New shining star on Bordeaux' wine heaven!

Les Carmes Haut Brion

 

2018 23

This picture is taken from the top of the cellar at LCHB - (Copyright Izak Litwar)

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Les Carmes Haut Brion's spectacular cellar - (Copyright Giorgio Bocoshvili)

Les Carmes Haut Brion can trace its roots back to the 16th century. For 200 years+, it was owned by Carmelite order. During the French revolution, the state was confiscated and sold in 1840 to Bordeaux wine merchant Leon Colin. Since then Chantecaille-Furt family were the owners until 2010 when Pichet real estate group purchased it. In 2012, the new owner decided to bring a well-qualified winemaker/director to Les Carmes Haut Brion to improve quality dramatically. Guillaume Pouthier arrived at Carmes Haut Brion from the same position at a famous producer in Rhone, Chapoutier.

From the very start, he's introduced a unique technique, which winemakers frequently use in Rhone. Instead of already sorted grapes in vats, whole bunches of grapes are placed there before fermentation and maceration. It should give more freshness, flavours and aromas to the wine. This technique was introduced first time at Les Carmes in the 2012 vintage.

There were raised eyebrows among winemakers in Bordeaux when Guillaume Pouthier started to use it, but gradually, this technique spread out in Bordeaux. Under his direction, Les Carmes Haut Brion has got more stability, precision, focus, finesse, and sophisticated touch than before.

Cabernet Franc is vinified in wood, Cabernet Sauvignon in concrete vats and Merlot in stainless steel vats. There's also second wine here, Le C des Carmes Haut Brion, which mainly comes from another vineyard situated in Martillac.

This property is situated inside the Bordeaux city limits, even closer to the town itself than Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion are. After several vineyards, there are now around 29 hectares vineyard with 35 years old vines, planted with 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The surroundings are beautiful with a lake, a large park and an old bridge. In addition to that, a state of the art cellar, looking like an upside-down boat, was ready for use in 2016. 

LCHB use the biggest amount of Cabernet Franc in the blend of all properties at Left Bank, more than 1/3 in the blend. Temperature is always 2-3 degrees higher here because of being situated so close to Bordeaux city. It also means that the harvest starts early (1-2 weeks before the properties outside Bordeaux).

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Les Carmes Haut Brion manager, Guillaume Pouthier is aiming high, very high!

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LCHB 2020 (barrel sample) 99-100p

Tasted in May 2021. 40% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot. There were 55% of whole grape bunches included in vinification. 13.65% alcohol. 80% new oak, 11% foudres and 9% amphoras. The nose was a paradise of fragrances, and the palate was a paradise of tastes. When you additionally find spectacular complexity, sophisticated touch, liquid cashmere and seamless structure in this wine, the result is true perfection! 2020 is the best vintage Guillaume Pouthier has ever produced at LCHB; that’s it!

LCHB 2019 - not tasted yet

Because of coronavirus and travel restrictions,  I couldn't travel to Bordeaux and taste 2019 from the barrel in the spring of 2020. Additionally, this property decided not to send barrel samples outside France. I'll taste it as soon as I arrive in Bordeaux next time.

LCHB 2018 98+p

Tasted three times - last time in December 2020. Consistent notes. Ridiculously sublime. It combines perfectly power and elegance with riveting richness, complexity and length: grilled bacon and cigar box. More Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend (34%), usually there's 20%. Less Merlot, 29% (usually 41%), but Cabernet Franc is about the same, 37% versus 39%. 13.75% alcohol, 75% new oak, 16% wooden vats and 9% terracotta amphoras, 50% whole bunches used in vinification. Imho, the best vintage Guillaume Pouthier has ever produced at LCHB!

LCHB 2017 95-96p

Tasted three times - last time in October 2019. Consistent notes. This property didn't experience any frost in April 2017 as the vineyard is well sheltered, and the temperature here is always 2-3 degrees higher than out in the country.  41% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a stellar wine, very aromatic, fruity, silky texture, elegance and fruity finish. A real heartbreaker wine. Here, 40% whole bunches were going into barrels. 75% new oak, 15% two years old foudres and 10% amphoras were used for ageing.

LCHB 2016 96+p

Tasted four times - last time in October 2018. Consistent notes. 41% C.Franc + 39% Merlot + 20% C.Sauvignon. 13.8% alcohol, IPT=82. 70% new oak + 20% 1 year old barrels + 10% amphoras. Thick aromatic nose with blueberries, very concentrated yet refined, incredibly complex, precise and focused. Impressively long finish. Certainly, a wine to compete with big guns in this vintage!

LCHB 2015 95+p

Tasted four times - last time in October 2018. Consistent notes. 44% C.Franc + 32% Merlot + 24% C.Sauvignon, 14% alcohol, IPT=75. 80% new oak + 10% one year old barrels + 10% amphoras. This wine had a beautifully scented (rosebush perfume) nose, refined and intense; you could feel/taste the precision, purity and length of this wine. More concentrated than in recent vintages. Impressive stuff, which will even be better in the future for sure.

LCHB 2014 93+p

Tasted three times - last time in September 2019. Consistent notes. 55% C. Franc (!) + 15% C.Sauvignon + 30% Merlot. 75% new oak + 15% big oak barrels + 10% amphoras. Consistent notes. Pretty aromatic and well-composed wine with finesse and caressing fruity finish. Fine acidity, balance and complexity. Cool vintage and classic Bordeaux one.

LCHB 2012 93p

Tasted in September 2015. 40% Merlot, 40% CF and 20% CS) This wine was impressive for the vintage, very aromatic with Cabernet Franc shining through, silky and smooth, complex, graceful and with excellent balance. I gave it 91p for barrel sample in 2013, but now it's in the bottle and even better! What is a transformation - a new technique responsible?

LCHB 2011 92p

Tasted twice - last time in October 2018. Consistent notes. Tight and with fine minerality, nice complexity and lovely length. Well-balanced and with persistent finish. A superb wine for the vintage.

LCHB 2010 94p

Tasted twice - last time in September 2015. Not consistent notes. 55% Merlot, 30% CF and 15% CS. This wine couldn't hide at all the superlatives this vintage deserves. Happily, for previous staff at Les Carmes, they knew precisely what they were doing. A beautiful wine crammed with perfectly ripe fruit and as ripe fat tannin, excellently constructed with great complexity, grace and depth. Exquisite balance. As many other 2010s did, this wine improved dramatically after staying in the barrel and after bottling. As in the 2005 version of LCHB, elegance is well-present here. I had this wine again in December 2016, but it wasn't similarly expressive, but the bottle in question was bought at an auction and didn't come directly from the chateau, which can explain the below-par performance.

LCHB 2009 94p

Tasted in December 2019. This wine was like a sledgehammer with great intensity and concentration. Muscular and strong but not overdone and extracted. Tons of perfectly ripe fruit and tannin. Many, many years to go! Very, very impressive. 

LCHB 2007 87p

Tasted in September 2015. 55% M, 30% CF and 15% CS. It expressed softness, spiciness, nice acidity, smoky fruit and light structure. Quite mature already and ready for consumption.

LCHB 2005 94p

Tasted in September 2015. 50% M, 35% CF and 15% CS. This wine confirmed all the great things about this vintage. I regard this vintage in Bordeaux as one of the very best since 1961! The captivating aroma of blueberries, perfectly ripe fruit, finely grained tannin, excellent acidity, depth, balance and long caressing aftertaste. More emphasis here on elegance than on concentration. No sign of advanced ageing here! Heartbreaker wine of great quality. 

LCHB 1990 91p

Tasted in April 2018. Soft texture, mature flavours, drinkable now, tastes well, caressing fruity finish. 

LCHB 1975 91p

Tasted twice - last time in December 2019. Consistent notes. Served blind, I quickly placed this wine in Pessac-Leognan, because of the remarkable oyster/sea "nose", so characteristic for this district. Red-brown, very pleasant and round, fully mature and still enjoyable. 

LCHB 1971 92p

Tasted in June 2019. Well-preserved wine, spicy, lovely complexity, refined, very much alive, fine polished finish with a fruity scent. It's keeping well. 

LCHB 1960 92p

Tasted in April 2016. A pretty wine, still going fine, with an apparent connection to flavours of the soil found in other vintages. Tasteful delicacy.

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LCHB 1953 96p

Tasted in March 2019. Great experience to enjoy this wine filled in with elegance and finesse, vibrancy, deliciously fragrant and tasty. 66 years old wine with no sign of fading away!

2019 13

Latest news

I'll be visiting Bordeaux next month (November) after two years of absence. 12 days in Bordeaux and some incredibly interesting visits have been arranged!

1. A full report on the 2020 vintage tasted from the barrel is now available with approximately 500 tasted samples. (since June 2021).  Please check out chapter "2020 FROM BARREL" in "VINTAGES".

2. A full report on the 2018 vintage in the bottle is available with approximately 500 tasted wines (since April 2021). Please check out chapter "2018 IN BOTTLE" in "VINTAGES".

3. A full report on the 2019 vintage tasted from the barrel (300+ tasted samples) is available (July 2020). Please check out chapter "2019" in "VINTAGES".

The planned addition of a property profile during winter 2021/2022 is Angelus.

The Burgundy blog in the News chapter is a new feature, which includes impressions from tastings/tasting dinners attended since November 2018. It will also include impressions on tasted wines from Beaujolais' best winegrowers. Believe me that Beaujolais Crus are in the spotlight right now because of incredibly ambitious owners/winemakers! I recently came across some terrific Beaujolais wines and will go deeper into exploring this wine area in January and February 2022.

In addition to my website, I also post tasting notes to a well-driven and hugely-scaled website, www.tastingbook.com, where I have 9.300+ followers and 2.600+ TNs by ultimo October 2021.