1985 Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan Bordeaux France Wine Tasting Note

  1. 1985 Château Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan)

    1. What a beauty! This is probably drinking at close to perfection. This is all about the blend of ripe, sweet, cassis and red fruits with smokey, tobacco and cigar wrappers. Elegant, easy to drink, fresh and with silky fruits and tobacco in the endnote.

      96 points - Tasted
    2. There is no better vintage of mature, Haut Brion in the marketplace that competes with the 1985. And for good reason. The fruit is ripe, smoky, earthy and rich. The tannins are soft, elegant and refined. There is a touch of peppery, greenery in the finish, but who cares? All the cedar, cigar wrapper, dark red fruits and plush textures are what you are going to pay attention to. Popped and poured, this was great from the get go!

      96 points - Tasted
    3. Light up a nice Cuban Cigar, some it outside near a forest, giving you all these great, leafy, smoky, earthy scents and make sure you have a basket of fresh berries to make the bouquet complete. Polish the tannins to a silky texture and spend time with the wine, so you get feel each lingering sensation. This is ready now, and it could be even better with another 3-5 or more years of aging.

      95 points - Tasted
    4. From a perfect bottle, this could be the wine of the vintage. Soft, silky, smooth, fresh, sweet, ripe, complex and delicious, the tannins caress your palate, the fruit lingers and the smoky, tobacco drenched character of Haut Brion really shines through. At 30 years of age, this wine is drinking perfectly. And frankly, for an Haut Brion of this quality, it sells for a song in the auction marketplace today.

      96 points - Tasted
    5. If you are looking for power and concentration, you came to the wrong place. If silky, refined, elegant textures, a nose of smoke, tobacco, dark cherry, wet earth, cigar box and spice, and a character that can be best defined as regal is what you are after, you're going to love this wine. Decanted about an hour, this was singing! It is hard to find a better Bordeaux from 1985.

      95 points - Tasted
    6. Crème de cassis, cedar wood, tobacco, smoke, forest floor and truffle are found with little effort. This is probably close to fully mature. Drink it over the next 10 years to get the most from this soft textured, elegant, smoky, blackberry, earth and cassis filled wine.

      94 points - Tasted
    7. 1985 Haut Brion opens with a complex bouquet of floral, smoke,cassis, truffle, earth, tar and mineral aromas. With soft, elegant, supple textures and a long, ripe,round, sweet finish that's filled with chocolate, blackberry and dark cherries, this wonderful Bordeaux wine is drinking perfectly today. It's probably the top vintage of any First Growth in the market today for the money. 95 Pts

      95 points - Tasted
    8. 1985 Haut Brion gets better each time I taste it. It is in competition for the wine of the vintage. Smoke, ash, leather, tar, tobacco, forest, BBQ and hot brick aromatics are all over the place. In the mouth, the wine offers soft, elegant, juicy, plums with round, plush textures. The wine ends with layers of silky, dark chocolate, black cherry and spice flavors. 96 Pts

      96 points - Tasted
    9. 1985 Haut Brion is drinking perfectly today. Great nose, concentration of flavors and balance. This is not the best Haut Brion produced in the 80's. 82 and 89 are much better wines. But who cares? With its elegant, suave, round, opulent It's drinking at the perfect place today. This is what great Claret is all about. 94 Pts

      94 points - Tasted
    10. Smoky, cassis, earth and tobacco notes start off the perfume. This elegant,complex, suave and very sophisticated wine is drinking perfectly today. This is truly a pleasure a drink. The finsh is close to 40 seconds. My father is not a wine buff, but I get immense pleasure sharing special wines with him.

      96 points - Tasted
    11. This mature Haut Brion offers a cornucopia of aromas. Smoke, earth, iron, spices and mushrooms jump out of the glass. The palate is bathed in a complex array of ripe, mature black fruits. This is a beautiful example of Haut Brion and the value of aging wines

      96 points - Tasted
Haut Brion 12 Wine Tasting Notes, Ratings

Chateau Haut Brion Vineyards, Terroir, Grapes, Winemaking

The 48 hectare vineyard of Chateau Haut Brion is quite close to the city center of Bordeaux, as the city is only 5 kilometers away, give or take. The terroir is deep gravel over clay and sand with a wide variety of minerals and quartz in the soils. The vineyards are on important, gravel hills that reach up to 27 meters at their peak elevations. The gravel at Haut Brion runs extremely deep. In some parts, the gravel can be as deep as 18 meters. At Haut Brion, the clay soils play a vital role, hence the large percentage of Merlot in the vineyards.

Even though they are located across the street from each other, it is interesting to note that while most of the vineyards for Chateau Haut Brion are planted in Pessac, the majority of the vines for La Mission Haut Brion are in Talence. When you look at the differences in the soils and notice the higher level of vine density at La Mission Haut Brion than you find at Chateau Haut Brion, it is easier to understand the differences found in the wines styles.

For the red wine of Chateau Haut Brion, the vineyard is planted to 48.7% Merlot, 39.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. This shows decrease in the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc plantings and an increase of Merlot in the vineyard since the mid 1990's. On average, the vines at Haut Brion are 36 years of age. However, they have old vines that are close to 90 years of age in some blocks. The vineyard is planted to a vine density ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. At Chateau Haut Brion, since 1970, they have maintained a clonal massal program to ensure the quality, individuality and uniqueness of their vines. The vineyards are planted with 12 clones per parcel. In all, they have over 500 different clones planted in their vineyard.

2.9 hectares of vines have been reserved for the planting of white Bordeaux wine varietals. For the production of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc, the vineyard is planted to 51.5% Semillon and 48.5% Sauvignon Blanc. Although there is a small quantity of Sauvignon Gris planted in the vineyard as well. This shows a marked increase in the amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard. For the white wine grapes of Haut Brion, the vines are planted in a terroir that is gravel over clay soils.

In 1977, close to 65% of the vineyard was replanted. Today, the average age of the white wine varietals at Haut Brion are close to 30 year of age. Very little Haut Brion Blanc is produced each year. The production for Haut Brion Blanc has always been historically small. In fact, when the wines of Graves were classified, Haut Brion requested their white wine be removed from the classification. Today, on average, close to 600 cases of Haut Brion Blanc are produced each year.

To produce the red wine of Chateau Haut Brion, vinification takes place in unique, double skinned, stainless steel vats. Interestingly, Chateau Haut Brion was one of the first Bordeaux chateau to begin using stainless steel for vinification. This took place in 1961. The double skinned, stainless steel vats were first introduced at Chateau Haut Brion in 1991. The wine is aged in up to 100% new, French oak for as long as 24 months, depending on the strength and character of the vintage. As much as 70% of the barrels used by Haut Brion are produced at their own onsite cooperage. They do this in cooperation with the Seguin Moreau company.

The blending for Chateau Haut Brion takes place shortly after Malolactic fermentation is finished and before the aging process in barrel has started. This is because the property feels it's better to blend the wines before the influence of the wood begins to be felt in the wine.

Chateau Haut Brion Blanc... The White Bordeaux Wine of Haut Brion

Chateau Haut Brion also produces one of the world's great white wines. It is without peer in quality, style and price. In fact, Haut Brion Blanc is one of the world's most expensive, dry, white wines. Price aside, while most people have not had the chance to taste the white wine of Haut Brion, it is stunning. Rich and intensely concentrated, fresh and refreshing, with aromatics of grapefruit, lemon peel, crushed rocks, flowers, honey and melons, the texture reminds you of electrified, silk. The wine can age and evolve for decades.

There is a second white wine, La Clarte du Haut Brion Blanc, which made its debut in 2009. The second white wine was previously known as Les Plantiers du Haut Brion. La Clarte du Haut Brion Blanc is a combination of white wine grapes from both Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, and thus is the second white wine for both estates.

For the production of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc, the grapes are harvested in the pre-dawn hours. The reason is that the cool or often cold night air helps maintain the desired levels of acidity and freshness in the fruit while also slowing the potential for oxidation.

After sorting, the grapes are whole bunch pressed using a pneumatic press. There is no contact with the skins. The wines are barrel fermented in 100% new, French oak barrels. There is no malolactic fermentation and interestingly, there is almost never any stirring of the lees. The white wine is aged in 100% new, French oak barrels for an average of 13-16 months, depending on the vintage and its characteristics.

There is a second red wine, Le Clarence de Haut Brion, which was first released in 2007. The second wine was previously labeled as Bahans Haut Brion, which made its debut in 1976 as a vintage wine. Prior to 1976, Bahans was a non vintage, wine made from multiple vintages when needed. The name was changed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Dillon families purchase of Chateau Haut Brion. Production of Chateau Haut Brion averages between 8,000 to 10,000 cases per year. In September, 2012, the property added to their holdings with the purchase of 1.3 hectares of vines when they purchased the holdings of Domaine Allray Haut Brion, which was located inside the vineyards of Haut Brion.

Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion are currently managed by Jean-Philippe Delmas. Jean-Philippe Delmas is also in change of Quintus in St. Emilion. Jean Philippe Delmas is the second generation of Delmas to take care of La Mission Haut Brion and the third generation of Delmas to manage Haut Brion, where he followed in the footsteps of his well-known father, Jean-Bernard Delmas and his father before him. The history of Haut Brion and the Delmas family are intertwined for almost 100 years. After working at Chateau Cos dEstournel, Geroges Delmas became the director of Haut Brion in 1924. Georges Delmas remained in that position until he was replaced by his son, Jean-Bernard Delmas in 1961.

It was under the direction of Jean-Bernard Delmas that Haut Brion began using their uniquely shaped, trademarked square shaped bottle, which made its debut in 1960, with the 1958 vintage. Jean Bernard Delmas was also responsible for being one of the first estates in Bordeaux to begin vinifying their wine in temperature controlled, stainless steel vats. This was a major change and positive move away from large wood fermenters or cement tanks. Jean Bernard Delmas was replaced by his son, Jean Philippe Delmas in 2003.

Over the years, things have changed for the better at Chateau Haut Brion. The trend to produce less of the Grand Vin of Chateau Haut Brion by lowering yields, reducing production through severe sorting's in the vineyards and cellars, placing more wine into the second wine of Chateau Haut Brion and selling a larger percentage off in bulk has on the one hand, greatly reduced the quantity of wine made at Chateau Haut Brion to consumers.

The results of this trend have allowed Chateau Haut Brion to produce some of the best wines in the long, history of the chateau! And considering the stunning quality of wine made in countless, legendary, older vintages, that is really saying something. On the other hand, to the consumers detriment, prices have escalated to very high levels because the reality of the situation is, there is so little wine being produced here these days.

To give you an idea on the changes in production at Chateau Haut Brion, this chart gives you a vivid illustration of the changes in production numbers over the past decades.

1982 - 21,600 cases

1989 - 17,093 cases

1990 - 18,088 cases

2009 - 11,000 cases

2010 - 8,094 cases

The best vintages of Chateau Haut Brion Rouge are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1985, 1982, 1961, 1959, 1955, 1953, 1950, 1949, 1948, 1947, 1945, 1934, 1929, 1928, 1926, 1921 and 1900. As you can see, Chateau Haut Brion has an almost, unequaled track record for quality and its ability to age and evolve. There are few better older wines that are worth purchasing at auction these days.

While there are numerous years when both, the red and white wine of Chateau Haut Brion perform equally well, as you can see, that is not always the case. There are years when the white Bordeaux wine of Haut Brion is much more successful, than their red wine. Of course, there are also years when the red wine is clearly much more interesting.

The best vintages of Chateau Haut Brion Blanc are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1985, 1961, and 1959.

The wine of Chateau Haut Brion is in a class by itself. There is no other Bordeaux wine like it. The complex aromatics with all the earthy, tar, leather, smoke, truffle, cassis and spice are unique to Haut Brion. This is an incredibly, refined, elegant style of wine, that is never heavy or out of balance, There is a purity of fruit found in this stylish Bordeaux wine that is unique to Haut Brion. Compared to the other First Growths, it will usually be ready to drink at a younger age. But that does not mean it doesn't age as well. Far from it. In fact, for example well stored bottles from 1928, 1929 and 1945 all offer compelling tasting experiences today. Life is too short not to drink Haut Brion as often as possible.

When to Drink Chateau Haut Brion, Anticipated Maturity, Decanting Time

Chateau Haut Brion needs several years, and in the best vintages up to 2 decades time before the wine displays its true character. Haut Brion needs at least 12-15 years of aging, or longer, in good vintages until it is ready to be enjoyed. Young vintages can be decanted for 2-4 hours, or more. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment. Chateau Haut Brion offers its best drinking and should reach peak maturity between 15-50 years of age after the vintage.

Serving Chateau Haut Brion with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips

Chateau Haut Brion is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Chateau Haut Brion is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes. Chateau Haut Brion is also good with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, salmon, mushrooms and pasta.

The white wine of Chateau Haut Brion is best served with a myriad of different seafood dishes, shellfish, crab, lobster, sushi, sashimi, chicken, pork and veal, as well as Asian cuisine.