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Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_5641Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion have produced reasonably composed wines in 2013. Haut-Brion feels the more backward, almost a fraction austere on the palate. Stylistically they are somewhere between 2007 and 2008 in style and quality but with more marked acidity than either of those vintages. 2012 [especially] and 2011 were more impressive here at both properties. Still the whites are certainly very good in 2013. If they don’t have the weight and fat of the warm years, there is real race and Burgundian bite. They will age superbly. Haut-Brion Blanc is already delicious.

Both properties, across the road from each other and surrounded by the urban sprawl of Pessac, experienced pretty much the same conditions as elsewhere in Bordeaux in 2013. The wet spring and early summer caused coulure [flower shatter] and millerandage [shot berries]. July was hot and sunny, and saved the vintage for the reds, though hail at the end of July reduced the crop at La Mission by 10%. Haut-Brion was not affected.

The vintage conditions were good for the whites. These were harvested before the rains. They are comparing them qualitatively with 2007 [an excellent vintage for whites in Pessac-Léognan]. Barrel fermented in 45% new oak, without going through malolatic fermentation, these whites will be bottled in June.

There reds were harvested in something of a hurry because of the increasingly humid conditions at vintage time and the threat of botrytis. They even picked on a Sunday [highly unusual apparently] to help speed things up. As there wasn’t huge concentration in the reds, extraction needed to be carefully judged.


Despite all the effort and the careful vinification neither Haut-Brion or La Mission provided the excitement I felt tasting these wines in 2012 or even in 2011. You can’t escape the vintage character in 2013. There is a compact feel even at this highest level of production. The freshness and acidity are also more marked than in 2008 or 2007. You’d expect them to fill out further during elévage but I’d imagine that the eventual quality of both wines will sit somewhere between these two vintages, perhaps closer to 2007 than 2008.

The whites are different story. They also contrast nicely both in blend and style. Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc [76% Semillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc] is tighter on the nose than Haut-Brion but has real breadth on the palate. It feels fresher and leaner than usual [partly lower alcohols and higher acidity in 2013]. Clearly it has a long evolution ahead of it. Château Haut-Brion Blanc [66% Sauvignon Blanc, 34% Semillon] is more forward aromatically. There are spicy ginger and grapefruit tones on the nose, alongside notes of wax and white soap. There is excellent purity on the palate and real depth and length too. Again there’s less alcohol here than recent vintages [no bad thing at all] and, alongside the fresh acidity, it keeps Haut-Brion Blanc 2013 nimble on its feet. It will age very well I’m sure but if its primeur showing is anything to go by it should be delicious from the off.

The following wines were tasted at Château La Mission Haut-Brion on Monday March 31, 2014.

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

Deeper and darker central core; nose a bit closed; plums and minerality; bold and masculine on the palate; little austere and chewy on the finish. Elements there but fraction closed. [50% Merlot, 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, pH3.7, 28hl/ha]. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Deeper and slightly tighter to the rim than La Chapelle; deeper and more meaty aromatically; salty tang; chewy palate quite austere with acidity present. Quite sappy overall but not drying on the end. [57% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc 12.95% alc, pH 3.62].Drink 2018-2026. 86-88

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

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]. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92

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

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] Drink 2018-2024. 85-87


Château Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

Palest silver/gold; spicy grapefruit, wax and laolin notes; fuller and deeper on the nose than La Mission currently [the aromatic lift from the Sauvignon]; very polished; full entry, bold and full; a wine of breadth and depth; fresh acidity keeps the wine nice and lively; spicy grapefruit tones; excellent purity; good length. [66% Sauvignon Blanc, 34% Semillon, 13.7% alc, 23hl/ha]. Drink 2016-2030. 93-95+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Léognan

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% Semillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 13.7% alc, 23 hl/ha]. 2018-2030. 91-93+

La Clarté de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Pale grey/gold; grapefruit, peardrops and candy; open and attractive; weighty palate; some oil but fresh; attractive. Little loose on the finish. [61% Semillon, 39% Sauvignon Blanc, 13.2% alc]. Drink 2016-2022. 88-90


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