Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
|Listed Wines||La Mission Haut Brion|
|President||Prince Robert of Luxembourg|
|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||6,500 cases|
|Classification||Cru Classé de Graves en Rouge|
|Second Wine||La Chapelle de la Mission|
|Interesting Fact||The Chateau has a rich history in producing fantastic wines, something that has led to La Mission being labelled as ‘the quintessential insider's wine’.|
Both Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion are owned by the French company, Domaine Clarence Dillon SAS. They produce a total of nine wines including two of the finest Bordeaux whites (Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc) as well as recently acquired right bank estate Chateau Tertre Daugay, which was renamed Quintus. As with most of the premier Bordeaux domaines, Clarence Dillon has built a portfolio of wines of almost unparalleled quality.
La Mission and Haut Brion are the figureheads of the group, but the demand and prestige these wines bring has helped Dillon create a stable of wines which share in the brand and status. In recent years the group has focused its branding and marketing around the unique historical significance both La Mission Haut Brion and Haut Brion hold in the wine world. Whilst never being classified a first growth like neighbour Haut Brion, many consider La Mission Haut Brion to be the ‘sixth first growth’. In 2017, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion ranks 14 in the Liv-ex Power 100, a list of the most powerful brands in the fine wine marketplace.
There are very few wine-critics who do not regard La Mission Haut Brion to be one of the finest estates in Bordeaux. In fact many believe this to be ‘the quintessential insider's wine’, a wine for wine lovers and the critic’s favourite. US critic’s James Suckling and Robert Parker Jr both sing the praises of this great estate; the former emphasising the amazing consistency over the years and the latter awarding the wine a maximum 100 pts no fewer than 5 times since 1982, with potentially another 100 pts to be awarded for the 2016 vintage. Famed critic Michael Broadbent hides no shame in his admiration for La Mission Haut Brion, believing it to be a magical estate capable of producing wonderful wines from the greatest vintages.
“A poor La Mission is still a better wine than most; a good La Mission is a great wine and a great La Mission can be a religious experience.”
Neal Martin, robertparker.com
In 1919, the Woltner family took over the dilapidated estate of La Mission Haut Brion and this represented the watershed for the modern era. Although at the time the wine sold for 1 franc more per bottle than Latour, it was the work of Henri Woltner who came to be known as a ‘wine-maker genius’ who revolutionised the estate post 1921. After the death of Henri in 1974, the estate was run by Francoise Woltner and Francis DeWavrin, daughter and son-in-law of Fernand Woltner. In 1983, the property was acquired by Domaine Clarence Dillon SA, who already owned neighbouring Haut-Brion. Despite sitting opposite each other for centuries with a rich intertwined history, this acquisition represented the first time the two estates fell under the ownership of the same proprietor.
Since then, both great estates have gone from strength to strength under the stewardship firstly of Jean-Bernard Delmas and following his departure in 2003 of his son Jean-Philippe Delmas. New equipment and a bottling line were installed in 1996 and a new construction which replaced the previous small cellars was opened in 2007. Today the grand estates are still owned by the Dillon family and are represented by Prince Robert of Luxembourg.
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Highest rated vintages for Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
A monumental wine, this historic La Mission-Haut-Brion was the last vintage made by the descendants of the Woltner family, who had owned this estate for decades prior to selling it to their neighbors, the Dillon family (the American owners of cross-street rival, Chateau Haut-Brion). The 1982 admirably demonstrates the magnificence of La Mission as well as the singularity of this amazing terroir. I had the good fortune of tasting it from barrel (where it was an enormous Graves fruit bomb) and watching it develop more nuances in bottle. At age 30, it remains a majestic, multidimensional, profound Bordeaux with another 20-30+ years of life ahead of it. It's no secret that the great vintages of Bordeaux have levels of fruit extract and depth that go beyond other years. It is this fruit, often referred to as “fat” or “concentration,” that takes decades to dissipate and fade. As it does so, the extraordinary aromatic expression of the terroir asserts itself. Remarkably, the 1982 is still in late adolescence and has not yet reached its peak. Early in my career, much of my reputation was established on calling this vintage correctly, but I never in my wildest dreams thought the 1982s would mature as slowly and last as long as some seem capable of doing. One of the handful of perfect wines of the vintage, the La Mission still possesses a remarkably dense ruby/purple color with only a slight garnet and lightening at the edge. The fruit-dominated aromatics reveal lots of cassis, blueberry, scorched earth, black truffle, incense, graphite and high-class, unsmoked cigar tobacco-like notes. Still exhibiting remarkable concentration, enormous body, silky sweet tannin, and no perceptible acidity, the 1982 remains fresh, delineated and super-compelling. A massive La Mission made by the Dewravin family and their winemakers, all of whom were dismissed the following year when the estate was acquired by Haut-Brion, this modern day legend shows no signs of decline. In fact, it may not have yet reached its peak. Anticipated maturity: now-2060+.
One of the wines of the vintage, the 2000 has barely budged in its evolution since it was bottled and released in 2002. After ten years in bottle, it still reveals a dense opaque purple color along with a potentially sensational bouquet of blueberries, black currants, graphite, asphalt and background oak. Extremely powerful, full-bodied and superbly concentrated with good acidity and high but round tannins, this massive La Mission-Haut-Brion should take its place among this estate's most hallowed vintages when it hits full maturity in another one to two decades. I was surprised by just how youthful this wine tasted at age 12. If tasted blind, I would have guessed it to be around 4 to 5 years old. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2050.
The 2009 was not part of this vertical tasting, so I am repeating the tasting note published in issue #199 of The Wine Advocate from a tasting done in January, 2012.
A candidate for the wine of the vintage, the 2009 La Mission-Haut-Brion stood out as one of the most exceptional young wines I had ever tasted from barrel, and its greatness has been confirmed in the bottle. A remarkable effort from the Dillon family, this is another large-scaled La Mission that tips the scales at 15% alcohol. A blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (47% of each) and the rest Cabernet Franc, it exhibits an opaque purple color as well as a magnificent bouquet of truffles, scorched earth, blackberry and blueberry liqueur, subtle smoke and spring flowers. The wine's remarkable concentration offers up an unctuous/viscous texture, a skyscraper-like mouthfeel, sweet, sumptuous, nearly over-the-top flavors and massive density. Perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime La Mission-Haut-Brion, the 2009 will take its place alongside the many great wines made here since the early 1920s. The good news is that there are nearly 6,000 cases of the 2009. It should last for 50-75+ years. Given the wine's unctuosity and sweetness of the tannin, I would have no problem drinking it in about 5-6 years. The final blend was 47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc.
Both La Mission-Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion hit home runs in this vintage, which did not produce as many profound wines as the Bordeaux publicity machine suggested. 1989, the 200th anniversary of the French revolution, was an incredibly hot year (surpassed only by 1990 and 2003). Even from barrel the seamless 1989 La Mission revealed a special elixir aspect, tasting like it had been designed by Chanel. It still possesses a blue/purple color with only a hint of garnet creeping in, and the explosive aromatics offer up notes of licorice, creme de cassis, blueberry liqueur, smoky barbecue meats, truffles and graphite. If that's not enough to get one salivating, the palate has never disappointed either. Full-bodied with extraordinary opulence as well as sweet, well-integrated, velvety tannins, this fresh, lively, blockbuster La Mission appears to be one of those rare wines that never goes through a closed, unfriendly stage. It has been a compelling, multidimensional effort from barrel, in its infancy, and as it heads into late adolescence. A remarkable tour de force in winemaking, it is one of the all-time profound La Mission-Haut-Brions. Anticipated maturity: now-2050.
Reminiscing over the 1989 and 1990 vintages, which I have followed from birth, there always seemed to be a dramatic difference in quality. Not that the 1990 was not a top wine, but in its infancy, I never thought it would come close to being as riveting and magnetic as its older sibling, the 1989. However, it has proven to be nearly as prodigious. One of the hottest years in Bordeaux, 1990, a vintage of enormous yields, even dwarfing yields in 1985 and 1982, produced a fabulously open-knit, seemingly fast track La Mission that, at age 22, shows no signs of fading or losing its grip. The color is slightly more mature and evolved than the 1989's, exhibiting a lighter rim and a less dark blue/ruby/purple hue. Classic La Mission-Haut-Brion aromatics of camphor, licorice, scorched earth, hot bricks, barbecue, cassis, blueberry and kirsch are well displayed. Broad, expansive, velvety-textured and opulent with high glycerin and perhaps slightly higher alcohol (I don't have the statistics to verify that), the 1990 is as delicious and open-knit as the 1989, with less density and possibly less potential longevity. Most 1990s have been quick to reach full maturity, and as brilliant as they can be, they need to be monitored carefully by owners. Currently in late adolescence, but close to full maturity, the 1990 should hold in a cold cellar for another 15-20 years. However, it is a fabulous wine to inspect, taste and consume, so why wait?
A strong candidate for a perfect score in about 15 years, the 2010 La Mission Haut-Brion could well turn out to be a modern-day version of their 1955. Sadly (or maybe fortunately) for me, I'm not old enough to have tasted the 1955 in 1958 from bottle, but this wine could also be an update on the more modern 2000 which, of course, I know well and actually own. This full-bodied, colossal giant of a wine is one of the goliaths of the vintage. It may well have the highest level of natural alcohol for any wine from the Left Bank of Bordeaux (15.1%) and has the definite potential to be a 50- to 75-year wine. Dense purple, it offers up notes of lead pencil shavings, charcoal embers, blueberry and blackberry liqueur along with massive concentration, a multi-dimensional mouthfeel and a monumental finish that goes well past a minute, which I think might be a record for a young Bordeaux. Keep in mind that the 2009, which I gave three digits, came in at 14.7%, but the pH of the 2010 is lower, giving the wine a freshness and precision that is remarkable. The final blend was 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and – unlike the Chapelle de la Mission, which has 26% Cabernet Franc – there's only 1% Cabernet Franc in the 2010 La Mission Haut-Brion. This is a wine for those of you with youth on your side as well as patience. It will need a good decade of cellaring. An amazing wine. Anticipated maturity: 2024-2075+.
A candidate for the wine of the vintage from this somewhat forgotten year, consumers should be seeking out wines from the Right Bank and Graves as 1998 was a great vintage in those appellations. La Mission's 1998 exhibits a healthy, opaque blue/purple color with no lightening at the edge. Thirty minutes of aeration brings forth a sensational bouquet of chocolate, cedar, truffles, graphite, blackberries, cassis and incense. La Mission's so-called scorched earth/charcoal/hot rocks characteristic has not yet appeared. Full-bodied with superb purity, a multilayered texture, sweet tannin, good acidity and a fabulously long finish, this great, young La Mission-Haut-Brion's finest days are yet to come. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2040.
Another massive effort, the inky/purple-colored 2005 La Mission-Haut-Brion is broodingly backward and foreboding. The aromatic profile offers hints of charcoal, freshly laid hot tar, truffles, graphite and black fruits. Full-bodied, powerful, tannic and almost painfully extracted and concentrated with tremendous structure, good acidity and a massive finish, this infant wine is largely unchanged since I first tasted it from bottle. If everything comes together in 10-15 years, this brilliant 2005 should merit a triple digit score. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2050+.
Like a lot of wines in this underrated vintage, the 2008 La Mission was one of the great bargains of recent vintages. Its healthy blue/purple color is followed by aromas of blueberries, black raspberries, licorice, truffles, underbrush and forest floor. The scorched earthy/smoky character of this estate's terroir has not yet emerged. Medium to full-bodied and concentrated with good acidity, freshness and delineation, this is a big wine for the vintage, but also very classic in its balance of tannin, acidity and extract. It will benefit from another 5-7 years of cellaring and should keep for three decades. The final blend was 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc.