The march of Carmes Haut-Brion continues in 2018. Once again it stands out for a number of reasons: not least because of its high amount of Cabernet Franc, and also because it is made with 53% whole-bunch fermentation - a brave choice by winemaker Guillaume Poutier and one that pays off hugely in terms of balance and lean muscular build. Even without knowing any of the story behind the bottle, you would be hard-pressed to pass this wine by. It has obvious intensity but as you sit with it the softness and approachability of the tannins becomes apparent, helped by the inviting floral edge to the nose, adding peony and violet lift. The black fruits running through the palate are tight but silky and seductive - this has a higher Cab count than usual because the Merlots were more affected by the challenges of the vintage. The palate pulses, switching between richness and delicacy, feeling expertly handled. You get the feeling that you can relax - they've got everything covered! It will inevitably close down in a few years, but until then you could almost go for it with a good carafe. IPT95. Harvested 13-28 September. 3.58pH. Ageing is mostly in large oak casks, 76% new, plus 9% aged in amphorae. Drinking Window 2027 - 2042
This is really exotic with peaches, oranges and blackberries. Full body, lovely purity of fruit and soft and integrated tannins that are barely detectable. Extremely long and persistent. Savory. White pepper and bark with black-tea and charcoal undertones. Superb complexity. 53 per cent whole-cluster fermentation.
Barrel sample. Deepest cherry red. Lifted dark-red fruits, inviting and lively aromas with a hint of crushed stones. Juicy and full of beans. Crunchy fruit, well-defined tannins. Not sure why everyone is making so much fuss about this wine. (JH) Drink 2024-2032
Lisa Perrotti-Brown. The 2018 Les Carmes Haut-Brion is composed of 37% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot. It was made using 52% whole cluster and has 13.75% alcohol. It is anticipated to age 18-24 months in 75% new oak barriques, 16% foudres and 9% amphorae. Deep garnet-purple colored, it is slightly broody and reduced to begin, slowly growing to reveal notions of charcoal, smoked meats, truffles and tilled soil over a core of black raspberries, warm black cherries, blackberry coulis and redcurrant jelly plus wafts of Provence herbs and iron ore. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is taut and muscular, tense with latent energy, offering a rock-solid backbone of firm, grainy tannins and bold freshness to support the bright, vibrant fruit, finishing long and mineral laced.