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Wine of the Week • 12 January 2021

Chateau Haut-Brion 1998

The 49.8 hectares are planted to 46% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Haut-Brion also makes a small amount of white wine (550 to 650 cases annually against 8,500 to 10,200 cases of the red), and the 2.9 ha of vineyard are planted to 52% Semillon and 48% Sauvignon Blanc.

When drawing up the 1855 Classification, after the wine merchants and brokers ranked 60 of the top chateaux of the Médoc into First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Growths, that round number was not allowed to stand because one great wine was missing. Even though situated in faraway Graves, Haut-Brion could not be ignored. On the contrary, not only was it included, Haut-Brion shot to the top as one of the four original First Growths. Established since the 16th Century, Haut-Brion is the oldest of the Premier Crus. At just 23 years, 1998 is still incredibly youthful. Practically primary. If opening now, decant 2 hours ahead. Intensely smoky (a Haut-Brion giveaway) that has all to do with this First Growth’s inimitable terroir. The ripe peppery/capsicum fruit is just as intense and long. So too the ripe, crisp tannins. Energy and liveliness. The fruit will become more blackcurrant cassis with the years. Best 1998 I have tasted. Now to 2048.

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