Curious about Chateau Haut Brion and the best wines to buy?
Chateau Haut Brion has been revered for centuries as the benchmark for the highest quality in wine, and has graced the glasses of kings and famous personalities alike! In the late 1700s, American President Thomas Jefferson visited the Chateau and described the wine as “the very best Bordeaux wine.”
You could say that there’s a certain je ne sais quoi (French for “I don’t know what” but it’s attractive) to Château Haut Brion wines!
What’s so special about this winery and the wines they make?
Let’s explore this prestigious wine, from its illustrious history to its winemaking, its finest vintages, prices, and the best way to buy them.
This Article Contains
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- Château Haut Brion - A First Growth Bordeaux
- Château Haut Brion Terroir and Grapes
- Winemaking at Chateau Haut Brion
- Château Haut Brion Wines
- How does a Château Haut Brion Wine Taste?
- Food Pairing with Chateau Haut Brion
- Investing in a Chateau Haut Brion
- Château Haut Brion’s Best Vintages
- The Best Wines of Château Haut Brion in 2021 (Including Taste, Prices)
- 2012 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
- 2009 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
- 1989 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
- 2010 Chateau Haut Brion
- 1989 Château Haut Brion
- 1959 Château Haut Brion
- 2013 La Clarte de Haut Brion Blanc
- 1989 Le Clarence de Haut Brion - Château Bahans Haut Brion
Château Haut Brion - A First Growth Bordeaux
Chateau Haut Brion is one of only five Premier Grand Cru Classe red wines from the Bordeaux region. It’s the oldest of the five and has the smallest annual production of them all.
Château Haut Brion is located in the Pessac Léognan appellation in the Graves region. It’s the only first growth estate from the 1855 Classification that lies outside of Medoc and Sauternes.
The other first growth premier cru are all within Medoc — Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Latour are in Pauillac, while Château Margaux is in Margaux.
The origins of Château Haut Brion
This fascinating Chateau is defined by a long, eventful history that involves several prominent historical figures. Here’s a quick chronology of events:
- 1521: The Haut Brion terroir is recognized as a “cru” for winemaking making the Chateau the oldest working winery in Bordeaux.
- 1525: Admiral Jean de Pontac gained part of Haut Brion through marriage, beginning its development to what it is today.
- 1787: US President Jefferson visited the Chateau. Jefferson bought six cases of the wine, which were shipped to his estate in Virginia, making Haut Brion the first-recorded first growth wine imported into the United States.
- 1855: The Chateau is named one of the four “Premiers Grands Crus Classes” for red wine at the 1855 Bordeaux Classifications.
- 1935: American banker Clarence Dillon (the owner of Domaine Clarence Dillon) purchased Château Haut Brion.
- 1983: Domaine Clarence Dillon acquires Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (just across the road from Haut Brion), ending the long-standing, fierce competition with the latter.
Today, the Chateau Haut Brion estate is managed by Jean-Phillippe Delmas, son of revolutionary winemaker and previous estate manager, Jean-Bernard Delmas.
Château Haut Brion Terroir and Grapes
The Haut Brion vineyard is on elevated terrain ideal for vine cultivation.
The unique terroir is characterized by gravel, clay, sand, and limestone. The gravel consists of various quartz types, which is a key element to the wine-growing potential of this soil.
48 hectares of the 51-hectare vineyard is planted with the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grape variety. The remaining 3 hectares are dedicated to Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc white wine grapes.
The use of optimum rootstock and clones, pioneered by Jean-Bernard Delmas, has contributed much to the plant quality. This helps lower vineyard yields and keeps the vines healthy.
Haut Brion red is typically made up of at least 50% Merlot, around 35% of Cabernet Sauvignon and about 15% Cabernet Franc.
Meanwhile, Haut Brion white is an approximate blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon grape varietals. The blending ratio does vary from vintage to vintage.
Also read: Discover delicious Moscato Wine from the ancient Muscat grape.
Winemaking at Chateau Haut Brion
Let’s explore winemaking at this historic estate.
A. Red wine production
Vinification takes place in unique, double-skinned, stainless steel vats.
After two weeks, when the colors, tannin, and primary aromas have reached their full potential, the vats are drained. The best wines are selected for Chateau Haut Brion.
For red Château Haut Brion, blending is done after malolactic fermentation but before aging in wood. Aging is then done in new French oak barrels for 20 to 24 months before bottling.
Read more: Check out this handpicked list of delightful Sparkling Wines!
B. White wine production
For the whites of Haut Brion, grapes are pressed in whole bunches, and there is no skin contact. This Bordeaux wine is barrel-fermented in new French oak.
After fermentation, the wine is aged in 100% new French oak barrels for about 13 to 16 months before bottling. There is no malolactic fermentation and almost no stirring of the lees.
Besides making some of the greatest Bordeaux wines, Chateau Haut Brion is also one of the world’s best winemaking innovators.
Winemaking Firsts Attributed to Chateau Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Brion had a headstart in several areas:
- Stainless steel vats: In 1961, Haut Brion was the first Bordeaux estate to use stainless steel fermentation vats. Since 1991, it has been using the unique, double-skinned steel vats.
- Longer barrel-aging: It was the first Bordeaux estate to introduce longer periods of barrel-aging, producing truly age-worthy wine.
- Topping-off barrels: It was also the first winery to continuously add wine to top-off the barrels. Doing this minimized oxygen exposure, allowing the wines to age longer and taste fresher.
- Lees and pump-overs: Haut Brion was among the first to remove the wine off its lees and do pump-overs during the barrel aging process.
- Bottling its own wine: Labels from the 1850 vintage of Chateau Haut Brion indicate that the Chateau did at least some of the bottling. This means Chateau Haut Brion was likely the first major Bordeaux estate that bottled its own wine.
- Distinctive bottle design: From the 1958 vintage, Chateau Haut Brion began using its instantly-recognizable bottle that emulates the designs of old decanter models.
Now let’s see what wines are crafted using these unique processes.
Château Haut Brion Wines
Chateau Haut Brion produces four wines.
The red wines are:
- Red Grand Vin: Chateau Haut Brion Premier Grand Cru Classé (First Growth)
- Red second wine: Formerly known as Château Bahans Haut Brion, it was renamed to Le Clarence de Haut Brion from the 2007 vintage.
About 20,000 cases of red wine are produced in a year - shared between the Grand Vin and second wine. This is a smaller output than any other first growth wine in Bordeaux.
And the white wine:
- White Grand Vin: Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
- White second wine: Formerly known Les Plantiers du Haut Brion, it was renamed to La Clarté du Haut Brion Blanc from the 2009 vintage.
White wine production is even scarcer. There are only about 800 cases of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc made annually, and 1,000 cases of the second wine.
How does a Château Haut Brion Wine Taste?
In 1663, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys visited the Royal Oak Tavern in London and had a drink, of which he wrote:
“...drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”.
This is the first-ever tasting note of Haut Brion wine, which Pepys’ contemporaries called “New French Claret.”
What is that “particular taste” that Pepys wrote of?
Chateau Haut Brion has a purity of fruit that is truly unique to it. The complex aroma of smoke, leather, tar, cassis, truffle, and spices are common tasting notes associated with Haut Brion.
Red Chateau Haut Brion is always well-balanced, displaying classic Graves characteristics of cigar-box, curranty fruit, smoky spice, earth, cassis, and a fine mineral note.
Château Haut Brion Blanc is one of Bordeaux's greatest dry white wines, equivalent to top-flight grand cru white Burgundy. It offers a complexity that merges the fresh fruitiness of Sauvignon with the creamy mellowness of Semillon.
Haut Brion wines offer subtlety and class, and the food pairing needs to complement this.
Food Pairing with Chateau Haut Brion
To avoid masking the delectable aromas and flavors of Chateau Haut Brion, stick to simpler tasting dishes.
For red Château Haut Brion, try roasts and grilled meat. Steak, turkey, or game birds like duck and pheasant, rich potato purees, mushrooms, and truffles also work.
White Chateau Haut Brion is versatile and will match harmoniously with many foods. White fish and buttery dishes, chicken, veal, or seafood are great combos. Just avoid highly acidic flavors like vinegar or lemon.
Chateau Haut Brion wines are undoubtedly great to drink on any occasion.
But are they worth cellaring for many years?
Calculate the calories in your glass of red wine!
Figure out the best wine glasses to match your wine.
Investing in a Chateau Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Brion makes an excellent collector’s item and a great wine investment opportunity. These wines have pedigree, fantastic aging potential, and don’t forget — they’re scarce.
The best vintages are highly coveted, often selling for thousands of dollars within just a handful of years from release.
It’s also a favorite at auctions. A 14-bottle lot of the 1945 vintage together with a console fetched over $150,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2011.
To optimize return on your investment, it’s a good idea to secure these wines by the case, as you’ll be paying less per bottle. Tracking cases is also easier during storage.
Château Haut Brion aging potential
Red Chateau Haut Brion can evolve for decades, capable of aging at least 15 years on average. Outstanding vintages, like the 1989 Château Haut Brion, have an aging potential of at least 30 years.
White wine typically doesn’t age as well as red wine, but Chateau Haut Brion white can age a minimum of 8 to 15 years. White Chateau Haut Brion is a rare find, and very good vintages, like the 1961 Château Haut Brion Blanc, have an aging potential of over 30 years.
So, which are the best years of Chateau Haut Brion?
Château Haut Brion’s Best Vintages
For red Chateau Haut Brion, these are the best years: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2000, 1998, 1990, 1989, 1982, 1961 and 1959.
For Château Haut Brion Blanc, these vintages were excellent: 2019, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 1998, 1996, 1989, 1985, 1961, and 1959.
Chateau Haut Brion has an incredibly consistent track record with its vintage quality. You really can’t go very wrong with any of its wines.
To make it easier for you to buy, we’ve handpicked the best bottles of Chateau Haut Brion that you shouldn’t miss!
The Best Wines of Château Haut Brion in 2021 (Including Taste, Prices)
1. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2012, Pessac Leognan, France
The 2012 Haut Brion Blanc has an alluring bouquet of honeysuckle and fresh pear. The palate is well-balanced, smooth, and harmonious, with just a patina of new oak, ending with a tongue-tingling, spicy finish. Drink between 2017 to 2029.
Price of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2012: $1,060+
2. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2009, Pessac Leognan, France
This dry white wine has a highly expressive nose with accents of grapefruit and exotic fruits. It offers a well-structured, powerful, and fresh palate that ends with substantial length. Drink now to 2030.
Price of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2009: $1,250+
3. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 1989, Pessac Leognan, France
The 1989 Haut Brion Blanc has a nose of peach and buttered brioche. It’s full of minerals, honey, and peach on the palate, driving to a fantastic, lengthy finish. Drink between 1998 to 2024.
Price of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 1989: $2,730+
4. Château Haut Brion 2010, Pessac Leognan, France
This 2010 vintage is complex and layered, with deep ruby, cassis, terracotta, mint, and violet. Displaying fresh acidity, ripe tannins, and superb aromas, it ends with a massive length of raspberries and chocolate. Drink between 2020 to 2045.
Price of Château Haut Brion 2010: $1,090+
5. Château Haut Brion 1989, Pessac Leognan, France
Deep black fruit with a nutty glaze characterizes this vintage. Gritty and zippy, it has a regal acidity. And while heavy, it ends with an effortless finish that lasts long on the palate. The drinking window is from 2005 to 2029.
Price of Château Haut Brion 1989: $2,460+
6. Château Haut Brion 1959, Pessac Leognan, France
Cassis and plums, along with some smokiness, adorn the stunning bouquet of this old wine. Gravelly soil tones, a rich core of fruit, melting tannins, and some sweetness flavor the palate, ending on a dark fruit-infused finale. Drink now to 2035.
Price of Château Haut Brion 1959: $2,360+
7. La Clarte de Haut Brion Blanc 2013, Pessac Leognan, France
This wine reveals pear, lemon zest, and white grapefruit on the nose. A lighter-bodied mouth feel displays more citrus elements, ending with a powerful finish of acidity and fruit.
Price of La Clarte de Haut Brion Blanc 2013: $120+
8. Le Clarence de Haut Brion - Château Bahans Haut Brion 1989, Pessac Leognan, France
The 1989 vintage is a deep garnet with a ruby core. A lovely nose offers the classic Graves characteristics of tobacco, cedar, and warm stones. Similar on the palate, it is dry, very harmonious, with a long and fresh finish.
Price of Le Clarence de Haut Brion - Château Bahans Haut Brion 1989: $280+
Now, how easy is it to buy these vintages?
Given its scarcity and demand, you could spend ages going through fine wine portals, exchanges, or auctions just to find a particular Chateau Haut Brion vintage.
Thankfully, there’s a much easier way to do this!
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And, you’re not limited to Chateau Haut Brion. You can buy other fine wines, including the delicious Lambrusco, the cult Screaming Eagle wine, a sweet Eiswein, and the fine Tempranillo vintages of Spain!
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A Taste of History in a Glass!
Chateau Haut Brion has garnered a venerated standing in the world of wine with its rich history and revolutionary winemaking methods.
Its scarcity, age-worthiness, and unique taste continue to draw bevies of devotees around the world.
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