Pichet heads up a successful real estate company in Bordeaux, Groupe Pichet. The estate had a massive renovation of the château and winemaking facilities. Architect Philippe Starck created a new barrel room featuring a gravity fed cellar that is designed to look like a boat floating over a body of water. This impressive cellar is accessed by a series of bridges and was inspired by the idea that Bordeaux wines were first exported via ships.
Though the property is a sprawling 29.6 hectares, only 7.6 of those vines are used to produce the grand vin of Château Les Carmes Haut Brion. The property is planted with 41 percent Merlot, 39 percent Cabernet Franc and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate can be divided into 17 different parcels. Cabernet Franc runs the show at this estate, and Château Les Carmes Haut Brion has some vines that are almost 90 years old. The choicest parcels are located closest to the château, yet there are other parcels located near Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut Brion. The grapes are whole berry vinified and the entire winemaking process is all about gentle extractions to preserve subtle freshness. Because of this, the grand vin is exceedingly soft with an almost oceanic mineral characteristic to the wine. The wine is vinified in a combination of stainless steel, wood and cement fermenters which provide the grand vin a variety of different characteristics and complexity. The viticultural team at Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is never afraid to experiment with newer techniques and recently a small portion of Château Les Carmes Haut Brion has been vinified in clay amphorae. Without a doubt, Château Les Carmes Haut Brion is one of the more unique producers in the Left Bank, perfect for oenophiles looking for a truly different expression of Pessac-Léognan terroir.
"The 2016 Les Carmes Haut Brion is a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot, with 13.8% alcohol and a pH of 3.55, the lowest acidity for many years. It was vinified in their Philippe Starck-designed "submarine" (this is what their aesthetically arresting winery looks like as it surfaces in the Bordeaux city suburbs!) with 48% whole berry fruit. Winemaker Guillaume Pouthier (ex-Chapoutier) showed me a large inflatable ring used to submerge the cap to create more of an "infusion" rather than a maceration. The 2016 is matured in 65% new oak, 30% one year old and 5% in amphora. It has a very pure, very attractive bouquet with ample blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and fresh fig aromas, a little more extravagant than some other Pessac-Léognan 2016s, yet it maintains impressive control and focus. It develops more pressed flower aromas with time. The palate is medium-bodied with tannins that gently grip the mouth, tertiary notes on the entry, fine acidity vis-à-vis the fruit, then a slight tarriness towards the broody black fruit on the saline, marine-influenced finish. It is an intriguing take on the vintage, classic in style like many others, detailed with impressive complexity. You know, it is not a million miles away from Lafleur in Pomerol, but in the same sense, it will require a decade in bottle to show what it can do. It is a new benchmark for this estate with big ambitions. Tasted twice with consistent notes." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/28/2017, Issue 230), Ratings: 95-97, Drink: 2026-2050
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