|Subregion||France > Bordeaux > Left Bank > Pessac-Léognan|
This small (10 hectare) property is planted with 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and has a stylish new winery designed by Philippe Starck. Less than 2000 cases are produced annually. Winemaker Guillaume Pouthier previously worked at Chapoutier in the Rhone, and he uses up to half whole bunch fermentation.
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is very clearly one of the wines of the vintage. Breathtaking in its beauty, the 2016 soars from the glass with stunning aromatic and flavor intensity. Red cherry jam, wild flowers, mint, blood orange and sage are some of many notes that develop. In the glass, the 2016 is a vivid, statuesque, exotic wine that takes over all the senses as it delivers tons of pure pleasure. Readers should plan on cellaring the 2016 for at least a few years, but that will be virtually impossible. The 2016 is a towering masterpiece from Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Technical Director Guillaume Pouthier. Tasted three times.
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut-Brion offers finely tuned blackberry and briar aromas, and hints of cigar box and wild mint emerge with time. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, fleshy and well-defined, leading into a fine-boned, classically styled and quite persistent finish. There is clearly some top-notch winemaking behind this deeply impressive Pessac-Léognan. Tasted blind at the annual Southwold tasting. 2024 - 2050
Extremely long and erudite with crushed stones, blackberries and blueberries. Hints of fresh herbs. Full-bodied, tight and polished. The balance and beauty are amazing. Salty and minerally. More polished than the 2015. Wait and see. From biodynamic grapes.
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 65% new and 35% one-year-old oak for 22 months. This is one of the largest percentages of Cabernet Franc for this wine this vintage. Medium to deep garnet-purple colored, it gives notes of kirsch, black raspberries and black plums with touches of cassis, violets, chocolate box and pencil shavings. The palate is medium-bodied, firm, grainy and lively with loads of layers and a long, well-poised finish.
Subdued power with cassis and blackberry fruits, liqourice root, cocoa beans and a wall of tannins that retains an air of controlled restraint at 6 years old. Maintains momentum and energy through the palate,with a saline lick of crushed rocks on the finish. This is sculpted, moreish, delicious. As with the 2015, a vintage again that Carmes has its own personality, and doesn't follow the pack. New winery, with softer infusion-method for the extraction of flavours and tannins, and 60% stems. Ageing takes place in a mix of 25% new oak, 5% oak casks, and 10% amphoras.
Tasted blind. Juicy fruit. Rather sweeter than most of its peers. Solid and with lots to give. Thrummingly vibrant. Very mineral – chewy but convincing.
Drink 2026 – 2042
This small (10 hectare) property is planted with 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and has a stylish new winery designed by Philippe Starck. Less than 2000 cases are produced annually. Winemaker Guillaume Pouthier previously worked at Chapoutier in the Rhone, and he uses up to half whole bunch fermentation. Spicy and herbal from the wholebunch, there is also a pure black cherry, plum and cassis fruited, toasty nose here. Sweet vanilla and firm, yet ripe tannins give a polished but enduring strucutre that lingers through the finish with cherry and kirsch. A very accomplished, unique style that offers something different and very appealing to classic Graves.
Readers looking for the next superstar in Bordeaux need to jump on the bandwagon of Les Carmes Haut-Brion, who have produced one of the wines of the vintage in 2016. The 2016 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion checks in as a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that hit 13.8% natural alcohol and spent 22 months in 65% new French oak. Its deep purple color is followed by a complex bouquet of high-class smoke tobacco, decaying flowers, charcoal, gravelly minerality and loads of sweet black and blue fruit. Possessing full-bodied richness, flawless integration of its acidity, fruit, and ultra-fine tannins, and a blockbuster finish, this is another 2016 that possess both power and elegance. Do your best to hide bottles for 5-7 years and it will keep for 3-4 decades. Don’t miss it. Tasted twice. 2024 - 2064.
The nose is tight the palate has a mix of fresh fruits very black fruit in character. There is mid structure but the fruit is sweet and ripe the tannins, though firm, are integrated with sweet fruit at the back the finish is lighter with bramble gravelly freshness. 2025-38
Serious and dense, especially when contrasted with the second wine, this comes from soils with a higher percentage of clay. Focused, concentrated and made for the longer haul, it’s smoky, rich and compact, with plush dark berry fruit and layered tannins. 2026-38
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut-Brion was deeply impressive out of barrel. Now in bottle, does it meet my admittedly high expectations? Yes. Quite deep in color, it delivers the same intense and disarmingly pure bouquet it exhibited during en primeur, offering blackberry, kirsch, fig and pressed iris flowers and wonderful delineation. The palate is medium-bodied, the new oak still prominent but sutured into the fabric of the fruit. There is a discreet sprinkling of cracked black pepper, and the finish is controlled and correct when it might easily have overreached with something more brash. This will age with style, but be warned, it will require several years in the cellar. Drink 2024-2050.
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. Drink Date 2026 - 2050
This was the moment that Carmes Haut-Brion really stood out from the pack, clearly setting out to make wines with a distinct sense of personality and place. Tasting it again today, five years on, and it is living up to promise. Not quite ready, if I am totally honest, but its lean muscular tannins sink into the glass after a good few hours in a carafe, and make a briliant match for food. The austerity of the Cabernet Franc when young is starting to soften, and the creamy black fruits coming to the fore, along with peony, bitter black chocolate and liqourice bud notes. Highest proportion of Cabernet Franc on the Left Bank, and 20% whole bunch fermentation.
Slowly but surely, Carmes Haut-Brion is moving from being 'an estate to watch' to one that has fully arrived. This gives the appearance of effortless extraction, where the vibrant black fruits seem artfully placed along the palate, fleshed out with liquorice, dark chocolate, graphite and violet notes. This has the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc on the left bank, and it can be austere at en primeur, but in this vintage the fresh fruit reads as juiciness and persistency. I love it, what a stunning wine, and what a testament to the benefits of investing in terroir. Biodynamic farming also, although not certified. Tasted at the château and again with the UGCs. Technical director Guillaume Pouthier used a good amount of whole bunch pressing, over 20%, because he felt the stalks were ripe.
Drinking Window 2027 - 2045
Dark crimson. Sumptuous texture if not that much flavour at present. Very round and gorgeous with lovely Graves freshness on the finish. Very glossy and winning. Nicely managed tannins.