This Pessac-Leognan based estate was the only one outside of the Medoc to be designated as Premier Grand Cru Classe in the 1855 classification and produces four different wines from its 51 hectares of vines planted over mostly gravelly soils. Grapes have been grown here since Roman times, however the earliest written mention of a wine produced on the estate itself dates from 1521. Shortly thereafter in 1533, Jean de Pontac acquired a portion of the Haut-Brion land through his marriage to Jeanne de Bellon. The wine too has an illustrious history, being the first First Growth to be imported to America when Thomas Jefferson bought six cases. It was also mentioned in a diary entry by Samuel Pepys in 1663, written as ‘Ho Byran’.
The Chateau was purchased by an American banker, Clarence Dillon, in the early 20th Century and has remained in the Dillon family to this day. Dillon’s great-grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, is the current custodian and works alongside the Delmas family who oversee the winemaking. The estate grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, as well as having 3 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Haut-Brion became the first Bordeaux estate to use stainless steel vats for vinification in 1961 and continued this tradition of innovation in 1991 when the Chateau began using unique, double-skinned steel vats for plot-by-plot vinification. After the wine has spent around 22 months in new oak barrels – sometimes more – they are bottled unfiltered.
Haut-Brion is famed for its smoky spice flavours and can be recognised by a distinct aroma of truffles. The relatively higher proportion of Merlot compared to other first growths adds to the wine’s velvety texture and concentrated red fruit flavours. The estate has seen great success over the past decade, particularly in China, being the second most imported wine in 2010. Chateau Haut-Brion’s second wine, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is equally as popular, and their stunning white wine, La Clarté de Haut-Brion, is not to be missed.