LONDON - All eyes are fixed on 4 October at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when we shall hold a unique auction of the greatest wines from Châteaux Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion and the newly acquired St. Emilion property Quintus, the wonderful new jewel in the Dillon family crown. The cellar doors of these exquisite Châteaux have been thrown wide open and over a hundred years of historic and heavenly wines have emerged to celebrate an extraordinary date: 350 years ago, Château Haut Brion was the first wine property to be named, in no less than Samuel Pepys’ diary.
(from left to right) Vineyard manager Pascal Baratié, Jean-Philippe Delmas, who manages all the Dillon family estates, and cellar master Jean-Philippe Masclef.
I long ago ceased to ‘keep’ a diary (the old ones are so embarrassing!), but I am assiduous about writing wine notes. The catalogue for our great auction in Hong Kong bears witness to fabulous tastings and scintillating wines. When everyone else was slurping rosé on the beach this summer, I was at Haut Brion tasting more formidable reds and whites from the Dillon properties, in the expert company of Jean-Philippe Delmas, who manages all the Dillon family estates, oenologist and cellar master, Jean-Philippe Masclef and vineyard manager, Pascal Baratié. All these vinous gems are in the Hong Kong sale, so we were ‘on duty.’
The line-up was La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion 2005 (a monumental keeper), 2007 (delicious from now) and the very attractive 2008, followed by Bahans Haut Brion 2003 (impossible to resist now), 2005 (so juicy and intense) and 2006 (fragrance, elegance and charm). Then came La Mission 2002 (flavoury cigars and black liquorice) and 2007 (opulent and so pretty), matched by Haut Brion 2002 (smoky and fresh) and 2007 (soft, scented and full of black fruit).
Oenologist and cellar master Jean-Philippe Masclef.
By then, the teeth were black, so we went on to the legendary white wines: Laville Haut Brion 2004 (grapefruit and white truffles!) and 2008 (stunning minerality and citrus notes), contrasted with Haut Brion Blanc 2005 (a panoply of apricots, apples, orange and melon), 2006 (all delectable, silky nutmeg and gingerbread), 2007 (all-enveloping cinnamon, saffron and allspice) and 2008 (imposing gingery spiciness, honey and treacle).
You might be surprised that we found room for dinner, but we did! Haut Brion Blanc came in various vintages, the orange and glycerol 2002, the terrifically harmonious and lemony 2001 and the rich lanolin and vanilla 2000. Then we had four great vintages of that departed treasure La Tour Haut Brion (its fruit now goes into La Chapelle de La Mission): the aromatic, chocolatey 1978, the aniseed richness of 1975 (with echoes of La Mission 1975 here) and, over cheese, the huge impact of 2005, the last vintage, and the power and finesse of the 2001.
Just as well none of us had to don swimming costumes after that! And everyone can wear what they like for the landmark auction in Hong Kong on 4 October.