|Subregion||France > Bordeaux > Left Bank > Pessac-Léognan|
Without doubt one of the world's greatest and most individual wine estates. The family traditions continue here with Jean-Philippe Delmas running the wine-making as his father and grandfather did before him and Clarence Dillon's great-grandson Robert de Luxembourg in overall charge of this wonderful property. Haut Brion is one of the most consistently great wines of Bordeaux. Since 1958 it has been bottled in the unique and iconic Haut Brion bottle. Situated in the suburbs of the city of Bordeaux, the 48 hectares of red grape varieties are planted with 45% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The second wine used to be known as "Bahans Haut Brion" but is now called "Clarence Haut Brion". Under the same ownership is neighbour La Mission Haut Brion and Quintus in St Emilion.
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The 2020 Haut-Brion has a smorgasbord of red and black fruit on the nose, Indian ink and pressed violets, touches of undergrowth (morels?) emerging with time in the glass. There is just a note of reduction here. The palate is medium-bodied with pliant tannins, fresh and saline, with hints of black olive and white pepper. A lingering, very controlled, black pepper tinged finish is very harmonious and understated - remarkable given the 15% alcohol, slightly higher than La Mission. Excellent…but I am not convinced that would put it in the top tier of this First Growth…at least, not yet.
This is a superb Haut-Brion with incredible tannins that are wonderfully fine-grained. It’s really powerful. This is very primary with so much grape-generated tannin structure. Very, very long, going on for minutes. Seductive and friendly at the start and then takes you on at the finish with so much structure. Wine of the vintage?
The 2020 Haut-Brion is a blend of 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17.5% Cabernet Franc, harvested from 7th to 29th September, with an estimated alcohol of 15% and a pH of 3.8. Opaque purple-black colored, it leaps from the glass with a first wave of vibrant black raspberries, ripe blackberries and mulberries scents, followed by a powerful core of warm cassis, dark chocolate and violets, before bursting into an array of crushed rocks, iron ore, tree bark and black truffles notes. The concentrated, densely packed, full-bodied palate is not in the least bit heavy, delivering a refreshing backbone of red berry and dried herbs suggestions, framed by seamless acidity and very finely grained tannins, finishing on an epically long, fragrant earth note. Simply stunning.
Where usually Haut-Brion feels rooted in the Left Bank, this is almost Pomerol in its fleshy fruits. Strikingly powerful layers of plum, damson, cocoa, crushed rocks, bitter black chocolate. Easy to see the brilliance of this wine, one to stand back and admire, wiat for those muscular tannins and fresh acidities to melt together over the next few decades. Harvest from 7th to 29th September, 77% new oak.
Full, distinctive, embossed bottle 1,305 g. Cask sample taken 12 April. 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.5% Cabernet Franc. Estimated alcohol 15%. Picked from 7 to 29 September.
More obviously aromatic and lifted than the second wine, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion. Intensely seductive nose in fact. Very savoury, tobacco-leaf palate entry and then quite a tingle. Acidity is a feature of the finish. Very muscular indeed but clearly with more flesh and less obvious tannin than La Mission 2020. Almost juicy. Too early for much of the 'warm bricks' nose to have developed, I assume. Long and emphatic with a little more zest than Haut-Brion often has at this early stage.
Drink 2028 – 2052
The 2020 is a blend of 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17.5% Cabernet Franc, all picked by 29th September. Deep ruby colour with silky, ripe cassis and bramble yet a restrained savoury edge of lead pencil and spice. The palate is tightly wound with plentiful but refined tannins providing ample structure. The core of fruit is intense with brambly dark fruits but also offers notes of black truffle, cedar and flint. The riper elements here are cut by wonderfully fresh acidity, lifting to floral overtones towards the finish. An outstanding 2020, and a contender for wine of the vintage.
(43% M, 40% CS, 17% CF; 15% ABV)
A fine, discreet nose, the first in the Haut-Brion group of reds where there is the merest hint of “gravel” origin in the smell behind the crisply sweet cassis aromas; full, concentrated, finely tannic, and freshly defined; vibrantly sweet, long and complex in its fruit core, racy and aromatic (the terroir’s class will out!); there is a considerable richness of fruit here, and great subtle length across the palate, followed by splendid persistence to finish. Elegant, aristocratic, poised, even at 15%, the location’s class is all there but in a forte, almost fortissimo rendering. Clearly a very fine Haut-Brion in its current “high-alcohol” style: silky rich, sweetly ripe, fleshy cored within the fine, slightly alcohol-dried and harshened tannins. Will that texture ever mellow completely? Impossible to say at the moment. 2032–50+.
Concentrated, powerful and precise; this takes a grip and holds on, layers of liquorice, grilled coffee bean, chocolate, blackcurrant pastille, cassis bud and a more steely wet stone edge that gives a much needed balance to the richness of the overall feel of this wine. Gunsmoke curls out of the glass after half an hour - this is going to need serious ageing, impressive and powerful stuff. Harvest from 7th to 29th September.
Drinking Window 2030 - 2050