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Bordeaux 2014: Château Haut-Brion & Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_6800There is no doubt that Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion occupy two of Bordeaux’s most remarkable vineyard spots. Situated in what has become the urban sprawl of Pessac, divided between a busy main road, these two properties, Haut-Brion to one side, La Mission on the other, and the gnarled, muscular vines that surround them, are somewhat at odds in the hum drum modern setting, testament to another time and five hundred years of history. The white wines here in 2014 are sublime, for me as good as any of the great years. They represent the very heights to which dry white wine can aspire. The reds are fresh and lively, akin to 2008 but with perhaps with a little more weight.

As elsewhere it was the Indian summer through September and into October that saved 2014 from mediocrity [or worse] in Pessac-Léognan. The days were hot but the nights cool, allowing for ripe phenolics but also retaining fresh acids [which accounts for the allusion to 2008 in the red wines]. Tasting at La Mission [the clue is in the title] is close to a religious experience, reflecting the influence of the Lazarite missionaries who once ran the place, and installed the gothic chapel that adjoins the buildings here. They’d be delighted with the divine quality of the white wines – Château Haut-Brion Blanc and Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc.

The white blends this year are quite similar. There is the highest percentage of Sémillon in Haut-Brion Blanc a decade, partly a reflection of some sunburn on the Sauvignon Blanc, a bit difficult to imagine in the grey conditions of summer, but there was a damaging July heatwave weekend. Both wines are monumental. La Mission Blanc has weight and extraordinary length, Haut-Brion Blanc the most attractive aromatics, then remarkable depth and richness but held together by fresh natural acids. White wine does not get much better than this.

The reds, by comparison, have a greater modesty, but the balance and proportionality is appealing. La Mission is a little boney at present, and needs to infill during elévage. The aromatics are layered, with blackcurrants, spices and smoky notes and the initial entry on the palate is convincing. The structure and tannin both remain quite evident at present, the tannins especially  so on the finish. This is how it was with La Mission in 2006, 2008 and 2011 for me. I imagine this will integrate further during ageing.

Haut-Brion 2014 has impressive fruit tones and considerable density on the palate. There is plenty of freshness and life here and it showed better than La Mission on the day. Given the remarkable quality of the 2012s here, as well as the 2009 and 2010 combo, I don’t feel that either Haut-Brion or La Mission will trump these. At the end of the tasting I felt that the comparison with 2008, though a very different growing season, seemed like a fair one in terms of the wines in the glass. Time I guess will tell.

The following wines were tasted at Château La Mission Haut-Brion on Tuesday, 31st March, 2015.

La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 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

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2014

Deep; earthy black at centre; colour tight to the rim; earthy blackcurrant fruit; fraction deeper than La Chapelle; some cassis; spices; ripe entry; full fruit; spices again; freshness again; fresh bite at the end. [80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2019-2028. 88-90

Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Grand Cru Classé des Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 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. 92-94

Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, 2014

Deeper than La Mission; glossy in the glass; vivid purple meniscus; lots of attractive fruit on the nose; earthy blackcurrants; some mineral tones; very mineral Haut-Brion; some smoke; menthol; elegant entry to the palate; blackcurrant and black cherry fruit; chew and density; acidity and freshness. [50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2022-2035. 93-95

La Clarté, Pessac-Léognan, 2014

Washed green gold; lovely lychee, lime and citrus notes with hints of oyster shell; saline quality too; nice weight on entry; very balanced; lots of concentration, life and acidity; very zippy but has weight too; big white this; great stuff with impressive length. [34% Sémillon, 66% Sauvignon Blanc. 14.7% alc, Clarté represents the second wine of both La Mission and Haut-Brion Blancs.] Drink 2018-2025. 92-94+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2014

Pale green gold; full; little wax; limes and citrus elements but broader than simple fruit tones; fresh grapefruit hints; nice mouthfeel 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+

Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2014

Pale gold/green; full; some sweet cashew; green apples; cream; limes and lychee; very beautiful on the nose; full and open on the palate but also wonderful tension too; impressive texture and mouthfeel; some sweetness and fatness from the alcohol but the natural acidity also gives a freshness and life to the end; white wine doesn’t get much better. Highest percentage of Sémillon in ten years. [68% Sémillon, 32% Sauvignon Blanc 14.75% alc, pH 3.2]. Drink 2019-2028. 96-98+  

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