2014 Le C Des Carmes Haut-Brion
Chateau Haut-Brion, the magnificent Bordeaux First Growth, differs from every other First Growth chateaux by two unique factors. First, it is in Pessac Leognan, the only Chateau in this southern area of Bordeaux to be classified. Second, it is the ancestor to the classification – long before the classification came along, in 1423 to be specific, Haut-Brion was noted for its exceptional winemaking capability. This ability of course continues on to this day.
Across hundreds of years of winemaking at this storied property, many things have changed. History is complicated but there is one clear fact in the vast legend of Haut-Brion: about halfway through its history, Jean-Pontac gifted a portion of Haut-Brion’s vineyards to an order of Carmelites (hence this wine’s name, Carmes). The monks would continue to make Haut-Brion until the French Revolution, at which point a Bordeaux merchant took over and firmly split the properties apart, into Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, and Carmes Haut Brion.
Like so many other Bordeaux estates, fortune’s waxed and waned, in this case mostly waned, through the 19th and 20th centuries until serious re-investment came along. That serious reinvestment was in the form of 18 million euros (or 3.8 million per hectare, a Bordeaux record) in 2010. Which makes the argument of this epistle extremely simple:
Here is First Growth Bordeaux Vineyards, once part of and made by a First Growth, surely lost in time for a while, but at an incredible price. And that dazzling potential is what shows in the glass:
Crushed black cherries, ripe plums, wild blueberries and notes of cinnamon stick, espresso, nutmeg, and crushed rocks all waft up from the glass, revealing that before you even drink it, you’re in for a thrilling Bordeaux. The palate draws all of that fruit to the fore, offering a cherry richness and smooth integrated tannins that seamlessly draw forth the finish. 2014 was a classic vintage in Bordeaux, elegantly balancing the fruit, tannin, and acidity components to a fine and perfect synergy. This can be felt in the finish, as the wine easily lasts for minutes. I find immense pleasure drinking it now but would not hesitate to let it go 10 more years in the cellar (if I can keep my hands off it).
Again, the argument is simple: Haut-Brion $600 a bottle, Carmes Haut-Brion $35. Why not treat yourself to First Growth quality every night?