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Bordeaux 2016: Château Haut-Brion & Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

As you’d expect excellent red wines have been produced here in 2016. Both Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion show poise and depth. Qualitatively speaking the wines felt slightly pipped to the post by the Pauillac first growths, and in Pessac-Léognan by an exceptional Château Haut-Bailly, but these are still very impressive efforts. The alcohols are more manageable than some of the recent years here and are a degree down from 2015. The drought and summer heat proved a challenging one for the whites. Don’t get me wrong, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc have still made seriously good wines, but they are slightly off the pace of the best white wine vintages here [2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 immediately spring to mind].

Tastings at Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion are always a mouthwatering prospect. The wines haven’t disappointed in 2016. As usual La Mission feels more tannic at this early stage, but both wines have evident power, with Haut-Brion seriously pump and polished. Both count Merlot in the majority [a shade under 58% at La Mission and Haut-Brion at 56%]. The property reported a very wet spring. There was 50% more rainfall than the average for the first six months of the year. This was good for the water reserves but it brought with it the risk of odium. Flowering occurred in a window of good weather ensuring a good crop and even fruit set. Then dry and hot weather ran for pretty much the whole summer, so much such that by September the vineyards were gasping. The dry conditions didn’t suit the Cabernet Franc here which mostly ended up on the second wines.

Rainfall on September 13 [40mm] and September 30 [17mm] helped with phenolic ripening for the reds. The whites were picked between September 1 and September 13, and lots of sorting was needed as there was some unevenness in the grapes, the white varieties being more sensitive to the drought conditions.

The following wines were tasted at Château La Mission Haut-Brion on Tuesday April, 2, 2016.


La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; slightly looser at rim; composed on the nose; nicely layered; spice; blackcurrant [the Cabernet Franc]; little earth; attractive; delicacy here; nice entry; nice acidity; has flesh; will fill out; composed; good extract and texture; nice length; elegance. [42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36.5% Merlot, 21.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.8% alc]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 90-92+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; vibrant at edge; more inky and intense than La Chapelle; great depth; very satisfying – really nicely composed and mannered; little oak noticeable; mineral; firm; strong; tannic; fairly classic La Mission; lots of extract and matter; nicely done; tannins ripe but firmness and some freshness here. Very good length. More obviously tannic than Haut Brion. [57.5% Merlot, 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.7% alc]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2026-2046. 96-97+

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Mid depth; healthy red at edge; more emphasis on the blackcurrant and dark cherry; strong; caressing quality; elegance but not in the mean sense; opens up; some perfume; nice acidity; freshness; little firmness here up unadorned; elegant. Some length. [51.3% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.1% Cabernet Franc, 2.6% Petit Verdot, 13.6% alc]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2023-2030. 91-93+

Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Deep and saturated; healthy looking; colour tight to rim; lovely pure ripe fruit; beautiful plum tones; very mannered and complete; real depth; compact and dense on the palate; intensity; feels correct; some texture to the tannins; freshness on the finish; length; acidity. Will come together nicely. Fractionally less impressive than the first growths in Pauillac qualitatively but it will be interesting to see how it develops during elévage. Did the vintage play to the strengths of Merlot on the terroir here as much as it did to the Cabernets further north? Opened up in the glass; reveals certain plumpness and extract. Very fine Haut-Brion certainly. [56% Merlot, 35.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.9% alc]. 96-98


Clarté de Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Brilliant silver/green; greengage and oyster shell; saline notes; nicely coiled on the palate; feels a little lacking in concentration and zip; lacks concentration to me. Some mineral tones at the end. [76.3% Sémillon, 23.7% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2019-2024. 90-92+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Washed siliver/green; quite full on the aromatics; some pear and candy; candied fruit; more zip; certain race here; lacks a bit of middle though will doubtless fill out; some race and verve but not as knockout as some recent vintages. Length – and nice acidity takes you through the narrative. [62.7% Sauvignon Blanc, 37.3% Sémillon]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 94-96

Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Some lime; bit dumb; some candied fruit; rock salt; steely; palate has race and style; nice focus; acidity and freshness; has good length; quite saline; elegant; not weighty or especially aromatic. With doubtless fill out too. [70.5% Sauvignon Blanc, 29.5% Sémillon]. Tasted 2/4/17. Drink 2021-2030. 94-96

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