Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion is sited in Pessac-Leognan. It shares its origins with Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, which along with Laville Haut Brion and La Tour Haut Brion, were once were once part of the Haut Brion Estate. It entered an exciting new period in 2010 when Patrice Pichet, head of Bordeaux real Estate developer Groupe Pichet, purchased the property. In buying it he set a new record: a reported 3.8 million euros per hectare. He then added to this to bring the total vineyard to 33 hectares.
Pichet commissioned renowned designer Philippe Starck and Luc Arsene-Henry – which reminds me of a golden time for gooners – to make this property into an architectural bijou in Bordeaux, building a new cellar to handle the increased production. Starck has delivered a staggering achievement, which is the antithesis of traditional Bordeaux. The four level cellar design is remarkable, it should be, costing to the tune of 10 million euros: it also looks something like the space port of Virgin Galactic, which Starck also designed. The design is an upside down ship with the hull in the centre of a lake, with vineyards to each side, while bridges provide access to the shore. This is analogous to Bordeaux’s long history of transporting wine by ship across the world. Grander still is that the new cellar location at this modest but ambitious Chateau is adjacent to Chateau Haut Brion. As such we are delighted to be able to release, for the first time, Les Carmes Haut Brion on a general offer.
In 2016 the Estate is fulfilling its promise awarded 95-97 points from Neal Martin, its highest ever and a similar 96-97 from James Suckling. Martin says ‘You know, it is not a million miles away from Lafleur in Pomerol, but in the same sense, it will require a decade in bottle to show what it can do. It is a new benchmark for this estate with big ambitions. Tasted twice with consistent notes.’ His reference to Lafleur is a stylistic one, yet high praise for a wine which trades an order of magnitude lower in price. The release price is £690 per case of 12, which is a 27% euro increase on the 2014. In the context of 2016 the release offers remarkable value. It places it in line with the current trading price of the 2015 which was awarded 92-94 points, while the 2012 has its current highest bottle score of 94 and trades at £600. Therefore, with a median score of 96 points the 2016 offers plenty of headroom and this is a wine which promises excellent shorter, mid and long term investment opportunities. As always we honour past allocations first, we can make an extra parcel available to clients who wish to support Les Carmes de Haut Brion over the coming years.
We have been saying for a while it is a good time to be a builder in Bordeaux, the regions success spilling out into grander designs and upgrades. One must conclude that Pichet embodies this. He has rightly highlighted this prestigious terroir, capable of something akin to its illustrious neighbour and with great investment is driving the Estate towards a stellar future. It is today considered one of the most exciting Estates in Bordeaux, one of the most sought after. Despite the vineyards expansion, it still only produces 1,800 cases of the Grand Vin, while the second wine of the Estate barely produces 250 cases. As such there is a line forming for allocations and collectors will benefit from an securing an allocation over the coming years, as its prestige, score and therefore price rise.
Les Carmes Haut Brion 2016, 12×75 – £690 EP or 6×75 – £345 EP
95-97 Points, Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut Brion is a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot, with 13.8% alcohol and a pH of 3.55, the lowest acidity for many years. It was vinified in their Philippe Starck-designed “submarine” (this is what their aesthetically arresting winery looks like as it surfaces in the Bordeaux city suburbs!) with 48% whole berry fruit. Winemaker Guillaume Pouthier (ex-Chapoutier) showed me a large inflatable ring used to submerge the cap to create more of an “infusion” rather than a maceration. The 2016 is matured in 65% new oak, 30% one year old and 5% in amphora. It has a very pure, very attractive bouquet with ample blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and fresh fig aromas, a little more extravagant than some other Pessac-Léognan 2016s, yet it maintains impressive control and focus. It develops more pressed flower aromas with time. The palate is medium-bodied with tannins that gently grip the mouth, tertiary notes on the entry, fine acidity vis-à-vis the fruit, then a slight tarriness towards the broody black fruit on the saline, marine-influenced finish. It is an intriguing take on the vintage, classic in style like many others, detailed with impressive complexity. You know, it is not a million miles away from Lafleur in Pomerol, but in the same sense, it will require a decade in bottle to show what it can do. It is a new benchmark for this estate with big ambitions. Tasted twice with consistent notes.
96-97 Points, James Suckling
Extremely long and erudite with crushed stones, blackberries and blueberries. Hints of fresh herbs. Full-bodied, tight and polished. The balance and beauty are amazing. Salty and minerally. More polished than the 2015. Wait and see. From biodynamic grapes.
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