Chateau Haut-Brion 2016

Chateau Haut-Brion 2016

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Chateau Haut Brion may have the most the longest and storied history of any of the 5 Medoc 1st Growths. Grapes have been growing on the land since the 1st century AD. Although a Monastery was growing grapes at Haut Bion in 1426, the first official record of the estate was in 1521, it was referred to as Aubrion. A few years later, the some of the vineyards of Haut Brion was given to Jean de Pontac as a dowry when he married Jeanne de Bellon in 1525. He completed the estate when he purchased the mansion from his father-in-law in 1533. In 1549 he began constructing a new Chateau on the grounds. Over the years, Haut Brion has many mentions as being served to royalty throughout Europe. Joseph de Fumel inherited the land. After receiving Thomas Jefferson as a guest, the wines of Haut Brion also appeared on Presidents tables. Joseph de Fumel was guillotined and the property was divided. For the next 40 years, the estate passed through many hands until it was purchased in 1801 by Talleyrand, Prince of Benevento. He sold the estate after three years and the were many owners over the next 40 years until Joseph-Eugene Larrieu purchased it at auction in 1841. Larrieu re assembled the estate. The 1855 Classification ranked it as one of the top 5 wines. The reality of the situation is that it had the highest average price of all the wines. The Larrieu family held the estate until 1921. Once again a era of many bad owners ended in 1935 when Clarence Dillon purchased the property.

The name of the Chateau is derived from the Celtic word Briga meaning mound. This is evident since the vineyards are approximately 27 meters above the Bordeaux Norm. Château Haut-Brion devotes 48.35 hectares (119.5 acres) to red grape varieties, with a distribution of 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, and 2.87 ha (7.1 acres) to white grape varieties, distributed with 52.6% Sémillon and 47.4% Sauvignon Blanc.   Between 10,000 and 12,000 cases of the Grand Vin are produced each year.  Since 2011. the final blend has contained at least 50% Merlot, which is a reversal from earlier years where Cabernet Sauvignon was the majority grape.

 

Wine Advocate: 99
The 2016 Haut Brion is a blend of 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc that was picked between 19 September and 13 October. Jean-Philippe Delmas told me that this represents a touch more Merlot than last year's vintage. It clearly has a more powerful and intense bouquet compared to the La Mission Haut-Brion, although maybe not the same killer level of detail and delineation. The palate is beautifully balanced with arching tannins that insistently grip the mouth. There are layers of black fruit, minerals, sea salt and a touch of crushed violets. Unlike the 2015 Haut-Brion, this is more linear, stricter and you could argue more nimble on its toes. Yet maybe it does not quite have the same depth and labyrinthine complexity that made the 2015 such an astonishing wine. Nevertheless, this 2016 is not far behind and it will be fascinating to compare in the future.
Decanter: 98
This stunning wine is flexing its muscles, showing off its power and depth. Perfectly placed, so precise and utterly gorgeous with a hand-in-glove power. The texture is satin, silky and velvety, each strand providing a different take on charcoal, slate, menthol and bilberry, with mouthwatering acidity that suspends the finish for several minutes. Harvesting took place between 19th September and 13th October. 56% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6.5% Cabernet Franc aged in 78% new oak.
Wine Enthusiast: 99
Structured and serious, this is complex and dense. Dark black-plum fruits are covered by powerful tannins and ample acidity. It is destined for long, slow aging.
Vinous: 98
The 2016 Haut-Brion is shaping up to be one of the jewels of the vintage. Towering, powerful and intense, the 2016 is marvelously complete in all of its dimensions. Gravel, bacon fat, black cherry, smoke, leather and licorice are all pushed forward. The 2016 is quite rich, but never heavy. It is especially polished, even understated Haut Brion built more on finesse than power.
James Suckling: 100
This is a monument for Haut-Brion and reminds me of the great 1998 but in a modern and bright style. Full-bodied, very tannic and superbly structured yet always agile and vivid. Its energy and dynamic nature grabs you by the shoulder and tells you its great. Staggeringly precise. It cant get better than this, can it?