Château Haut-Brion is austere.
The more vineyards I visit the more I notice that each has such cohesion and symmetry down to the details seemingly most irrelevant to the taste of the wine.
I wonder if you lined up Château employees (owners, ambassadors, tour guides), could a good sommelier-- rather than pinpointing the vintages of a wine-- determine at which vineyard each individual worked based only on the reflection of the wine in their style, or vice-versa?
Certainly these details are not overlooked, and an institution such as Château Haut-Brion spares no expense to align all details such that they compliment with the elegance and austerity one observes in its wine.
Haut-Brion is located in Pessac-Léognan appellation just on the border of the confines of the metropolis Bordeaux. In fact, the first time I visited the Château I was surprised by the fact that I had hardly left the city when the grand gates sprang up before me.
A visit starts with a movie. The noble voice of owner H.R.H. Prince Robert of Luxembourg introduces the viewer to his vineyard, taking one through the history, winemaking process, and, most importantly, underscoring what makes Haut Brion and La Mission so unique. The oldest of the First Growths in Bordeaux, Château Haut-Brion is also the first to give the name of its chateau to its wine, thereby creating one of the first "brands", and underscoring, the now ubiquitous ideal of all well-made clarets, terroir: the idea that a wine should express its particular land, climate and people.
The Château has its own onsite cooperage, in which wood from carefully selected parcels of forest is brought in on site to be hand-worked into barrels specifically created for the wine. Each barrel is toasted to give off delightful aromas of baking spices, vanilla, and general coziness.
|The cooperage at Chateau Haut-Brion|
In terms of style, La Mission and Haut-Brion are strikingly similar. If you had invited them to dinner, despite their different dresses, you could certainly tell that they are sisters from their elegance. These are truly elegant wines. I would invite both sisters to dinner often, as they are not over-stated, slightly reserved, and slowly and intriguingly revel their secrets with great pleasure and patience.
We tasted Château Haut-Brion 2007, and La Mission 2007. Despite their relatively young age, tasting this vintage was a pleasure as both wines are showing such balanced freshness, structure, and character. La Mission offered a truly spectacular nose with fragrances picked up from the toasted barrels, fresh ripe dark fruits, and earthiness. Though it goes without saying for most readers, it is important to note that the two wines are both of the highest-quality. Haut-Brion may be older and more famous, but its sibling is no small fish.
The year 2007 was a tricky one: by no means ideal with its humid winter and spring, this year required a good amount of labour to secure such a lovely result. The 2007 Haut-Brion opens up very slowly, so slowly you hardly notice it and then you are sipping away with pleasure. She does not tire you. Intriguing, the drinker is urged to take another sip. It's soft with very well-integrated tannins, creating a nice round mouth feel. It's not worth describing the specifics of flavors: I cannot remember the exact words she said to me, but I will never forget the overall effect of her presence.
I'd gladly enjoy many more bottles of this.
|The tasting room of Chateau Haut-Brion|
|Comparing La Mission and Haut-Brion|