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Bordeaux Primeurs 2012: Haut-Brion & La Mission Haut-Brion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux


Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion were extolling the virtues of their Merlot in 2012 shortly after the harvest. There is no doubt that the sixty-odd percent that this variety constitutes in these blends this year reflects the quality of that fruit and its overall superiority to the Cabernets. This high percentage of Merlot gives both wines a wonderfully plush, seductive quality, and, in their different ways, Haut-Brion and La Mission display the very best qualities of this vintage. Nevertheless there is density here too, especially in Haut-Brion. For me it is probably the pick of the first growths this year with Mouton and Margaux close behind.

The whites here are fabulous [as usual] and show the giddy heights that Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon can achieve on the very best terroirs. They are comparing these wines with 2009 in quality. They are certainly big and fat, full of flavour and ripeness. I thought there was a tad more freshness here in the 2011s for my money but there is no doubt that these are very great wines, though made in the very smallest of quantities [and going for the highest of prices].

Overall yields for the reds were down 10% or so on 2011. The best Merlot plots were harvested between 24-28th September and they began picking Cabernet Sauvignon from October 1st, relatively early dates that reflect their warm, urban terroirs in Pessac itself. These precocious microclimates will have certainly put both properties in the best possible position in 2012, and allowed them to pick ripe fruit before the heavier bouts of October rain that ultimately put a dampener on things elsewhere.

At the time of writing neither properties have released their prices but if they are offered at Mouton/Margaux discounts then they should prove attractive bets and find a market, Chateau Haut-Brion especially. For those that can afford to, certainly they will be beautiful wines to drink, red and white. For mere mortals like me [with a mortgage [s] and a dented ten year old car] thankfully Pessac-Léognan provides some pretty nifty alternatives in 2012 at a fraction of the likely prices of these wines. I’ll be posting on these wines next….

The following wines were tasted at Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion on Monday 8th April, 2013.

Chateau Haut Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan

Deep and dense looking; ripe and extremely enticing nose; very lush but also very composed; attractive and fractionally lusher even than La Mission to begin with; seamlessly integrated oak; very flattering; tighter palate than the nose suggests, lots of pent up fruit, tightly coiled in fact; clearly a lot of matter and material; much denser and more obviously structured than La Mission. Turns out to be pretty serious despite the flattering, come-hither aromatics. Clearly one of the wines of the vintage, if not THE wine of the vintage for me. 65.5% Merlot, 32.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc 14.9% alc, 3.46 pH. 96-98+

Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

Steely silver/gold; grapefruit, some spices, peachy note and ginger lift; lots of apparent depth; firmer and denser even than La Mission; lots of layers to the palate and real depth. Excellent length. Profound. Fractionally less acid than 2011. 55% Sémillon, 45% Sauvignon Blanc 14.15% alc 96-98+

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Deep and dense, purple edge; deep and quite sweet, wonderfully ripe notes; enticing and a fraction tighter than Haut-Brion on the nose; 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+

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

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% Sémillon, 16% Sauvignon Blanc, 14%.6 alc 96-98+

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Deep and intense; some purple at edge; quite lush nose; full of layers; ripe and full; very sweet entry but fresh and perfumed palate; nicely composed and very supple; precise with a certain freshness. Easy finish. Precocious. Will be drinkable almost immediately. Is enjoyable already. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  91-93+

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

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. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28.5% Merlot, 15.5% Cabernet Franc 90-92

La Clarte de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Pale green/silver-gold; grapefruit, oyster shell; ginger spice; very open and very good; mid-weight but full of flavour on the palate; packed with fruit; maybe lacks a bit of zip. Good length. 58% Semillon, 42% Sauvignon Blanc 13.95 alc 91-93+


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