After fifty some odd years, I still have unicorn wines that I have desires for, as I think most wine drinkers do as well. I was visiting my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan and they let me get a little closer to one of the unicorns, almost within petting range, I might add. One of the many unicorns that I haven’t tried and there are many, as I have been a working man, raising a family and have tried to be fiscally responsible, is Chateau Haut-Brion, the only First Growth that I have not had, and the only one from Pessac-Leognan.
Chateau Haut-Brion is the oldest of Bordeaux’s five First Growths, as it was established in the early 1500s by the Pontac family and then has changed hands several times since then. A wine that was favored by Charles II, Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Pepys to name a few. The estate was acquired in 1935 by the American Francophile Clarence Dillon and has been managed by his family ever since. While the Chateau is famed for their red wine “grand vin” they also produce a white wine on the property. The property is fifty-one hectares and forty-eight hectares are planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and three hectares are planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Le Clarence de Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan 2019 is the second label for Chateau Haut-Brion in the red wine. Prior to 2007 the wine was known as “Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion” and was renamed in homage to Clarence Dillon. The fruit for this wine gets to enjoy the same soil as the parent and that is small pebbles of assorted quartz upon a subsoil of clay, sand and limestone with excellent drainage. The wine is a blend of seventy-three percent Merlot, eleven percent Cabernet Sauvignon and sixteen percent Cabernet Franc; all of which was hand-harvested during a three-week period. The juice has two weeks of maceration and fermentation, and then the juice is aged in French Oak (thirty percent new) for about seventeen months before bottling. A nice deep-dark-red wine offering notes of fresh red and black fruit, violets and spices. On the palate there were notes of blackberry and cassis, along with spices in a well balanced and creamy wine with firm tannins, with touches of vanilla and pepper and a nice long-count finish of terroir. If this is as close to one of the unicorns, it will suffice.