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Chateau Haut-Brion 2004
"Wonderful aromas of dried flowers, currant, berries and mineral. Full-bodied, yet reserved and refined. Lovely texture, with a pure silk feel. Seamless and beautiful. Great length. Even better than from barrel. Best after 2012."
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Open the bottle and you'll find harmony in the glass, but the wine remains subtle, stony and mute, as if the flavors lie behind a closed door. Over the course of several days, that door begins to open, the stoniness transforms into sleek fruit, as if to mirror the complexity of the multicolored pebbles that sustain Haut-Brion's vines, a range of flavors from red to purple to black. The structure grows increasingly substantial, while the harmony remains, lending the wine mysterious power. Twenty years from now, this will just begin to reach a plateau and should sustain itself long after.
Of the pair of châteaux, La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion (both owned by the Dillon banking family) that face each other across the crowded streets of Pessac, Haut-Brion is the one with the structure, the darkness, the brooding character. This is so true of 2004, with its hugely firm structure underlying the initial supple fruit. At the end, the acidity is an enticing surprise, lifting the aftertaste.
Wonderful aromas of dried flowers, currant, berries and mineral. Full-bodied, yet reserved and refined. Lovely texture, with a pure silk feel. Seamless and beautiful. Great length. Even better than from barrel. Best after 2012.
Medium to deep garnet colour. The nose is still a little mute giving a moderate intensity of youthful aromas: ripe plums, cassis, Chinese five spice, moss and a fair amount of cedar. Oak tannins seem to dominate the structure contributing to the taut astringency of the palate yet there is a good amount of ripe berry and earthy fruit plus medium acidity to balance. Long earthy finish. Drink 2012 to 2034. Tasted February 2009.
Stretching from the Andes to Patagonia, Argentina's unique terroir lends to high quality wines. Formerly associated with inexpensive bulk wine but dramatically shifting focus from quantity to quality, Argentina is the most important wine-producing country in South America. Certainly excellent values abound here still, but increases in vineyard investment, improved winery technology, and a commitment to innovation since the late 20th century have contributed to the country’s burgeoning image as a producer of great wines at all price points. The climate here is diverse but generally continental and agreeable, with hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters—a positive, as snow melt from the Andes Mountains can be used to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.
Mendoza, a large and famous region responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Red wines dominate here, especially Malbec, the country’s star variety, while Chardonnay is the most successful white. The province of San Juan is best known for blends of Bonarda and Syrah. Torrontés is a specialty of the La Rioja and Salta regions, the latter of which is also responsible for excellent Malbecs grown at very high elevation.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to create complex wines with many different layers of flavors and aromas, or to create more balanced wines. For example, a variety that is soft and full-bodied may be combined with one that is lighter with naturally high acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.