Chateau Haut Brion 1994
|Brand||Chateau Haut Brion|
One of my favorite and most educational visits in Bordeaux is the time I spend with Haut-Brion's highly respected administrator, Jean Delmas. Delmas is the thinking man's winemaker, with a level of experience and success that is unequaled in Bordeaux. On this visit, we discussed at length the strong tendency in Bordeaux to produce wines with higher and higher percentages of Merlot. As Jean Delmas says, (1), Merlot provides grapes that can be picked earlier, and tend to ripen with higher degrees of sugar, thus producing wines with higher alcohol. (2) Merlot has less acidity, which, combined with its tendency to produce high alcohol, results in a sweeter, supple, and initially more seductive wine. (3) Winemakers can extract more from Merlot than they can from Cabernet Sauvignon, thus they can vinify Merlot at higher temperatures, ultimately producing exotic, opulent wines that are thrilling to taste young. However, as Delmas pointed out, it is the Cabernet Sauvignon that provides the structure, backbone, and, to his palate, ultimately the greatest measure of complexity, character, and Bordeaux typicity. Jean Delmas enjoys a sumptuous Merlot-based wine as much as any Bordeaux wine lover I know, but he is concerned by the replacement of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards with Merlot. In short, he worries that much of the intrinsic character of many Medoc and Graves chateaux could be muted or lost in a succession of exotic, flashy, glitzy wines that are garish Medoc imitations of Pomerols and St.-Emilions - something to think about. In contrast to the 1993's penetrating, upfront aromas, the 1994 is closed aromatically. With coaxing, some truffle-like, sweet, black fruit aromas, as well as those of mineral/stones come forward. This spicy, full-bodied, powerful wine is a more masculine, structured effort than the 1993, with a potentially more complex, richer character. It is superbly crafted, beautifully balanced, and as pure as a wine can be. The integration of new oak, acidity, and tannin is commendable. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2025.
Winespectator / James Suckling (94)
Has wonderful richness and suppleness, lovely fruit and harmony. A superb example of a graceful, balanced wine that is delicious now and can evolve over many years.