1998 La Mission Haut Brion
Robert Parker | 98 RP
James Suckling | 99 JS
A candidate for the wine of the vintage from this somewhat forgotten year, consumers should be seeking out wines from the Right Bank and Graves as 1998 was a great vintage in those appellations. La Mission’s 1998 exhibits a healthy, opaque blue/purple color with no lightening at the edge. Thirty minutes of aeration brings forth a sensational bouquet of chocolate, cedar, truffles, graphite, blackberries, cassis and incense. La Mission’s so-called scorched earth/charcoal/hot rocks characteristic has not yet appeared. Full-bodied with superb purity, a multilayered texture, sweet tannin, good acidity and a fabulously long finish, this great, young La Mission-Haut-Brion’s finest days are yet to come. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2040.
Robert Parker | 98 RP
Just a spectacular wine in every sense, the 1998 is now fully mature yet still youthful, with a vivid ruby hue and little in the way of any bricking. Offering a kaleidoscope-like nose of red and black currants, scorched earth, truffles, tobacco, lead pencil, and ample crushed stone-like minerality, this beauty hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a layered, multi-dimensional texture, sweet tannins, and a thrilling finish. It needs about an hour in a decanter, but this is magical juice, and the bottle was emptied in record time. Count yourself lucky if you have bottles and enjoy any time over the coming 20-30 years.
Jeb Dunnuck | 98 JD
The 1998 La Mission Haut-Brion is the standout of the Nineties. It shows more purity and exuberance than the 1996, featuring sumptuous scents of black cherries, black olive, freshly rolled tobacco and hints of gravel, all wonderfully defined and quite precocious. The palate is likewise sweet and ripe, offering pliant tannins and layers of blackberry, blood orange, blueberry and tobacco. It tightens up toward the finish, as if to say, I’m in for the long haul. Give it a couple of hours’ decanting, or cellar it for longer if you wish. Tasted at dinner at Chez Bruce.
Vinous Media | 96 VM
Very dark ruby color still. The nose is deep and dense, with intense aromas of licorice, blackberry, warm stones and a hint of sweet tobacco. Full-bodied, with flavors of berries, iodine and chocolate. The tannin structure builds on the palate. Still needs to come together. A baby.--’88/’98 Bordeaux blind retrospective (2008). Best after 2012.
Wine Spectator | 96 WS
No written review provided. | 95 W&S
Wine Details for 1998 La Mission Haut Brion
|Type of Wine
: Picture in your mind a combination of cedar, lead pencil, blackcurrant, plum and mineral aromatics, and texture that caresses your palate like a playful lover. The experience is thrilling from the first whiff to the final seconds of a tannic, generous finish - that is what you'll get from a Bordeaux Red
Red Bordeaux Blend
: The inhabitants of the Bordeaux region of France have been cultivating wine-grapes for thousands of years. Ancient Roman ruins litter the vineyards from Saint Emilion to Graves where the art of blending Bordeaux varietals has been practiced and perfected over a very long history. Bordeaux’s climate, terroir and soils, though varied, provide the optimal growing conditions for the red grape varietals planted in the region.
Rarely listed on the labels as “blend,” the red wines of Bordeaux are perhaps the most artfully designed and celebrated in the world. The calculated art of blending the native Bordeaux varietals is impressively accomplished in the most famous winegrowing region in the world. The phrase Bordeaux Blend which seems to have been coined by British wine merchants in the 19th Century relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and occasionally Carmenere are the lead characters in the creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. Each plays a part in their own fashion and implemented in various combinations and percentages in each appellation within Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux Blends are majorly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, roughly making up 90% of all Bordeaux Blends. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec (occasionally Carmenere) are also important components and vital to the production of the region’s red wines.
For simplicity, the winegrowing region of Bordeaux can be divided into three main appellations producing Red Bordeaux Blends; the Left Bank (Medoc), Right Bank and Pessac-Leognan (Graves). The Left Bank has a terroir comprised of a wide variety of gravel, stones, sand, limestone and clay soils on a natural terrain of gentle slopes. This sets the stage perfectly for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the dominant grape of the Left Bank. For example, Chateau Lafite (Paulliac) is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Right Bank is dominated by clay and limestone with sand and gravel, but the clay in the Right Bank is distinctly its own and adds to the health, growth and vitality of the vines of the varietals grown here. Right Bank wines are typically 80% Merlot-based, which are often denser, richer and mature earlier than those of the Left Bank (with exceptions – Petrus for example). Merlot is a vital component to Pomerol winegrowing and making. Cabernet Franc also plays a major role in the Right Bank, most notably, in Saint Emilion, where the infamous vineyards of Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc are planted to 55% and 52% Cabernet Franc, respectively. Chateaux that produce wines with a majority of Cabernet Franc are considered “old school” producers, but have perfected the use of Cabernet Franc, which was originally used as a blending grape.
Pessac-Leognan (Graves) enjoys a temperate climate, natural hygrometry influenced by the ocean, and has a terroir composed of gravelly soil over a clay subsoil on sloping, hilly terrain. Natural drainage due to the hilly terrain as well as the gravelly soil structure are perfectly attuned to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine, which prospers under these conditions. Pessac reaps the benefits of having the terroir of both the Left and Right Bank as it contains gravel and clay. The clay sub-soil allows the growth and success of Merlot, as well as Cabernet Franc. It is home to the only First Growth not in the Medoc. The 50-hectare vineyard of Haut Brion is planted to 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.
The percentage of Petit Verdot and Malbec may be lesser in quantity, but not in quality. They are vital to the region’s creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. The combination of Bordeaux varietals is legendary in the region, around the world and has influenced winegrowers worldwide to plant and vinify wines which resemble those of Red Bordeaux Blends.
: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.
For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.
France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.
France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
: When wine connoisseurs consider the different vintages of Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, they recognize them as some of the greatest wines in the world. Many collectors and enthusiasts consider the estate the sixth, First Growth of Bordeaux. La Mission Haut-Brion is one of the jewels of the Domaine Clarence Dillon, as well as Pessac-Leognan.
The history of La Mission Haut-Brion is one that has been linked to neighboring Chateau Haut-Brion throughout its existence. The estate came into being after it was purchased by Jean de Pontac in 1533. Pontac was also the owner of what later became Chateau Haut-Brion. Pontac was responsible for the birth of several of the best estates and vineyards in Bordeaux.
La Mission Haut-Brion earned its fame and moniker, when Arnaut de Lestonnac and the sister of Jean de Pontac were married. The estate was inherited by Olive Lestonnac who bequeathed it to the Congregation of the Mission, which was finalized in 1664. The 10 hectare estate became the property of the Roman Catholic Church and was named Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion.
Interestingly, the wine produced was not reserved for the Clergy but was sold, which helped to cement the vineyard’s reputation among consumers in those early days of its existence. In 1698, a small chapel was built in the vineyards, known as Notre Dame de La Mission. The official chateau was constructed some years later in 1713. The estate remained in possession of the church until it was seized by the state, during the French Revolution.
In 1815, La Mission would become the property of American owner, the Chiapelle family, who were already quite involved in the Bordeaux wine trade, owning and managing multiple estates including Chateau Cos d’Estournel in the Saint Estephe appellation. The family is famous for constructing the gates that guard the historic property today. The estate would continue to change hands until 1919 when it fell into possession of another American owner, the Woltner family. The Woltners completed major renovations to the property, including the removal of old fermentation vats, replacing them with more modern stainless steel tanks. They are also credited for the creation of La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc which debuted in 1927.
Once again, La Mission would come full circle and become under the ownership of neighboring estate, Chateau Haut-Brion. Clarence Dillon rapidly re-modernized the chateau and winemaking facilities. His efforts to improve the property and winemaking were ever-continuing, leading to a new bottling line and extensive renovations in the Grand Chai (barrel storeroom).
Today the vineyard spans 30.7 hectares which has 27 hectares planted for red wine grapes and 3.7 hectares designated to white wine grape varieties. The 27 hectares are planted to 45.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43.8% Merlot and 10.4% Cabernet Franc, while the 3.7 hectares of vines for whites are planted to 61.7% Semillon and 38.3% Sauvignon Blanc. The varietals thrive in a terroir of deep gravel over clay, sand and chalk, with a subsoil of deep gravel, clay and sand. The vineyard is well placed on 2 ridges of gravel hills reaching up to 25 meters in elevation and have wonderful drainage. It is flanked by two streams, Ars and Peugue which help provide moisture in hot, dry vintages. Despite its proximity to Chateau Haut-Brion (across the road) the terroir is dissimilar, giving them distinctly different character and style.
La Mission Haut-Brion produces between 6,000 and 7,000 cases annually and another 1,000 cases of La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc. The wine needs at least 15-25 years for it to reveal its true potential and will reach peak maturity between 15-60 years after the vintage. The property produces an outstanding second wine, La Chapelle La Mission Haut-Brion, which debuted in 1991 and has proved to be of incredible quality, with a smaller price tag.