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Bordeaux 2017: Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

I’m publishing these in-depth notes somewhat belatedly. I have already posted last April briefly about the quality of the dry whites and the structured reds made in 2017 at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Haut-Brion. Today I’m publishing more detailed notes and thoughts on the wines. The top line? 2017 is a genuinely ‘epic’ year for the whites here. Even by their own sensational quality, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc are super sublime.

As elsewhere, the 2017 vintage will always be remembered for the severity of the frost in late April, which cut yields and has led to irregularity across Bordeaux. Nevertheless, the summer months were dry and with stable weather during flowering, those vines unaffected by frost, continued their work in promising conditions. At Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission, conditions were extremely dry, with no significant rainfall between the 1st July and 8th September. Estates Deputy Managing Director Jean-Philippe Delmas believes these conditions enabled the properties to “harvest ripe, aromatic and concentrated grapes.” They are describing it as the best ‘7’ vintage since 1947, which given the unremarkable quality of Bordeaux in ’57, ’67, 77, ’87, ’97 and ’07 [whites excepted] is almost certainly true!

There is no doubting the astonishing quality of the white wines here in 2017. The real pity is the small volume [and the expense] of the wines themselves. La Clarté de Haut-Brion is the best I’ve tasted in nine consecutive primeur visits here. This white is made from grapes grown on both properties [La Mission and Haut-Brion]. It’s usually pretty decent. In 2017 it is marvellous. Château La Mission Blanc and Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc have very different blends, the former Sémillon dominant [76% in 2017] and Haut-Brion Sauvignon dominant [56%]. Both are terrifically compelling, and rank with the 2014s, 2013s and 2010s here [Haut-Brion especially].

The reds follow the structured, correct profiles that embody 2017 in many cases. The fruit has texture, the tannins are ripe but there is considerable grip and freshness. The wines remind me a little of 2008 in terms of freshness and 2014 in terms of texture when these wines were still in barrel. Château La Mission Haut-Brion has real delicacy, but is not the big blockbuster it has been in certain years. Château Haut-Brion, a little pent-up when tasted last year, does have great length and excellent mid-palate texture. They seem to fit into the ‘very good’ categories of the wines here [say 2006, 2008, 2014], rather than the ‘outstanding’ [2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016 vintages].

Full notes from last year’s primeurs tastings below:

La Clarté de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Washed silver; lovely salty; oyster shell; greengages; really impressive; racy and top class; lovely entry; some Sémillon influence on the palate; wax and broad notes; but this is marvellous; nice weight and balance; good length. Great Clarté! Best I’ve tasted. [69.4% Sémillon, 30.6% Sauvignon Blanc, 13.74% alcohol, pH 3.26]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2023-2035. 94-95

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Vivid silver; has power and depth; more ‘masculine’; lovely sémillon on the nose; tantalising; some salty, oyster shell notes; sweet entry to the palate; verging on perfection here; dances; sweet and salty; lovely structure; salty tangy finish. Sweet sour combination works wonderously. Polar opposite in style to the Haut-Brion Blanc but yet its equal. [76.2% Sémillon, 23.8% Sauvignon Blanc, 14.30% alcohol, 3.23 pH]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2028-2040. 97-98+

Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Brilliant; silver; elegant fruit; some lanolin but also citrus elements – except here they are not citrus something or another more other worldly.. there are also notes of white peach and wild flowers; then the salty minerality bites; this is a beauty – wonderfully vivavious and fabulously compelling; full white; really perfectly done. Great length – tangy salty finish. Full, remarkable stuff! [56.2% Sauvignon Blanc, 43.8% Sémillon, 14.3% alcohol, 3.22 pH]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2025-2038. 97-98+

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Deepish core; earthy purple at edge; warm and attractive; some schist; mineral; legs; quite plush; nice spices at the edge; attractive plum Merlot notes later come through; nice entry on the palate; firm yet polished; gentle extraction; nice texture; less plush than Smith Haut Lafitte [tasted earlier in the day] but has more obvious vigour; nice finish; punctuated with grip. Espresso notes on the finish. [13.5% alcohol 49.2% Merlot, 41.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.9% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2023-2030. 90-92

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Little deeper than La Chapelle; nice earthy tones; vivid; strong and bold on the nose; some black cherry and dark chocolate notes; suave certainly; feels deeper; more plush – voluptuous almost; opens up really well; sweet entry; caressing; nice weight and texture again but with some elegance; acidity present but appetizing. Has zap and zing. Really lively. Vivacious. [55% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.3% Cabernet Franc and 1.7% Petit Verdot 13.7% Alcohol]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2023-2032. 91-93

Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Dark core; limpid; earthy purple edge; very attractive; dark chocolate; black fruit tones; plums, black cherry; more plums; some schist notes too; nice attack; this wine is polished and velvety on the palate; very supple for La Mission; quite seductive; elegant; supple tannins; some espresso on the finish. Has delicacy. Not a blockbuster but works really well. [56% Merlot, 39.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.4% Cabernet Franc, 14.10% alcohol pH 3.86]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2025-2048. 93-95

Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 2017

Deep at centre; vibrant purple; tight to edge; but has life; very fine and focused; precision; sense that it is a little pent up; savoury note to the nose; some Cabernet Sauvignon influence on the aromatics; deep and a little brooding; excellent palate; has tension and good texture; savoury almost salty note; balanced; refined tannin; good length; lovely acidity. Opened up well. Potentially very fine. [53% Merlot, 6.3% Cabernet Franc, 40.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.25% alcohol, pH 3.73]. Tasted April 2018. Drink 2028-2048. 94-96+

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