Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2018
• Domaine: Château Haut-Brion
• Appellation: Pessac-Léognan
• Classification: Second Wine, 1er Cru, Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Of the five 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. Though Château Haut-Brion may be the most obscure of the First Growth estates, it is adored by many wine lovers. From Thomas Jefferson – America’s first wine connoisseur, to Queen Elizabeth II whose cellar stocks bottles of this wine, to the well-respected wine critic Robert Parker Jr – this First Growth is a true insider’s wine. Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is the Second Wine from this estate. It offers connoisseurs the opportunity to experience a more accessible offering from Château Haut-Brion prior for waiting for the grand vin to mature.
Château Haut-Brion was first planted in 1553 and is the oldest First Growth. The ancient vineyards of Château Haut-Brion date back to 1st century AD, and Roman coins can be found scattered in its graveled vineyards. Haut-Brion was considered a “cru” vineyard as early as the 15th Century. 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. Château Haut-Brion passed through a number of hands, including those of foreign ministers, aristocrats, and financiers alike. It was eventually 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 estate produced a Second Wine in 1976, but it wasn’t until 2007 when Le Clarence was introduced to the estate as a way to celebrate the 75thanniversary of the Dillon family purchasing the property. Le Clarence is tended to with the same mixture of passion, tradition, and care as the grand vin. In fact, it is considered one of the most sought-after Second Wines in Bordeaux.
Production here is smaller than some of the other First Growths, and the approach is very hands-on. Le Clarence de Haut-Brion has the same distinctive layering and mineral qualities of the grand vin yet can be enjoyed younger. Due to the predominance of Merlot, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is accessible - even charming at times. Fortunately for many a buyer, the wines of Haut-Brion are often more affordable than any of the other First Growth wines and 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 second wine, the 2009 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, is almost as large a cuvee as the grand vin. This 7,000-case cuvee is a blend of 46% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest small quantities of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Once again the burning ember/scorched earth characteristic that often comes from Haut-Brion is found in the second wine, along with more kirsch and cassis, fewer nuances and less complexity than its bigger sibling. The wine is full-bodied with the minerality offered by this terroir as well as plenty of sweet tannins. This is the finest second wine Haut-Brion has produced since the astonishing 1989 Bahans-Haut-Brion. Enjoy it over the next two decades." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate, Ratings: 92
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