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1999, 2008 Haut-Brion & 2008 La Mission

September 7, 2017

Thanks to the kind generosity of Dr Chiang-Yin Wong, I was able to partake in a lovely dinner at Wah Lok on 06 Sept 2017 hosted by the Singapore Medical Association featuring the wines of the family of Clarence Dillon which owns chateaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, in conjunction with a brief stopover by its Brand Ambassador M. Alexi Daste. With Mouton Rothschild inconsistent (at least in the older days) and Margaux temperamental at times, Haut-Brion is where the smart money should be, consistently consistent in its ability to deliver great quality at a significant discount from the top prices demanded by Latour and Lafite Rothschild. I have never had a disappointing Haut-Brion. Even in so-called “off years”, a Haut-Brion can still spring a few pleasant surprises. The delectable cuisine at Wah Lok is easily one of the very best in town with top-notch wine service to match. The waitresses had actually double-decanted the several bottles of grand vin well ahead of dinner. The wines are detailed in the order served.

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2015 Clarendelle Blanc. Dry grassy elements on the nose with emerging white flowers and some nutmeg, displaying good concentration though the predominant bright stony minerals proved to be somewhat awkward on the back palate.

2014 Clarendelle Saint Emilion. Good colour, promising red fruits, dark currants and ripe wild berries. Bright and forward with good intensity to match the earthy pungency on the nose. Supple but nondescript.

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2012 Clarence de Haut-Brion. Formerly the Bahans Haut-Brion, re-labelled as such from the 2008 vintage, comprising 52% merlot with the remainder split evenly between cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Glossy with a forward bouquet of vanilla, camphor and red fruits, matched by a palate of great concentration and intensity of fruit with elements of forest floor and earth though it lacks real layering, still relatively straightforward at this stage.

20170906_203524(0)1999 Ch Haut-Brion. There is a great depth of dark currants and dark cherries on the nose, still remarkably tight and youthful on the glossy palate, recalling overtones of longans and varnish, layered with a hint of its signature tangerines at its core, highly supple with subtle tannins and seamless acidity. Previous tastings of the 1999 had impressed me with its velvety tone and detail which isn’t quite apparent here, but there is still plenty of life ahead. Keep.

2008 Ch La Mission Haut-Brion. Bright purple. Fleshy with an abundance of delicious dark currants and glorious fruit that produced great suppleness and concentration, its sublime acidity producing some lovely tension across the palate, rather seamless though not quite apparent in layering, developing some early secondary nuances. The La Mission of latter years is distinctly different from its rustic forebears of the 1980s, much more polished but a tad soul-less. Something has to give. Very very fine on its own, but its lack of detail is apparent compared with its premiere cru sibling across the road.

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2008 Ch Haut-Brion. Tasted side-by-side with La Mission Haut-Brion of the same vintage, its sister premiere cru offers at once greater complexity, depth and layering. Dark currants and black fruits of excellent depth sear the palate with fabulous intensity and great suppleness, open with excellent detail, revealing some early tangerines with some soy, gently structured with a deep vein of rich ripe berries, finishing with good length. Highly inviting and exciting. Outstanding.

2012 Clarendelle Amber. Open with rich tones of caramel and nectarine, yet surprisingly deft and agile, coating the palate with gentle sweetness and subtle acidity along with some stony minerality. Excellent.

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