Tag: Chateau Haut-Brion

Feb 02 2011

Château Haut-Bailly: Reaching New Heights with the 2009 Vintage

Posted on February 02, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Like Château Haut-Brion, the fortunes of Château Haut-Bailly have greatly improved under the direction of an American financier. American banker Robert Wilmers bought Haut-Bailly in 1998, and like Clarence Dillon of Haut-Brion, he saw the wisdom of retaining top talent – promoting Veronique Sanders, the granddaughter of the previous owner, to the top job as manager of the estate.

In less than a decade, Sanders has succeeded in elevating Château Haut-Bailly to such a level that the esteemed American critic Robert Parker believes it a worthy contender to the icon wines of Pessac-Leognan: Pape-Clement, La Mission-Haut-Brion, and Haut-Brion.

Here’s Parker’s review of the stunning 2009 vintage:

The greatest Haut-Bailly ever made? One can’t speak enough of the job Veronique Sanders has done in 2009, allied with the owner, the American banker Robert Wilmers, who has given her carte blanche authority. Tiny yields have resulted in the most concentrated Haut-Bailly I have ever tasted. Eclipsing even the 2005, the 2009 (a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc) possesses 13.9% natural alcohol. Dense purple to the rim, it exhibits a precise, nuanced nose of mulberries, black cherries, black currants, graphite, and a singular floral component. A wine of profound intensity and full-bodied power, yet stunningly elegant, and never heavy or massive, it builds incrementally on the palate, and the finish lasts over 45 seconds. Remarkably, there is not a hard edge to be found in this beauty. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were harvested between October 7 and 14, which explains their phenolic maturity. The wine’s extraordinary freshness, elegance, and precision are nearly surreal. This tour de force should age brilliantly for 40+ years. (Tasted two times.) (Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate #188 April 2010 96 to 98+ points. Drink 2010 -2050)

In a sense, Robert … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Chateau Haut-Brion: A Long List of Firsts

Posted on February 02, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The first estate to lend its name to the wine

Château Haut-Brion, located just outside the city of Bordeaux, was the first estate to lend its name to the wine. It is the benchmark estate for the Pessac-Léognan. appellation of Graves and the only estate outside of the Médoc to be ranked in the famous 1855 Bordeaux Classification, when it became the fourth member of the original Premier Grand Cru or First Growth category – sharing company with its illustrious Left Bank neighbours to the north: Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux.

An illustrious history of Royal and American Connections

Today the estate is owned by the Dillon Family and under the direction of Prince Robert de Luxembourg. Prince Robert is a direct descendant of  France’s King Henry IV and the great grandson of Clarence Dillon, the American financier who bought Château Haut-Brion in 1935.  In fact the estate’s royal and American connections go back centuries.

The cellar book of England’s King Charles II was the first written mention of Château Haut-Brion in 1660. (King Charles is believed to have developed an affection for the wine while exiled in France.) Thomas Jefferson, at the time the American ambassador to France, visited the estate in 1787, perhaps through the introduction of Prince Charles-Maurice de Tallyrand-Perigord, the distinguished international diplomat, who briefly owned Château Haut-Brion at the beginning of the 19th century.

The first estate to introduce a new style of wine

In the 17th century Château Haut-Brion invented a new style of wine that was popularised in London by the Pontac Family, the then owners of Haut-Brion. They established a very fashionable eating tavern, Pontack’s Head, where some of the greatest luminaries of time, including diarist Samuel Pepys, wrote about the ‘new French claret.’

Over the past 75 … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Making Sense of Bordeaux

Posted on February 02, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When most people think of the great French wine region of  Bordeaux, a few images usually come to mind: magnificent estates with gloriously grand white stone mansions; wines of unattainable status with lofty prices to match; an intransigent 19th century classification system; and a seemingly impenetrable network of negociants who sell the wine en primeur when it is still in the barrel.

But take a closer look at Bordeaux and a more complex and fascinating picture begins to emerge. While the region has been shaped by centuries of tradition, it is also incredibly dynamic.

Decanter, for example, has reported on a string of Chinese purchases of prestige estates in Bordeaux over the last few years. To be alarmist about this development, however, would be to overlook how important foreign ownership has always been for Bordeaux. Indeed, the fortunes of many of the best estates were revived during the 20th century by farsighted Americans millionaires like Clarence Dillon, who bought Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 at the height of the Depression.

Foreign consumption of Bordeaux wines has always been key to the region’s prosperity. In the 17th century, Francois-Auguste de Pontac of Chateau Haut-Brion created a buzz for ‘new French claret’ when he served his wine at his fashionable eating establishment, Pontack’s Head, in London. Soon shiploads of Bordeaux were travelling up the Gironde river to the British Isles. Apparently French excise taxes at the time also facilitated the export market, making it cheaper to send wine to London than to Paris!

Today, like Australia’s McLaren Vale and the Yarra Valley, for example, Bordeaux struggles with the effects of urban encroachment. Tourists often get lost in a maze of suburbs before finding their way to the different estates. Smaller vineyards owners are finding it hard to make ends meet in the … Read the rest