|Subregion||France > Bordeaux > Left Bank > Pessac-Léognan|
Without doubt one of the world's greatest and most individual wine estates. The family traditions continue here with Jean-Philippe Delmas running the wine-making as his father and grandfather did before him and Clarence Dillon's great-grandson Robert de Luxembourg in overall charge of this wonderful property. Haut Brion is one of the most consistently great wines of Bordeaux. Since 1958 it has been bottled in the unique and iconic Haut Brion bottle. Situated in the suburbs of the city of Bordeaux, the 48 hectares of red grape varieties are planted with 45% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The second wine used to be known as "Bahans Haut Brion" but is now called "Clarence Haut Brion". Under the same ownership is neighbour La Mission Haut Brion and Quintus in St Emilion.
I finished my trip through Bordeaux with the 2020 Château Haut-Brion, and it was certainly a fitting cap to the trip. Revealing a deep ruby/plum hue, the 2020 exhibits extraordinary aromatics of ripe black fruits, scorched earth, cold fireplace, and acacia flowers. An absolute blockbuster on the palate, this structured, full-bodied, massively concentrated Pessac builds incrementally, with ultra-fine tannins, a deep, layered mid-palate, and a great, great finish. Richer and more concentrated than both the 2018 and 2019 (there are some similarities to 2010), this is a legend in the making. The blend is 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance Cabernet Franc, all of which will spend 15-18 months in 77% new French oak. Hide bottles for a decade, and it should evolve for 50-75 years.
The 2020 Haut-Brion is more aromatically demonstrative than La Mission Haut-Brion, bursting with aromas of blackberries and raspberries mingled with licorice, cigar wrapper, pencil shavings and nicely integrated new oak. Full-bodied, ample and fleshy, it's rich and layered, with an enveloping core of fruit that's girdled by plenty of sweet, powdery tannin. Despite checking in at a similarly lofty alcoholic degree to the 2019, its more granular tannic profile tempers the vintage's sweetness of fruit and lends the wine a more classically proportioned, and more classically structured, profile. 2030 - 2065
The 2020 Haut Brion is a blend of 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17.5% Cabernet Franc, with a pH of 3.78. Deep garnet-purple in color, it opens with profound blackcurrant cordial, baked plums, and boysenberry preserves notes, leading to an undercurrent of graphite, iron ore, black truffles, and wood smoke, plus a hint of cardamom. The full-bodied palate is tightly knit with black fruit and mineral layers, supported by a rock-solid backbone of grainy tannins and seamless acidity, finishing long and savory.
Aromas of blackberry, licorice, tile, stone and mocha. Tobacco and cigar, too. They follow through to a full body with ultra-fine tannins that go on and on. Sophisticated ripe fruit in the center palate with a brightness. Tangerines in the finish. Very supple and savory at the end, in a classy way. Reminds me of the 1998. Already so attractive, but it will reward you much more after 2028.
Where usually Haut-Brion feels rooted in the Left Bank, this is almost Pomerol in its fleshy fruits. Strikingly powerful layers of plum, damson, cocoa, crushed rocks, bitter black chocolate. Easy to see the brilliance of this wine, one to stand back and admire, wiat for those muscular tannins and fresh acidities to melt together over the next few decades. Harvest from 7th to 29th September, 77% new oak.
Full, distinctive, embossed bottle 1,305 g. Cask sample taken 12 April. 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.5% Cabernet Franc. Estimated alcohol 15%. Picked from 7 to 29 September.
More obviously aromatic and lifted than the second wine, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion. Intensely seductive nose in fact. Very savoury, tobacco-leaf palate entry and then quite a tingle. Acidity is a feature of the finish. Very muscular indeed but clearly with more flesh and less obvious tannin than La Mission 2020. Almost juicy. Too early for much of the 'warm bricks' nose to have developed, I assume. Long and emphatic with a little more zest than Haut-Brion often has at this early stage.
Drink 2028 – 2052
The 2020 is a blend of 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17.5% Cabernet Franc, all picked by 29th September. Deep ruby colour with silky, ripe cassis and bramble yet a restrained savoury edge of lead pencil and spice. The palate is tightly wound with plentiful but refined tannins providing ample structure. The core of fruit is intense with brambly dark fruits but also offers notes of black truffle, cedar and flint. The riper elements here are cut by wonderfully fresh acidity, lifting to floral overtones towards the finish. An outstanding 2020, and a contender for wine of the vintage.
(43% M, 40% CS, 17% CF; 15% ABV)
A fine, discreet nose, the first in the Haut-Brion group of reds where there is the merest hint of “gravel” origin in the smell behind the crisply sweet cassis aromas; full, concentrated, finely tannic, and freshly defined; vibrantly sweet, long and complex in its fruit core, racy and aromatic (the terroir’s class will out!); there is a considerable richness of fruit here, and great subtle length across the palate, followed by splendid persistence to finish. Elegant, aristocratic, poised, even at 15%, the location’s class is all there but in a forte, almost fortissimo rendering. Clearly a very fine Haut-Brion in its current “high-alcohol” style: silky rich, sweetly ripe, fleshy cored within the fine, slightly alcohol-dried and harshened tannins. Will that texture ever mellow completely? Impossible to say at the moment. 2032–50+.
This is a superb Haut-Brion with incredible tannins that are wonderfully fine-grained. It’s really powerful. This is very primary with so much grape-generated tannin structure. Very, very long, going on for minutes. Seductive and friendly at the start and then takes you on at the finish with so much structure. Wine of the vintage?
The 2020 Haut-Brion is a blend of 42.8% Merlot, 39.7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17.5% Cabernet Franc, harvested from 7th to 29th September, with an estimated alcohol of 15% and a pH of 3.8. Opaque purple-black colored, it leaps from the glass with a first wave of vibrant black raspberries, ripe blackberries and mulberries scents, followed by a powerful core of warm cassis, dark chocolate and violets, before bursting into an array of crushed rocks, iron ore, tree bark and black truffles notes. The concentrated, densely packed, full-bodied palate is not in the least bit heavy, delivering a refreshing backbone of red berry and dried herbs suggestions, framed by seamless acidity and very finely grained tannins, finishing on an epically long, fragrant earth note. Simply stunning.
Concentrated, powerful and precise; this takes a grip and holds on, layers of liquorice, grilled coffee bean, chocolate, blackcurrant pastille, cassis bud and a more steely wet stone edge that gives a much needed balance to the richness of the overall feel of this wine. Gunsmoke curls out of the glass after half an hour - this is going to need serious ageing, impressive and powerful stuff. Harvest from 7th to 29th September.
Drinking Window 2030 - 2050