Chateau Haut Brion

Wine Producers » Chateau Haut Brion

Name: Chateau Haut Brion

Region: Graves

Appellation: Pessac-Léognan

Classification: First Growth

Average annual production: 10,000 – 12,000 cases

Grapes (grown): Merlot (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Petit Verdot (1%)

Made by: Jean-Phillipe Delmas

Owned by: Prince Robert of Luxembourg

Second Wine: Le Clarence de Haut Brion

A little history: Chateau Haut Brion’s history reads like a wonderfully aristocratic romp, peppered with literary flourishes & noble encounters.  Despite vines allegedly having been in existence since the Romans, it wasn’t until Lord Arnaud III de Pontac (buoyed by a Libournais mayoral dowry) bought the chateau in 1649 that things really started to get moving.  The 17th Century proved to be a fruitful one for the estate with high praise in both regal & literary circles.  Notably it was in the UK that the most noise was being made with King Charles II serving no less than 169 bottles of ‘Hautbriono’ at his court inbetween 1660 & ‘61.  After the Great Fire of 1666, Pontac’s playboy son seized the opportunity to open a tavern in London, ‘L’Enseigne de Pontac’, which subsequently went on to attract all sorts of fashionably literary types, although according to Jonathan Swift, ‘the wine was dear at 7 Shillings a flagon’.  Moving into the 18th Century the likes of Locke & Hegel were known to visit the Chateau, culminating in a visit from US Ambassador Thomas Jefferson which led to it being the first Bordeaux to be imported into the US.  By this point in time, the chateau had changed hands, into another aristocratic French family, the de Fumels, meaning a tricky time for the estate after the revolution as Joseph de Fumel was guillotined & the grounds confiscated & divided.  Finally, in 1836, fortunes changed & Joseph-Eugene Larrieu took up the helm; the estate was to stay in family hands for the best part of a century.  Real change came into place when US banker Clarence Dillon bought the whole estate in 1935, placing Seymour Weller in charge of things as president of a new Société.  George Delmas was kept on as manager & everything has stayed under the responsibility of these families ever since.  Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose father Prince Robert was married to Clarence’s daughter Joan, is now President of the estate, with Delmas’ grandson, Jean-Philippe managing production.  An experienced tour de force indeed, as befits a wine of such historical stature.

Top vintage: 1959, 1989

Surprising hero: 1969, 1956

Interesting fact: The forefather of the fine wine cult, immortalised in Samuel Pepys’ diary “a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with”.