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Haut-Brion

1996 Bahans Haut-Brion. Dusty red. Lovely seamlessness. Rather full and plummy, displaying excellent concentration and freshness. Not at all earthy, finishing long. Tasted more like a classified growth of the Médoc. Tasted October 2010.

2000 Bahans Haut-Brion. Deep but bright red. Definitely sweet on the nose, of glycerin, cherries and red berries. Rather earthy. There’s more fruit to the fore now compared to a previous tasting in 2005, where it was rather dry. Good transparency. It lacked weight and power initially, coming across as  a bit lean. However, it snapped into focus after four hours, becoming more well-integrated and richer though never attaining depth nor power. Tasted December 2009.

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. Tasted September 2017.

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1974 Château Haut-Brion. With its ullage sitting at mid-shoulder, I was rather worried but the wine proved to be intact, displaying an earthy pungency characteristic of Pessac-Leognan that was almost peaty, still imbued with dark roses amidst dryish textures, mellow and gentle on the palate where its acidity still held, firmly structured with eventual notes of dark plums emerging from the classic glow of an aged claret. Not the most profound of Haut-Brion nor the most delicious, but I’ve never had a bad Haut-Brion and this is another example of how well the wines of this estate can hold up even in average vintages. Tasted June 2016.

1975 Château Haut-Brion. Whereas a previous encounter with this wine in 2006 seemed to indicate a premier cru on its last legs, the current bottle, in spite of its dull dusty red, was still remarkably robust with powerful aromas of earth, old leather, camphor and sweet incense that morphed into intense medicinal aromas, but in a positive sense, almost full-bodied and grippy on the palate with a tinge of licorice and a final note of tangy citrus without fading away. Most memorable. Tasted December 2012.

1982 Château Haut-Brion. Superb bouquet of earthy pungency cloaked in velvety tannins, imbued with delicious dark currants and blackberries that glowed with fine intensity. Fleshy and open, still laced with fresh acidity though just a tad short. Tasted January 2018.

1985 Château Haut-Brion. Very open, inviting bouquet of classic aged claret consisting of a very unique mix of predominant red fruits and dry, exotic herbal overtones, yielding a wine that was still considerably bold and deep, yet absolutely seamless and harmonious, bringing out the cliché that “’85s are drinking best now”. It certainly had an antique chic quality that is quite different from an ’85 Médoc – more evolved, more pure. Wonderful. Tasted December 2009.

1985 Château Haut-Brion. This wine is still very much alive, exuding a great earthy pungency on the nose while the palate is beautifully open, fleshing out with great suppleness and sublime acidity, supremely confident in its poised elegance and easy charm without calling attention to any of its parts. Truly at its drinking best. Outstanding. Tasted September 2018.

1986 Château Haut-Brion. Still holding up very well and remarkably similar to the previous tasting in August 2006. Deep ruby with effusive earthy pungency. One appreciates that it has mellowed somewhat over the past 25 years, but this wine is still rather full-bodied, possessing great layering and concentration, slightly backward (typically of 1986s), topped by sexy lithe tannins dancing across the palate, immeasurably complex with a liquered note at the finish. Still unbelievably youthful. Always such a pleasure to re-visit this wine. Outstanding. Tasted June 2011.

1986 Château Haut-Brion. Still displaying an abundance of glorious black fruits and dark currants with a dash of spice tinged with tangerines (as always with Haut-Brion), earth and soy, proving to be a wine of great concentration, depth and complexity, brimming with supple intensity. I would say it has yet to peak, given how youthful it still is on the palate. Tasted January 2016.

1988 Château Haut-Brion. Bright cherry red, very lively on the nose with a forward impression of red fruits, more mellow with less intensity on the palate than promised from the bouquet, becoming appreciably richer over time, developing more layers of smoky sweet incense. A lot more substantial and livelier than I remembered from a previous tasting in 2007. Excellent. Tasted June 2011.

1988 Château Haut-Brion. Poured from a 5-litre bottle. Dark earthy pungency on the nose with pronounced graphite minerals, dryish feel with dusty textures recalling mushrooms and forest floor with dry herbal characters, seamless with good acidity though not profound. Tasted December 2017 at FICOFI’s Les Palais des Grands Crus in Paris.

1993 Château Haut-Brion. Lovely clear purplish tint with notes of kumquat and other orangey citrus, utterly seamless and elegant, remarkably decent in depth and layering, reminding me very much of the 1994 Haut Brion, just missing in weight and opulence but it went very well with the food. It goes to show that off-years can be rewarding. Tasted February 2012.

1994 Château Haut Brion. Dark dusty red. Lovely expanse of fruit with a plummy core, still quite intense on the nose. Medium-full. Very even and broad on the palate, absolutely harmonious and seamless, deeply layered. Lacking in opulence of the great vintages, but it still impresses with a certain rightness and ripeness of fruit that belies the vintage. Tasted June 2010.

1994 Château Haut-Brion. Still retaining a deep violet glow and, typically for this estate, there was a good deal of earthy, ferrous minerality balanced against a core of violets and blueberries, well integrated with good density and concentration, rather seamless, finishing with a citrusy trail. Another prime example of how Haut-Brion never makes a bad bottle. This has the legs to hold for many more years. Tasted July 2011.

1994 Château Haut-Brion. Still appearing remarkably fresh and lively with fragrances of roses and red berries and notes of orangey citrus, supported by excellent density and depth, framed by understated tannins, the earthy minerality of Pessac-Leognan only appearing much later. Tasted September 2011.

1994 Château Haut-Brion. Very open and surprisingly aromatic, medium-full, vibrant with sparkling minerality, superbly harmonious and positively glowing with sexy tannins and overtones of tobacco and dried leaves, refusing to fade away long after its finish. Beautiful. Tasted April 2013.

1994 Château Haut-Brion. This particular vintage of Haut-Brion has developed a cult-like following. This is a wine of real breed and class, glowing with a deep complex tangerine core accentuated by great acidity, perhaps a little short but more than made up for by its sheer sophistication. Quite superb. Tasted February 2017.

1995 Château Haut-Brion. Deep impenetrable red with some bricking at the rim, had, by far, the most developed nose of the night, the classic signature kumquat of this estate combined with some cinnamon and orange peel in a powerful complex. Medium-full with great concentration, quite velvety and sexy, full on the finish, mellowing beautifully over the course of dinner. Superb. Tasted June 2011.

1995 Château Haut-Brion. Lovely deep bouquet of tea leaves and earth with traces of dried tobacco; very juicy, fleshy and supple on the palate imbued with ripe dark berries, blackcurrants and ferrous elements, subtly structured with gentle intensity, eventually exuding some of the Pessac signature of pungent earthiness. Drinking well, perhaps just a tad short. Tasted July 2018.

1995 Château Haut-Brion. More effusive than the preceding Margaux, this lynchpin of Pessac-Leognan exudes a gentle earthy pungency along with plummy tones, kumquat and tangerines at its core with greater immediacy, utterly seamless in its mellowed elegance as it dressed the palate in svelte tannins and lovely acidity. Doesn’t quite plumb the depths (not a hallmark of 1995) but makes up for it with its overall sublimity, culminating in a long glowing finish. Reflects very well the vintage characteristics. Tasted March 2019.

1995 Château Haut-Brion. Deep garnet core with a highly attractive bouquet of deep currants, ripe berries and incense. Medium-full. Fleshy with excellent concentration and fullness, quite richly layered with fruit that is approaching maturity amid traces of capsicum and tangerines within a very well-defined structure, displaying lovely length and intensity. Excellent. Tasted June 2020.

1996 Château Haut-Brion. Beautiful in color, glowing with dried mushrooms and herbs amidst a peppery bouquet, most lovely. Rounded and soft, tinged with camphor and exotic spices on the palate, fleshy with good detail, focus and linearity. Superbly balanced and relaxed, finishing with velvety svelte tannins. Excellent. Based on my recent experiences, the 1996 clarets, once so backward, have rounded the corner and are drinking superbly now. Tasted March 2018.

1996 Château Haut-Brion. Far denser and darker in tone than the 1995 with greater depth and structure, more minerally as well as it exuded a deep hallowed glow with an abundance of ripe dark fruit held in reserve. Very much like a clone of the 1986. Caught at its peak. Tasted July 2018.

1998 Château Haut-Brion. Significantly richer and deeper, glowing with deep layers of intense fruit that has yet to evolve, the wine becoming more accentuated and weighty with time, framed by structured supple tannins indicating that the wine is still far from maturity. Tasted June 2011.

1998 Château Haut-Brion. Effusive notes of cordial and rose petals erupted from the glass, saturated with a perfumed fragrance that was impossible to dismiss. This medium-to-full bodied wine broadened over the palate with food and further aeration as notes of dark cherries and blackcurrants emerged towards the fore with a residual tinge of tangy citrus lurking in the background. As with all wines of Haut-Brion, the balance is impeccable, the wine becoming highly focused and opulent as it gained depth over time with layers of early secondary development. Still far from its peak drinking period. Outstanding. Tasted November 2013.

1998 Château Haut-Brion. Deep impenetrable red, exuding a youthful bouquet of Bovril, deep dark currants, enamel and varnish. Medium-full. Beautifully warm and ripe, superbly supple, caressing the palate with its cedary richness that imparted some teasing intensity. Excellent. Tasted October 2019.

1999 Château Haut-Brion. Deep red. Displays excellent fullness and svelte presence with loads of deep dark berries and earthy notes amidst a trace of sweet vanilla. It fleshed out further in the glass with very good levels of richness and concentration combined with quite a bit of verve, well-balanced, finishing with fine tannins. A solid wine, perhaps even a tad four-square, but it stayed firm throughout the entire evening. Excellent. Tasted December 2009.

1999 Château Haut-Brion. This wine excelled on the nose, where the deep purple wine gave off lovely notes of red fruits, raspberries and blueberries and a hint of medicinal aromas. However, the medium-bodied wine was clearly missing in layering and charm, even though it gained in intensity over time. One can appreciate that this is a very fine wine, but the lack of dimension renders it rather four-square in character. Tasted June 2011.

1999 Château Haut-Brion. This is, by far, the best experience I’ve had with this wine. A highly complex bouquet of heated gravel and high-toned earthy minerality compete against equally engaging aromas of dry citrus, grapefruit and raspberries with background notes of briar, cedar and wild berries, traversing the palate with excellent linearity and presence at just the right degree of concentration, remarkable for its ability to remain so beautifully proportioned and elegant without drawing attention to itself. As dinner wore on, a greater predominance of red fruits and sweet cherries came to the fore, the fruit remarkably fresh, more rounded and full with a bit more fat in the mid-body, becoming almost Burgundy-like, holding on in this manner till the last drop. It seemed to have the legs to last another 10 years, easily, just missing the final ounce of opulence and hedonism of the finest vintages. Nevertheless, this is a top drop by any standard. Tasted November 2011.

1999 Château Haut-Brion. Still appeared primal, utterly rich with a smooth intensity that yielded a superb mouthfeel with traces of vanillin oak still discernible amidst the sophisticated fine supple tannins, already quite open at this stage and becoming accessible now, growing in complexity over time as further notes of bright cherries and raspberries emerged, lifting its aromatics to greater heights. Totally under-rated. Tasted November 2013.

1999 Château 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 that recalled 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. Tasted September 2017.

2008 Château 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. Tasted September 2017.

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