10 things you should know about Chateau Haut Brion
1. It has ancient roots
It’s thought that grapes were grown on Haut-Brion land as long ago as Roman times. However, the first recorded document dates wine growing at the property to 1423. The estate as we know it today, however, came into being in April 1525. It derives its name from the Celtic term ‘Briga’, which loosely translated means a ‘rise’ or ‘mound’ in the land.
2. It’s the only First Growth wine outside of the Medoc
Chateau Haut-Brion is one of just five Premier Grand Cru Classe wines from Bordeaux, and the only one produced in Pessac, just outside of the city of Bordeaux.
3. It’s very much an urban property
Visitors are often surprised by the chateau’s proximity to the city of Bordeaux – there are even condos overlooking the vineyards! Its location puts it amid a warm microclimate, which leads to earlier ripening. As such, the harvest of the estate’s white grapes takes place earlier in the year than on other vineyards in the region.
4. It was the subject of the first ever tasting note
In April 1663, famous diarist Samuel Pepys visited the Royal Oak Tavern in London and subsequently wrote that he “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”.
5. It was the first recorded First Growth to be imported to the United States
Thomas Jefferson – then American minister to France – visited Bordeaux in 1787. So taken was he by Haut-Brion’s wine that he purchased six cases and had them sent back to his estate in Virginia. In a letter to his brother-in-law Francis Eppes, he wrote: “I cannot deny myself the pleasure of asking you to participate of a parcel of wine I have been chusing for myself. I do it the rather as it will furnish you a specimen of what is the very best Bourdeaux wine.”
6. It was a bottling pioneer
Labels from bottles of 1850 Haut-Brion indicate that at least some of the production was bottled by the chateau, which could make it the first major Bordeaux estate to bottle its own wine.
7. In fact, it’s an all-round innovator
In 1961, Haut-Brion became one of the very first Bordeaux estates to use stainless steel vats for vinification, and since 1991, the chateau has been using unique, double-skinned steel vats which allow for plot-by-plot vinification.
8. Its bottles are instantly recognisable
Haut-Brion first began using its distinctive bottle, emulating designs of old decanter models, from the 1958 vintage, which was released in 1960.
9. It once had a fierce rivalry with Chateau La Mission
Haut-Brion And unsurprisingly so, given the similarities in their names. However, the competition between the neighbouring chateaux – which rose to its peak in the 1970s and early 1980s – was largely quelled in 1983 when Haut-Brion owner Clarence Dillon also purchased La Mission Haut-Brion.
10. It has both a red and white second wine
Formerly named Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, the estate’s red second wine was renamed Le Clarence de Haut Brion with the 2007 vintage. From the 2009 vintage, its white second wine, Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion was renamed La Clarte de Haut-Brion. Like the estate’s white Grand Vin, though – which sees around 800 cases produced a year – only very small amounts of the second white are made: around 1,000 cases.