Château les Carmes Haut Brion. Pessac-Leognan France Bordeaux " Pessac-Leognan Red Bordeaux Cab.sauvignon Blend Château les Carmes Haut Brion France " Bordeaux " Pessac-Léognan Bottle 2003
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The 1986 Haut-Brion, which I thought should be fully mature by now, remains a backward, highly concentrated, powerful wine with more noticeable tannin than most top vintages. The wine does possesses a tell-tale smoky tobacco and sweet black currant-scented nose, in addition to subtle new oak and minerals scents. This medium to full-bodied, rich, intensely smoky wine has still not reached its plateau of maturity. It is unquestionably the wine of the vintage for Graves, and not far off the pace of the great 1986 first-growth Medocs. Anticipated maturity: 2000ndash;2015. Last tasted 7/97.
As reported over the last two years, this is a prodigious Haut-Brion. It exhibits a dense ruby/purple color in addition to a tight, but incredibly promising nose of smoke, earth, minerals, lead pencil, black currants, cherries, and spice. This full-bodied wine unfolds slowly, but convincingly on the palate, revealing a rich, multi-tiered, stunningly pure, symmetrical style with wonderful sweetness, ripe tannin, and a finish that lasts for nearly 45 seconds. It tastes like liquid nobility. Anticipated maturity: 2008ndash;2035.
Old, aristocratic Bordeaux. This is difficult to consider as a young wine, entangled as it is in oak, the flavors buxom yet guarded. Compressed underneath the substantial weight therersquo;s a sophisticated, expressive Graves, a view into the stones of the soil as polished as the red fruits that form the core of flavor. Within that core, the wine holds all its freshness and power as if in reserve for the decades to come. On the outside, therersquo;s the oak, which only seems to grow more dominant with air, the fruit persisting as an undercurrant. This will need a decade of age to show itself more fully, and will likely continue to evolve for several decades more.
It will always be tempting to compare the 2000 Haut-Brion with the perfect 2000 La Mission Haut-Brion. However, it is not as fat, unctuous, flamboyant, or voluminous as La Mission. Yet, like a great diplomat, it is a wine of intensity, authority, and measured restraint. A supremely elegant offering, its dense ruby/purple color, and burgeoning perfume of scorched earth, liquid minerals, plums, black currants, cherries, lead pencil, and subtle spicy oak are followed by a delicate yet powerfully flavorful, multi-layered, highly nuanced, and extraordinarily pure and seamless wine. There have been so many recent classics from Haut-Brion, it is premature to suggest the 2000 is better than the 1998, 1995, 1990, or 1989, but it is certainly a prodigious wine of dazzling persistence, length, and complexity. A blend of 51% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc, it should prove to be uncommonly long-lived, even by the standards of Haut-Brion. Anticipated maturity: 2012ndash;2040.
The 1998 continues to emulate the style of recent prodigious Haut-Brions. With all due respect to the glorious 1995, the 1998 appears to be the finest wine produced since Haut-Brionrsquo;s prodigious 1989 and 1990. It reveals more aromatic and flavor dimensions than it did last year. The dense ruby/purple color is followed by classic, developing aromas of minerals, lead pencil, earth, and black cherries/currants. On the palate, additional dimensions and nuances unfold. Tannic and powerful, but with sweet fruit, ripe tannin, and great length and richness, this profound, firmly-structured Haut-Brion will require 4ndash;6 years of bottle age; it should drink well for three decades.
Another profound effort from Haut-Brion, the 2005 (a 9,000-case blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc) has bulked up to the point that it is fair to compare it to the great successes of 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2000. A dark ruby/purple color is followed by a nuanced, noble bouquet of blue and red fruits interwoven with wet stones, unsmoked cigar tobacco, scorched earth, and spring flowers. The wine is full-bodied, pure, and complex as well as exceptionally elegant with laser-like precision. The tannins are still serious and substantial, and in that sense, this is a completely different style of Haut-Brion than the opulent, silky-textured 1989 and 1990. As I have written before, it comes across as an improved, more concentrated and structured version of the 1995 or 1998. Patience will be required for this stunner. Anticipated maturity: 2017ndash;2040+
No first-growth administrator has been on a hotter streak in terms of consistency and quality than Haut-Brionrsquo;s Jean Delmas, where nearly everything since the late seventies has been meritorious. Haut-Brionrsquo;s terrific 1994 does not possess either the thick, unctuous texture or the weight of La Mission. Like La Mission, it contains more Merlot than normal, but the result is an elegant wine with medium to full body, exceptional concentration and purity, great balance and harmony, a dazzling aromatic profile consisting of sweet, mineral, cassis, and white chocolate scents, similar flavors, an enthralling texture, and a long, highly-concentrated finish. This is a gorgeously supple and precocious Haut-Brion that avoids tasting heavy or out of balance, rather amazing for such a young wine. The 1994 reminds me of the 1985, but with more plumpness and fat. Only 66% of Haut-Brionrsquo;s harvest (which ended on 9/24) made it into the grand vin.
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