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Haut Brion Pessac Leognan Premier 1999
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Great wine, fruity, fantastic nose with hints of honey, deep woods with a long finish
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Deep plum, currant, and mineral notes emerge from the concentrated, beautifully balanced, pure 1999 Haut Brion. It seems to be cut from the same mold as years such as 1979 and 1985. There is a hint of graphite in the abundant fruit. The wine is medium to full-bodied, nuanced, subtle, deep, and provocatively elegant. It is made in a style that only Haut Brion appears capable of achieving. The finish is extremely long, the tannins sweet, and the overall impression one of delicacy interwoven with power and ripeness. Anticipated maturity: 2007ndash;2025.
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 there'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, there'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.
This is incredible on the nose, showing coffee cake, blackberry, floral, coffee bean and vanilla bean, with Chinese spices. A very complex, full-bodied red, with seamless, hyperpolished tannins that caress every millimeter of the palate. Lasts for minutes. So beautifully balanced, I'm left speechless. Is it even better than the 1989? Best after 2017.
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: 2017-2040+
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-Brion'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 4-6 years of bottle age; it should drink well for three decades.
There are only 10,000 cases of this 2003 (12.85% alcohol, high for this estate). A blend of 58% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% Cabernet Franc, it reveals, more tannin and a tougher texture than it did last year. Deep ruby/purple to the rim, with a fragrant bouquet of plums, figs, hot rocks, and tobacco smoke, this medium-bodied claret possesses outstanding concentration and purity, but some toughness to the tannin needs to be resolved. It had just been fined, so perhaps it had not yet fully recovered. It is certainly an outstanding Haut-Brion, but at this stage, I would rank it behind such prodigious classics as the 2000, 1998, 1995, 1990, and 1989. It will be slow to evolve. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025+.
No first-growth administrator has been on a hotter streak in terms of consistency and quality than Haut-Brion's Jean Delmas, where nearly everything since the late seventies has been meritorious. Haut-Brion'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-Brion's harvest (which ended on 9/24) made it into the grand vin.
Food Pairings for Haut Brion Pessac Leognan Premier
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