Located in the village of Pessac, just a few kilometres outside the city of Bordeaux, the fifty-one hectares of vineyard at Haut-Brion are mostly gathered in parcels around the château itself, and characterised by a deep gravel of small stones and pebbles on sub-soils of clay, sand and limestone. Forty-seven hectares are planted with red varieties - Merlot (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Petit Verdot (1%), and three hectares are devoted to the white grapes, Sémillon (53%) and Sauvignon Blanc (47%). The elevation of the vineyards is atypical of the area and the close proximity of Bordeaux lends a unique dynamic to the microclimate with recorded temperatures around Pessac, hotter than anywhere else in the region.
Historically, the origins of Haut-Brion as a wine estate dates back to the sixteenth century, although it is known that the land here was used to cultivate grapes long before that - perhaps as far back as Roman times. Its popularity, and its reputation as a leader in the production of fine Claret, really began to gather pace a hundred or so years later when - in the ownership of Lord Arnaud III de Pontac - the wine was served at the court of King Charles II. At around the same time, in what could be considered a critic’s review of the era, Château Haut-Brion’s unique blend was referenced in the seventeenth century diary of Samuel Pepys, ‘Off the Exchange … to the Royall Oak Tavern … and here drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.’ Evidently, even back in April of 1663, the distinctive taste of the Bordeaux elite was deemed worthy of note. And it seems that little has changed in the ensuing three-hundred-and-fifty years…
Bought by New York banker, Clarence Dillon in 1935, and now in its fourth generation, the (Dillon) family have taken the Haut-Brion ethos of quality, sustainability, culture and heritage, and propelled the estate to new levels. Every aspect of the work here is planned and executed with great care and precision - grapes are harvested by hand, parcel by parcel by the same personnel, selection is stringent with only the best fruits accepted for vinification, and the use of new technologies affords a fully-controlled fermentation process, with no variable left unchecked. Once the colours, tannins and aromas have reached their peak, the vats are drained and the wines are transferred to new oak barrels to develop their unique character and complexity for between twenty and twenty-four months, and the ageing process continues once the wine has been bottled.
The Grand Vin of Haut-Brion is elegant and remarkably complex. Each vintage of course, delivers a unique expression, but volume, structure and harmonious balance are synonymous with all, along with a wide ranging aromatic profile which includes red / black fruits, tobacco and vanilla. The high Merlot content of the blend gives the wine an enticingly rich texture, but does not detract from its ability to age.
In addition to its Premier Grand Cru Classé Grand Vin, the estate produces three other acclaimed wines - its second wine, known since 2007 as Clarence de Haut-Brion, and two white offerings Château Haut-Brion Blanc and La Clarté de Haut-Brion. The leading white is especially well regarded - a delectable blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc considered on par with the world’s best; an extremely rare find given the tiny amount produced, but one most definitely worth the effort.