Technical Director Olivier Pouthier crafted one of the wines of the vintage at Les Carmes Haut-Brion. The 2021 possesses mind-blowing intensity and stunning persistence. Bright red-fleshed fruit, blood orange, mint, dried flowers and exotic spice caress the senses as the 2021 shows off its sheer allure. I don’t think I have ever tasted a young Carmes with this level of precision. The blend is 40% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, aged in 70% new oak, 20% new foudres and 10% in amphora. As always, Les Carmes sees some whole cluster, 45% in 2021, an unusual technique in Bordeaux, but one that works so well here. The 2021 is a magical wine. That’s all there is to it.
Anticipated maturity: 2031-2061
James Suckling 96-97
This is a special wine for the vintage with a wonderful and impressive tannin texture that melts into the wine, giving softness and finesse. Medium-bodied, showing a solid core of fruit with beautiful, focused cassis, blackberry and crushed-stone character. The unique terror of this estate, which is surrounded by houses in a suburb of Bordeaux, has produced a gorgeous wine in this difficult vintage. 45% whole bunches. 40% cabernet franc, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 25% merlot.
Robert Parker 94-97
A brilliant and intensely individual wine, the 2021 Les Carmes Haut-Brion shows immense potential. Wafting from the glass with aromas of rich berries and plums mingled with notions of raw cocoa, loamy soil, rose petals, burnt sage and vine smoke, it’s medium to full-bodied, vibrant and seamless, with a deep, dynamic core of fruit and a long, penetrating finish. Transcending the limitations of the vintage, it wouldn’t surprise me were this wine ultimately to surpass the 2019 and 2020 in quality. It’s a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot that’s maturing in 70% new oak and the rest in 15-hectoliter foudres. Tasted twice.
The Wine Independent 93-95+
The 2021 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot, aging in 70% new barriques, 20% new 18 hl foudres, and 10% amphoras. Deep garnet-purple colored, it shoots out of the glass with vivacious notes of kirsch, black cherry preserves, cassis, and blueberries, plus hints of candied violets, star anise, cinnamon toast, and Ceylon tea. Medium-bodied, the palate shimmers with intense red and black fruit sparks, framed by grainy, multi-layered tannins and fantastic tension, finishing long and mineral-laced. While the weight is ethereal, the intensity is mind-blowing and an amazing achievement in this vintage. The Cabernet Franc contribution makes this a triumph, as does the inspired use of stems. Batches with ripe stems are selected for whole-bunch fermentation and the rest are destemmed. 45% was selected for whole-bunch fermentation this year, 10% less than in 2020. if you can put aside your stylistic preconceptions of what Bordeaux is and embrace this bright, energetic style with amazing textural complexity (from oak, stem, and grape skin tannins), you will love this evocative, age-worthy beauty. PH 3.6.
Anticipated maturity: 2026-2050
Jeb Dunnuck 93-95
I’d put the 2021 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion up with the crème de la crème of the vintage. Based on 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest Merlot, aging in 80% new barrels, it offers a brilliant perfume of plum and black raspberry fruits supported by lots of spice and exotic floral notes. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, it has a rounded, expansive mouthfeel that’s rare to find in the vintage, terrific mid-palate depth, moderate acidity, and a great finish. It’s a singular, brilliant Pessac that will benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age and cruise for 20-25+ in cold cellars. Enough can’t be said about the quality and passion being brought to this estate by winemaker Guillaume Pouthier, and this is an estate readers need to be purchasing.
Jane Anson 94
Inky colour, enticing texture and aromatics, accomplished construction with no drop of density through the mid palate. They use reductive techniqes during ageing so you always have to give Carmes time in the glass to open up (even after En Primeur, when in bottle), and you are richly rewarded by a bit of patience, with damson, black cherry, rich chocolate, liqourice, smoked earth, mandarin peel, rose bud and mouthwartering acidities. This has tension and subdued power, and is a successful interpretation of the vintage. 42hl/h yields, same as 2020, no frost, no mildew, no coulure. Harvest as in Sauternes; with three passes through the vineyard at harvest. No chaptilisation. Harvest September 23 to October 1. 3.6ph, 45% whole grape, only 5% less than last year. 70% new oak, 20% large sized still new but 1800 litres, and 10% amphoras. A potential upscore in bottle.
Anticipated maturity: 2027-2040