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May 05, 2015

Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion 2014

HB14

Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion have released this morning at the ex-London price of £191.66 and £116.66 per bottle respectively. Haut Brion’s release price of £2,300 per case of 12 bottles or £1,150 per six represents a 4.16% reduction on their 2013 release price and the lowest since 2008.  Haut Brion’s price mimics that of Mouton Rothschild’s which was released last week and sold out on the same day. The cheapest physical vintage of Haut Brion on the market is currently the mediocre 2007 and slightly better 2008, these trade at £2,500 per case of 12. The average current price of Haut Brion since 2004 is  £3,387.50 and as such £2,300, offers a real incentive to buy en primeur. The 2014 Haut Brion scored 95-98 from James Molesworth (WS) of the Wine Spectator, one of his wines of the vintage. It received 95-96 from James Suckling (JS), 93-95 from Neal Martin (NM) and 96 from Tim Atkin. This is an excellent Haut Brion, one sure to receive a very favorable score from Robert Parker once he tastes it from bottle in two years and one of their finest vintages of the last 10 years.

table 1

Haut Brion is the only First Growth found outside of the Medoc, it is located in Graves in central Bordeaux.  As the name suggests the top vineyards in this commune boast abundant gravel. Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion also have more sand in their vineyards than the Haut Medoc, accounting for the higher degree of Merlot planted and enhanced harmony and elegance of the wine. In the early 20th Century, Clarence Dillon, an American banker acquired Haut Brion. Dillon’s great-grandson Prince Robert of Luxembourg is the current custodian.  Most vintages are medium bodied, its richness and power on the palate balance beautifully with its trademark distinctive tobacco flavour common to Graves. Haut Brion is famed for its smoky spice flavours and can be recognised by a distinct aroma of truffles and fine Havana Cigars.

Today also marks the release of Haut Brion’s neighbour, La Mission Haut Brion at £116.66 per bottle ex-London, £1,400 per case of 12 bottles. This represents an increase of 6.87%, which is in contrast to Haut Brion’s 4.16% decrease. The reason for this increase is that Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate has awarded it 95-97 points making it his joint top red wine of the vintage alongside Latour, Vieux Chateau Certan and Cheval Blanc. Neal Martin describes it as ‘…a sophisticated La Mission Haut-Brion in the making, one that may actually surpass Haut-Brion as it is sometimes prone to do’. Tim Atkin is in agreement that La Mission Haut Brion eclipses its more illustrious neighbour in 2014 saying ‘One of the best young La Missions I have ever tasted…a thing of beauty’. 

table 2

La Mission Haut Brion has been owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon, owners of Haut Brion since 1974, however, despite the coming together of the two properties, Jean-Bernard and later Jean-Philippe Delmas, who oversaw the winemaking for both properties, managed to maintain La Mission’s unique identity that has led to its wines attracting much critical acclaim, including a mark of 97 points for its 2012 last week from Robert Parker.

Situated close to the city of Bordeaux itself in the Pessac-Leognan region, La Mission sits on uniquely stony soil. The wine often displays rich, powerful and masculine flavours. The 2014 is a blend of 54% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 55% new oak, it exhibits blueberries, toast, smoke, black pepper with profound minerality and gripping tannins.

Haut Brion 2014, 6×75 – £1,150 or 12×75 – £2,300 EP
James Suckling 95-96
Dense and tight now with blackberries, blueberries, iodine, minerals and currants. Full-bodied, firm and closed, yet there’s a persistence and length that is most impressive. Polished and very class. 
Wine Spectator 95–98
Features a youthfully muscular edge, but remains elegant despite the heft, with a core of plum, red currant and raspberry fruit, guided by supple tannins and backed by subtle tobacco and spice hints. A light bay thread chimes in on the finish, while a juniper detail adds a pleasant underpinning. Displays admirable concentration, but this will need time to soak up its élevage, as it is always one of the more backward wines of the spring tastings. Tasted non-blind.
Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, 93-95
The fruit seems a little “redder” than La Mission at this stage with vibrant wild strawberry, blackcurrant and a pinch of dry tobacco, a hint of menthol developing with time in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, that tobacco element becoming a little stronger in the mouth, a little foursquare but like La Mission Haut-Brion, focusing upon precision rather than power. Of course, a superb contribution to the vintage, but I’d place my bets on the “Mish”, at least on these barrel tastings. 

La Mission Haut Brion 2014, 6×75 – £750 or 12×75 – £1,400 EP
James Suckling 94-95
Chewy and rich with blueberry, stone and mineral character. Full body, silky and intense tannins and a mineral berry aftertaste. A finely grained La Mission.
Wine Spectator 93–96
Bursts with violet, plum and raspberry fruit, lined with silky tannins and backed by a tantalizing iron hint. Features lovely brisk energy and gorgeous purity. Tasted non-blind.
Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, 95-97
It has a very fresh and precise bouquet, not one that marches out the barrack in confidence fashion, but rather unfolds piece-by-piece in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with a structured and neatly placed opening: a little masculine for La Mission Haut-Brion at this stage, linear and focused, maintaining precision rather than aiming from power and roundness. This is a sophisticated La Mission Haut-Brion in the making, one that may actually surpass Haut-Brion as it is sometimes prone to do. The 2014 is a sterling success for Jean-Philippe Delmas and his team. 

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