Château Les Carmes Haut Brion an oasis of peace recalling a Burgundian clos

Château Les Carmes Haut Brion seems completely cut off and sheltered from the noise of the city, yet so close, in an oasis of peace. Behind its walls, it hides a peculiar meso-climate protected from spring frosts. Its trademark is woven around the dominant Cabernet Franc, pushed to the pinnacle since the purchase by the family group Pichet by whole bunch, layer- by- layer maceration.

Château Les Carmes Haut Brion has been able to experience two family transmissions for at least exceptional. Jean de Pontac, who died at 101 years old, offered what would later become the current estate to the Order of the Carmelites, while Mrs. Chantecailles called “Bijou”, who died in February 2020 at the age of 103, sold the land to the nowadays owners, the Pichet family.

Probable secret of longevity, its wines are no less exceptional. I will always remember one evening when I was working as a part- time sommelier alongside my husband in Monaco, a guest who had chosen a 1999 of the Château, almost confused by the Burgundian spirit of wine.

The estate has 6ha around the historic buildings and 32 ha towards Martillac, where young vines produce the C des Carmes, considered a separate identity of its own, not a second label. The monumental cellar signed by Philippe Starck in 2016 offers the ideal tool for haute couture vinifications, playing upon multiple types of contents such as stainless-steel tanks, concrete, trunk- conical wooden vats, amphorae, eggs alongside with classic barrels and some foudres.

A real privileged moment to talk about the vintages and taste some of them. Each one has its own allegory on a concrete vat ( combining art and state- of- the- art winery): 2015 – first vintage vinified here, monumental still restrained with enormous latent potential, 2016 – Day and Night symbolizing the rain until June 20 and the hyper dry summer that followed to achieve an excellent vintage, 2017 – Bijou, the centenary of Madame Chantecailles, a vintage of frost but what a success overall, archetypal of elegance, 2018 – the number 30 vat for the thirty years of the Pichet Group, 2019 – divine balance.

Château Les Carmes Haut Brion 2017 43% CF 41% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon 13% vol. 13% vol.

Airy and enchanting delivering cherries, blueberries, blossoms, on a fine toast background, spiced up by some cinnamon. Light reductive smoke and dry herbal aromatics come along. Dry, of an elevated acidity, fine and silky texture with a juicy core and elegant tannins, medium level, it is digest, showing almost Burgundian structure. Cherry, cinnamon, blossoms, liquorice on the long finish with a toasty twist. Already pleasant, can still wait 5-7 years plus to the full potential, even up to the decade.

C Des Carmes Haut Brion 51% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot 13% vol.

Medium ruby garnet, it directly offers camphor, aniseed scents, with a pristine red fruit evoking sour cherries, complemented by sweet spices on a creamy background.  With dry but juicy palate, elevated acidity, its moderate fine- grained tannins are woven in the silky texture. Its tricky, easy- going style with great digestibility, hides immense complexity with lots of sweet spices, cinnamon, aniseed, balsamic scents of mint and camphor, and long blossomy finish.  Already pleasant, juicy like a Pinot Noir, might keep for the next 4- 6 years at least.

Château Les Carmes Haut Brion 44 % Cabernet Franc 32 % Merlot 24 % Cabernet Sauvignon 14% vol.

Opaque garnet. Deep, discreet nose with blueberries, cherries, mulberries, fine reductive toast, some spices, such as nutmeg. With velvety and rounded up attack, its vivid acidity tightens the dusty, cocoa- like grained, fine, and firm tannins. Despite its 14% abv., it is digest, offering some oriental spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, tonka fava, its finish is focused, long, revealing bitter cherry and cocoa notes. 12 years plus, for the least.