Wine Words & Video Tape

Wine, Words and Videotape

Fine Wine Review site

Château Haut-Brion


Address: 135 avenue Jean Jaures, 33600 Pessac

Telephone: +33 (0)5 56 00 29 30



Terrific wines are made at Château Haut-Brion which has been owned by the American Dillon family since 1935. The red wine is wonderfully complex and roasted in character. The second wine is Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, formerly Bahans Haut-Brion. The white wine, Haut Brion Blanc is a remarkable white wine that ages extremely well and is extremely concentrated and structured on the palate. Estate manager in the 1970s and 1980s Jean Delmas was widely regarded as one of the most talented wine men in Bordeaux. I’ll further update this page soon.

Vineyard/Terroir: 51 hectares planted with 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc. A few hectares of white varietals comprise 63% Semillon and 37% Sauvignon Blanc.

Winemaking/Elévage: White is fermented and then aged for 12-16 months in new oak and the red is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 22 months [in some vintages up to 30 months] entirely in new oak.

Tasting notes:

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

  • 2015 Bold colour; dark at centre; lovely cassis beauty on the nose; real depth and succulence; nice balance between the plummy purity and the influence of the Cabernets; seductive on the nose – quite gorgeous actually; great texture to the palate; greater mid palate richness here than displaying on La Mission; some restraint but lots of power and weight; quite masculine overall; sinew and flesh too but this is quite bold; length here very good. Definition. Needs 10 years – no flashy 2015 this – but stunning texture. [50% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 14.9% alc]. Tasted Haut-Brion 7/4/16. Drink 2025-2045. 97-100
  • 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
  • 2013 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]. Tasted 31/3/14 at La Mission. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92
  • 2012 Deep and dense looking; ripe and extremely enticing nose; very lush but also very composed; attractive and fractionally lusher even than La Mission; seamlessly integrated oak; very flattering nose; tighter palate than the nose suggests, lots of pent up fruit, tightly coiled; clearly a lot of matter and material; much dense 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+
  • 2011 Deep and dense; ripe creamy note initially; seemingly very deep; cassis, blackcurrants and a certain minerality; opens up well in the glass; real precise seam of fruit here; very clear and very clean; concentrated without being unctuous; later lots of blackcurrant cassis; black cherry and wet earth; deep palate lots of fruit, quite big and full; lots of fruit and tannins in fact; dense and structured wine; lots of extract and bite. Big wine overall, lots of structure and bite too but has plenty of fruit to go the distance. Tannic. 46.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34.8% Merlot, 18.9% Cabernet Franc. 95-97+
  • 2010 Deep looking; creamy aromatics; very attractive purity; blackcurrants, earth and spicy notes; creamy; full palate with a nice seam of fruit; layered and intense; very mannered palate and feels completely proportional; long [and warm] finish. A fraction reticent on the day amongst the first growths, so feel I may be underrating this. Drink 2018-2035. 96+ MW Institute Nov ’14 [Earlier note] Saturated and tight to the edge; very dense; some blue-ish tinge; very deep and layered nose; wonderful layers; some smoke too; very intense and sublimated feel on the nose; richer and seemingly even plusher than La Mission; velvet palate; real ripeness and some liquorice and tar; but very polished indeed. Lots of tannin here, very ripe, but bathed in ripe fruit. Great length overall. Didn’t notice the high alcohol in infact unlike La Mission. Balanced by the acidity. Terrific. [57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, alcohol 14.6% IPT 80 pH 3] 98-100/100. Tasted 4 April at the chateau.
  • 2009 Deep and dark looking; stones; minerals; blackcurrants and spices; menthol tones too; lots of weight and extract on the palate with meaty fruit tones and ripe but considerable tannin. Lots of tannin here in fact and thick extract. Quite closed down. Needs a considerable period of time I reckon. Close to perfection. Drink 2020-2040. 98+ MW Institute Nov ’13
  • 2008 Mid depth; some gravel, earth, oak and leaf; nice rose petal component; layered and very attractive nose; very complete and attractive palate; some earth, blackcurrant and tobacco, spices and herbs too with espresso tones on finish. Quite elegant. Complete and very well mannered overall. 95+  MW Institute Nov ’12.
  • 2007 Mid red; depth; attractive nose; some gravel and herbal notes; menthol, earth and tapenade notes on the nose; clean and full on the palate; density and pretty big with a lot of grip to the tannin. Good length, just that dryness to the tannins. 92/100 MW Institute Nov ’11.
  • 2006 Dense and dark at core; molasses, tar and real ripeness here, roasted notes alongside methol and tobacco; attractive; wonderfully silky note on the palate, dances across the palate; layers here too, some gravel, tar and lots of ripe extracted notes; this is great stuff and much more harmonious than La Mission in this vintage. Chew and extract and some warmth with excellent length. Good chew and intensity on the finish. Brilliant effort and this bottle is showing wonderfully well. 97+/100 MW Institute Nov ‘1o
  • 1990 Deep colour, black red; elegant toffee and tobacco nose with roasted meats and savoury notes; impressive wine with good tension between fruit and acid. Very well balanced. Served blind and I thought this Gruaud Larose ’86 which I rate just as highly. Excellent. 96+/100 Aug ‘98
  • 1988 Dark black red; roasted at first on the nose but closed up; big and tannic palate. Tannins feel a little present but lots of fruit there. 90+/100 Apr ’08
  • 1978 Ripe toasty nose; tar, roasted meats; intensity here with superb length; not at all hard; fine palate. A really excellent ’78 which has probably since faded. 93/100 Apr ‘96
  • 1964 Mahogany brown but with dark core; very old flavours alongside roasted notes and earth, palate still had structure, texture and depth – quite an intense wine but getting very old in feel. 86?/100 Aug ’05
Château Haut-Brion Blanc
  • 2015 Again silver/green; legs; deep; some wax; little lime and citrus notes; beautiful palate; very fine; has depth and race; some spearmint on the end; nice length. Wonderful minerality. [69% Sauvignon, 31% Sémillon, 14.3%]. Drink 2020-2035. Tasted at Haut-Brion 7/4/16. 95-97+
  • 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 mouth feel; 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+
  • 2013 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% Sémillon, 13.7% alc, 23hl/ha]. Drink 2016-2030. 93-95+
  • 2012 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% Sémillion, 45% Sauvignon Blanc 14.15% alc 96-98+
  • 2011 Pale green/gold; legs; this is immediately fabulous; bold, weighty and masculine; such weight; lees and toasty notes on the nose, some oyster shell and spicy grapefruit characters; very mannered; broad and full wine on the palate; lots and lots of density for a white but without obvious manipulation; feels big because of place; very big finish. Amazing presence. Dry white of the vintage? Simply fabulous. 57.9% Sémillon 42.1% Sauvignon Blanc 42.1% 97-98+
  • 2010 Pale straw; peaches, passion fruit and guava; very attractive nose with real power behind; some lees on the palate alongside this very fresh fruit; real concentration and depth; full bodied and powerful. Bewildering length and depth. Much more obvious fruit here [much more Sauvignon] and less oak dominated than the La Mission’s Blanc. Flawless to me. White wine can surely get no better? [54% Sauvignon Blanc, 46% Semillon, alcohol 14.4%] 100/100. Tasted 4 April at the chateau.
La Clarté de Haut-Brion
  • 2015 Pale straw; flecks of silver/green; lovely saline note; minerality; some citrus tones; lime; nice weight and freshness; a good mouthful; has weight but not plodding. Refreshing on the end. Saline touch on the finish. [27% Sauvignon, 73% Sémillon, 14.3% alc]. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted at Haut-Brion 7/4/16. 91-93
  • 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+
  • 2013 Pale grey/gold; grapefruit, peardrops and candy; open and attractive; weighty palate; some oil but fresh; attractive. Little loose on the finish. [61% Sémillon, 39% Sauvignon Blanc, 13.2% alc]. Tasted 31/3/14 at La Mission. Drink 2016-2022. 88-90
  • 2012 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% Sémillon, 42% Sauvignon Blanc 13.95 alc 91-93+
  • 2011 Pale gold; hints of green; some oyster shell, citrus notes, lees and wax; very attractive; spicy grapefruit characters too; wax on the palate, lees notes too; nice weight, attractive, full bodied white but there is some zip too. Very round and harmonious on the finish. Good concentration. Excellent wine. 78% Sémillon, 22% Sauvignon Blanc 92-94+
Le Clarence de Haut-Brion [second wine of Haut-Brion formerly Le Bahans de Haut Brion]
  • 2013 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]. Tasted 31/3/14 at La Mission. Drink 2018-2026. 86-88
  • 2012 Deep and intense; some purple at edge; quite lush nose; full of layers. Pretty lush, 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+
  • 2011 Little looser at the rim than La Chapelle; little bluer fruits; spicier some stalky blackcurrant notes; earth; good sweet entry, blackcurrants; measured and proportioned palate; spice and blackcurrants again and acid and grip; well made and balanced. Good length. Tasted at La Mission 5/4/12. 90-91+
  • 2010 Dark, deep; more purple in the meniscus; cream; floral tones; layers, quite fat feel; creamy yet muscular; violets here; good entry, very supple palate; very rich indeed; focused; good density and very attractive. Really good grip at the end with length. Very good. Hardly a ‘second wine’. [52% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot,, alcohol 14.4 IPT 73 pH 3.5]  93-95+/100 Tasted 4 April at the chateau.
Le Bahans de Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan
  • 2005 Deep black red; some rose petal on the nose; attractive and some gravely notes; nice palate with intensity and grip. Quite tannic at present. 88+/100 Sept ‘09

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow Us