Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal 2016
The color is dense and deep. The nose is precise and sumptuous. Aromas of red and black berries mingle with a minty touch. On the palate, the tannins are fine and coated with aromas of blackberry and raspberry. The palate is full and silky. A very long finish with an incredible depth.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Very chewy and long already with ripe tannins and plenty of fruit suggesting tobacco and blackcurrant character. Long finish. From biodynamic grapes. Rating: 94-95
The 2016 Haut Bages Liberal has a very focused and much more sumptuous bouquet than in previous years, thankfully without dispensing any of its character. It just seems more confident on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, pretty blackberry and boysenberry fruit laced with a touch of oyster shell, sashaying towards a quite elegant finish with admirable depth. You would not describe this as a potentially exciting Pauillac, but I suspect it will be delicious once in bottle. Rating: 90-92
This Chateau is almost up at the top! Just one small country lane separates the property and the highest point of the appellation. A lane which runs between Haut-Bages-Libéral and Pauillac's famous Chateau Latour.
When the Chateau came on the market in 1982, the great names of the Medoc region fought to buy it. The owners of Chasse Spleen were to become the proud owners. Their first vintage was a success, in no way hindered by the fact that 1982 was an exceptional year for Medoc wines. Since then, the quality of the work carried out by the wining team has not slackened and the wine they produce is becoming more and more popular with journalists and professionals of the wine world.
The leader on the Left Bank in number of first growth classified producers within its boundaries, Pauillac has more than any of the other appellations, at three of the five. Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild border St. Estephe on its northern end and Chateau Latour is at Pauillac’s southern end, bordering St. Julien.
While the first growths are certainly some of the better producers of the Left Bank, today they often compete with some of the “lower ranked” producers (second, third, fourth, fifth growth) in quality and value. The Left Bank of Bordeaux subscribes to an arguably outdated method of classification that goes back to 1855. The finest chateaux in that year were judged on the basis of reputation and trading price; changes in rank since then have been miniscule at best. Today producers such as Chateau Pontet-Canet, Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste, Chateau Lynch-Bages, among others (all fifth growth) offer some of the most outstanding wines in all of Bordeaux.
Defining characteristics of fine wines from Pauillac (i.e. Cabernet-based Bordeaux Blends) include inky and juicy blackcurrant, cedar or cigar box and plush or chalky tannins.
Layers of gravel in the Pauillac region are key to its wines’ character and quality. The layers offer excellent drainage in the relatively flat topography of the region allowing water to run off into “jalles” or streams, which subsequently flow off into the Gironde.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.