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Château La Mission Haut-Brion


Address: 33608 Pessac Cedex

Telephone: +33 (0)5 56 29 00



Owned by the Dillon family since the 1920s this property, sat across the road from Château Haut-Brion, had for many years been deadly rivals. Now the rivalry is friendly as Haut-Brion was acquired by the Dillon family in 1983 from the Woltner heirs. This part of Pessac-Léognan is fascinating as the increasing suburban sprawl of Bordeaux now means that La Mission and its vineyards around it is, like Haut-Brion, surrounded by suburbia. There is even a railway line that dissects the vineyard. In my tastings La Mission Haut-Brion is always a bit wilder, more sauvage and tannic than the more harmonious and intoxicating Haut-Brion. This is a fascinating difference, which really can only be explained by the fractional differences here in terroir as the blend is pretty similar as is the winemaking. This is a wine that needs time as it can seem a bit raw when young. Extremely powerful stuff. There is also an extremely small quantity of white wine, La Mission Haut-Brion [formerly Laville-Haut-Brion], which is rich and concentrated, and hard to find as only 650-850 cases are made each year.

Vineyard/Terroir: 10.5 hectares planted with 43% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. 0.8 hectare of white varieties that go into La Mission Haut-Brion, comprise 88% Sémillon and 12% Sauvignon Blanc. All grapes manually harvested into small baskets. Gravelly soil with a sandy, clay subsoil. Guyot double pruned.

Winemaking/Elévage: The white La Mission Haut-Brion sees 50% new oak and is fermented entirely in barrel at around 20C in an air conditioned chais. It spends 9-12 months in oak and is egg white fined. The red is fermented in steel vats at 30C and then aged in 80% new barrels for between 18-22 months. Fined with egg whites.

Tasting notes:

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

  • 2015 Deep saturated colour; depth on the nose; black fruits but not over-played; some sweetness to the fruit; mannered; cherry and ripe plums; wood a bit present in terms of a slight dryness; will obviously fill out; I always fine La Mission the drier and more obviously tannic of the two siblings at this stage; chew on the finish and some warmth. Density. Lots of extract and texture. Minerality. [58% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 15.1%]. Tasted Haut-Brion 7/4/16. Drink 2025-2045. 94-96+
  • 2014 Mid depth; vibrant purple at edge; nice depth; spices; layers; blackcurrants; some smoke; good entry; mineral; fresh; acidity present; structured with some flesh; little boney at present; elements need to infill; little puckering on the finish from the freshness and the tannin. [54% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2022-2035. Tasted 31 March at La Mission. 92-94
  • 2013 Deep and glossy looking; earthy purple at edge; very clear looking and polished; black fruits, some cherry, earth; bold entry with material and extract [not pushed]; spicy characters and moderate density; nicely composed. Needs time. Reminds me of a junior ’08 with further freshness. [65% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 13.25% alc, pH 3.58, 28 hl/ha]. Tasted 31/3/13 at La Mission. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92
  • 2012 Deep and dense, purple edge; deep and quite sweet, wonderfully ripe notes; enticing and a fraction tighter than Haut-Brion; earthier; very attractive palate; very composed with lots of layers and lots of flesh here; coffee and espresso notes on the finish. Very good length indeed. Very long. 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.95 alc 3.7pH 94-96+
  • 2011 Deep and healthy saturated colour; some purple at the meniscus; spicy, briary notes, earth and tobacco; very mannered too; creamy; some black cherry and dark chocolate notes on the nose too; opens up with aeration – clearly lots of depth and layers; lots of oak too – but fruit also opens up; deep, concentrated palate; quite a bit of tannin, grip and lots of blackcurrant fruit, earth; quite measured. Very nice palate quite a bit of oak present. Toast and espresso notes on the finish. Good length. Oaky finish. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.7% Merlot, 11.3% Cabernet Franc .Tasted at La Mission 5/4/12. 94-95+
  • 2010 Deep colour; tight to the rim; chalky note and wet rock tones at first; spice and blackcurrants emerge [quite backward initially] but opened up; displays attractive purity and minerality; rounder [ultimately] than expected; wonderful palate; very full and complete; lots of fruit and nicely polished; lots of everything; tannins caressing; grip on the finish. Very complete. Great wine. Drink 2020-2045. 97+ MW Institute Nov ’14 [Earlier note] Saturated, deep; tight to the meniscus; very smoky, savoury note but with real polish; cassis too; some oak here but really integrated; olives, tapenade and menthol notes [some minerals]; lots of ripeness here; good density on the palate; ripe attack, layered and dense but feels very round; tannin is considerable but very ripe. Real concentration and flavour. Little hotness creeping in at the back, otherwise feels very complete and refined. Excellent length. Quite fantastic. The only question would be the alcohol level, at 15 degrees, which does give a fraction of heat on the finish, though there is plenty of grip. Terrific in almost all other respects. Virtually perfect. [37% Merlot, 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, alcohol 15%, IPT 80, pH3] 97-98+/100 Tasted at Chateau Haut Brion 4 April 2011
  • 2009 Deep and saturated; round and spicy on the nose with fresh sawn wood and blackcurrant notes; ripe fruit; real blackcurrant cassis; weight good and lots of extract and material evident here. Extremely well done overall. Tannic but with lots of fruit and extract. Surprising freshness too. Real length and class. Drink 2019-2040 97+ MW Institute Nov ’13
  • 2008 Mid depth; very closed and dumb on the nose. some chalk, minerality, cream and oak resin. Chewy palate, lots of extract and material. Spicy notes. Tannin dry at this stage. Very closed, firm and grippy, though clearly substantial  Difficult to read this now. Has tasted better. Ugly duckling stage here. 91+ MW Institute Nov ’12 [Earlier] Medium depth; purple red at edge; earthy note; little high toned, more roasted note initially, some tobacco leaf and lift; some of the fresh sawdust or sawn wood notes as in the La Chappelle but less obvious; also notes of menthol and camphor; quite big palate, extracted, some tar and prunes with pums and spices; density here but quite nicely done. Elegance and life. Lacks the richness of the ’09 vintage I’d reckon. Good length and some chew. 72% new oak for 18 months. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45 Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. 13.8% Later notes: some tar, liquorice notes with real plums, spices and blackcurrants; good density, extract and tannin; more tannin, more bite and more density [although actually less tannin on the IPT]. 93-95+/100 Tasted at La Mission Nov ‘10
  • 2007 Mid depth, dark core; lovely nose; nicely balanced between the earth, the tobacco notes and the blackcurrants; deep and very polished; seemingly lots of layers; density on the palate with earthy blackcurrants and grip; some dry-ish tannin, some acid and a little sourness at the very edge but overall very good. 92/100 MW Institute Nov ’11.
  • 2006 Deep at core, looser at edge; quite a classy nose, minerals, stones and chalky note alongside red fruits with chocolate and earth; some dustiness also; intense palate, with minerals, stones and red fruits along with that dust and wet rocks; dry tannin though. Feels extracted and very tannic on the finish although there is considerable depth and density here. Given it is La Mission it will probably meld but otherwise I’d be a little worried by the quite ferocious tannin here. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt – probably shouldn’t really of course. 90-92/100   MW Institute Nov ’10
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion [Second wine]
  • 2015 Deep colour; vibrant purple at the meniscus; tight and stern to start with; opens up with some spicy and somewhat savoury blackcurrant characters; opens up in the glass; grip on the palate; lots of sinew; lacks a bit of flesh currently but will infill I’m sure; little stern at present. [45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 25% Cab Franc, 14.6%]. Drink 2022-2028. 89-91+
  • 2014 Deepish; vibrant at edge; more blackcurrant; some stalky fresh fruits; prettiness; perfume; elegant and glossy; taut palate; correct; quite grippy at this stage; fresh and lively. Sappy finish. Acidity fresh. [45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2020-2025. 87-89
  • 2013 Deep; redder purple at edge; ripe, some attractive fruit and spice; some bubblegum notes; spicy; entry fresh and a little rasping – needs to settle; sappy and a little dry on the very end palate. [52% Merlot, 35.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.05% alc, pH 3.58]. Tasted 31/3/14 at La Mission. Drink 2018-2024. 85-87
  • 2012 Deep but healthy looking; earthy notes, Cabernet Franc influence, spicy; lifted and attractive with some coffee notes; nice entry, very fresh and clean, little leaner in the middle than Le Clarence but returns for a long-ish finish. Tannins have some edges to them and less fine than in the grand vin. 90-92
  • 2011 Deep, dense; earthy purple at edge; nice earthy note; feels warm; dark fruits, slightly burnt notes; sweet ripe palate; blackcurrants; some freshly sawn wood but not green, more the style; some extraction on the end; lots of bite and acid grip. Tasted at La Mission 5/4/12. 90-91+
  • 2010 Saturated colour; up to the rim; legs; very concentrated, some spice and life; blackcurrants and earth; floral and quite pretty too; very sweet entry; ripe palate; real finesse here; blackcurrants, smoke, some blackfruits; density but also quite open and supple. [47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, Alc 14.8% IPT 72 pH 3.53] 91-93/100 Tasted at Chateau Haut Brion 4 April 2011.
  • 2008 Deep red, purple at edge; some leaf and tobacco and smoky notes; some green coffee bean, freshly sawn wood; mid weight, good depth on the palate; some of that dustiness I encountered in the 2006 La Mission; mineral edge too with wet stones and definite concentration but also a softness here; good acid and structure with grip. Lots of bite and chew. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. 88+/100
Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc
  • 2015 Pale silver/fleck of green; more wax and lanolin notes; vivid and appetizing; depth; some oyster shell; saline freshness too; more race than Clarté but this is fuller than Haut-Brion blanc; nice acidity; length on the palate; freshness on the end. [67% Sémillon, 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 14.6% alc]. Drink 2022-2035. Tasted at Haut-Brion 7/4/16. 94-96
  • 2014 Pale green gold; full; little wax; limes and citrus elements but broader than simple fruit tones; fresh grapefruit hints; nice mouth feel has weight but very round and full; concentration; acidity; saline quality on the finish; profound length; amazing stuff. [72% Sémillon, 28% Sauvignon Blanc, 14.75% alc, 3.13pH]. Drink 2018-2025. 95-97+
  • 2013 Silver/gold; brilliant looking; limes, rock salt; quite tight on the nose; fuller palate with twist on the finish. Good length. Should age nicely. Slightly leaner style than past few vintages. [76% Sémillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 13.7% alc, 23 hl/ha]. Tasted at La Mission 31/3/14. Drink 2018-2030. 91-93+
  • 2012 Steely silver/gold; tight and dense on the nose; very deep; some wax; later some floral qualities emerge at the edge; waxy palate; full with incredible density and weight but also remains appetizing, though less apparent acidity than 2011. Overall excellent, long-term and one of the white wines of the vintage. 84% Sémillion, 16% Sauvignon Blanc 14.6% alc 95-97+
  • 2011 Pale straw/gold; waxier, more neutral and less forward than Clarté; minerality and race; some oyster shell; more lees, wax and broad flavours but lots of density; weightier than the nose suggests; something very Grand Cru here. Some zip on the finish. 72.9% Sémillon, 27.1% Sauvignon Blanc. 94-95/100
  • 2010 Pale gold straw; very focused and fresh on the nose; some grass, gooseberry waxy; very top end; some oaky barrique influence; broad and masculine; full bodied and rich on the palate with amazing density; not oily but certainly rich and broad. Finishes well. Terrific length. Amazing wine. [81% Sémillon, 19% Sauvignon Blanc, alcohol 14.3] 98-100/100 Tasted 4 April 2011 at Chateau Haut-Brion.

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