1982 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, Bottle (750ml) RP100

La Mission Haut-Brion: Centuries-Old Sibling Rivalry from First Growth Terroir

Any seasoned Bordeaux enthusiast is more than familiar with the region’s infatuation with their many classification systems, the most notorious of which is from 1855. One of the four original First Growths of the Left Bank, Château Haut-Brion is singular in having also ranked in the 1959 Classification of Graves, an double honor bestowed on no other estate in Bordeaux. At first glance, Haut-Brion appears unrivaled with its well-established international reputation and unmatched accolades at the highest level, but if it were to have a rival, the top contender would be directly across the street, from the adjacent vineyards at Château La Mission Haut-Brion.

La Mission vines were first planted in the 16th Century after land was purchased by the brother-in-law to Jean de Pontac, the founder of Château Haut-Brion. While La Mission would change ownership over the years, these two château would continue down parallel paths. Both earned worldwide admiration for their red and white wines and, in 1959, both received a place in the Classification of Graves, which only recognizes 15 château in total. Eventually, the twin estates were officially reunited by the owners of Château Haut-Brion, the Dillon family, who acquired La Mission in 1983. Today, the two are so intertwined in regards to their location, classification, extremely high quality, and shared ownership that it seems impossible for wine writers to mention one without the other. 

The two reside in Pessac-Léognan, a region famous for its deep gravel soils, hence the eponymous region of Graves (French for “gravel”) that surrounds the greater area. These stony soils are prized for their drainage, never allowing vines to bask in too much water and forcing roots to grow deep below in search of water. This struggle is crucial for Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve greatness, Conversely, Merlot requires more water-retention from its soils, thriving best in the pockets of clay found throughout the region. This yin-and-yang relationship allows grapes to optimize their strengths in even the most challenging vintages and harmonize their different expressions in glass. 

La Mission Haut-Brion reds balance dark-berried fruit with impactful, finely-grained tannins, a pleasure in youth, but ready for many decades of age. The 2020 vintage earned 100 points for its muscle and concentration, clearly capable of long-term evolution. 2000 was likewise a powerful vintage showing exceptionally well. 2001 is a sleeper vintage for more classically-styled Bordeaux, with age bringing aromas of black tea and forest floor. La Mission Haut-Brion produces a small amount of Blanc every year, encapsulating the essence of peaches and cream.

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