“In my personal collection, I have more bottles of La Mission Haut-Brion than any other wine in the world. La Mission has been one of the best wines for a long time, and one of the most constant in terms of quality” ~Robert M. Parker Jr.
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion – The Impeccable 1978 & 1989 Vintages
Nestled in the heart of the Bordeaux region in France lies an estate with a rich and multifaceted history, Château La Mission Haut-Brion. For centuries, this iconic vineyard has been producing wines that have captivated connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts alike. To understand the depth and prestige behind these incredible wines, we must first travel through time. From the beginning of the legacy in 1540 to the modern present day, every era has played a part in creating this Chateau of Excellence.
Terroir - The Heart of La Mission Haut-Brion
The vineyard at La Mission Haut-Brion spans across 29 hectares, with nearly 25 dedicated to red grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Additionally, just over 4 hectares are cultivated with white vines, including Sémillon and Sauvignon grape varieties.
The terroir of La Mission Haut-Brion shares a remarkable connection with its neighbor, Château Haut-Brion. Situated in the communes of Talence and Pessac, this estate is part of the renowned Pessac-Léognan appellation, a jewel within the Graves de Bordeaux wine region. Facing Château Haut-Brion, it boasts a beautiful gravel terrace historically known as "Haut-Brion" on maps and charters.
The core of La Mission Haut-Brion's terroir is its exceptional soil. Gravelly in nature, the vineyards are covered with small pebbles, primarily composed of various quartz varieties. Beneath this gravel lies a singular subsoil, encompassing clay, sand, limestone, and faluns. Formed over millennia, these diverse layers contribute to the soil's character and play a pivotal role in the vineyard's viticultural value.
A Tale of Centuries Past
The story of La Mission Haut-Brion begins in the 16th century when Bordeaux merchant Arnaud de Lestonnac acquired a parcel of land known as the Arregedhuys in 1540. This acquisition marked the inception of what would eventually become La Mission Haut-Brion. Simultaneously, Arnaud de Lestonnac married Marie, the sister of Jean de Pontac, known as the father of Château Haut-Brion.
Arnaud de Lestonnac recognized the incredible potential of the Graves de Haut-Brion and devoted his efforts to the cultivation of vines and the production of exceptional wines. His dedication and vision laid the foundation for what La Mission Haut-Brion would later become.
The Reverence of Olive de Lestonnac
As the years passed, Olive de Lestonnac, a descendant of Arnaud, made her mark on the estate. An admirable figure in her own right, Olive dedicated her life and fortune to various philanthropic and religious endeavors. This tradition of philanthropy and devotion would become a fundamental part of La Mission Haut-Brion's heritage.
The Priests of the Mission
In 1682, the estate was transferred to the Vincentians of Bordeaux, also known as the Priests of the Mission. The Vincentian priests played a significant role in developing La Mission's vineyard, transforming the remaining coppice into vines and working relentlessly to improve the quality and reputation of the wine. They also built the chapel of Notre-Dame d'Aubrion in 1698, known as Notre-Dame de la Mission, which remains an iconic feature of the estate.
Over the years, La Mission Haut-Brion went through various changes of ownership, each contributing to its legacy.
The Modern Era
In 1983, Domaine Clarence Dillon acquired Château La Mission Haut-Brion, marking a new chapter in its storied history. The Dillon family immediately set about revitalizing the property, making substantial improvements, including modernizing the winemaking process and restoring the château, chapel, and cellars.
In 2009, La Mission Haut-Brion received a prestigious classification as a Premier Cru, recognizing its exceptional quality. To commemorate the Dillon family's 25-year stewardship, a rare tasting of 51 vintages from 1953 to 2005 was organized, earning praise from wine critics like Robert Parker. La Mission Haut-Brion's legacy continues as a symbol of excellence and history in Bordeaux's wine-making heritage.
Natural Drainage and Biodiversity
The thick gravel deposits create ridges with exceptional exposure, offering natural drainage further enhanced by an intricate hydrographic network of small rivers. These natural features, such as the Peugue and Serpent, are tributaries of the Garonne River, ensuring optimal vine health and grape quality.
The Art of Vinous Craftsmanship
The legacy of Château La Mission Haut-Brion is shaped by both the unique terroir and the expertise of generations of winemakers. The journey begins with the grape harvest, a culmination of year-round efforts. Grapes are meticulously selected and sorted by hand, ensuring only the finest fruit is chosen to define the vintage's greatness.
Blending - The Signature of La Mission Haut-Brion
The blending process at Domaine Clarence Dillon, the parent company of Château La Mission Haut-Brion, is a centuries-old tradition and a true art form. Tastings are conducted collaboratively, involving the cellar master, vineyard manager, technical director, and general manager. A blind tasting of around twenty vats occurs, resulting in thirty to forty potential blends before the final masterpiece is created.
The finest wines are carefully selected for La Mission Haut-Brion red and then aged in oak barrels for eighteen to twenty months.
Centuries of Dedication in Every Bottle
Château La Mission Haut-Brion, with its extraordinary terroir and centuries-old winemaking traditions, is Bordeaux's enduring example of winemaking heritage. The 1978 and 1985 vintages stand as shining examples of the estate's commitment to producing exceptional wines that celebrate the nuances of its unique terroir. With each sip of La Mission Haut-Brion, you taste the rich history, dedication to tradition, and the artistry that is woven into every bottle.