1985 La Mission Haut Brion

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Average critic rating : 91.0 points



As this wine sat in the glass aerating, I began having some doubts about whether it merited a low-90s point score. I think it does, but the fact that it deteriorated more quickly than some of its siblings (even those from more challenging vintages) gave me pause. Nevertheless, I have to assume that most people will decant all of these wines (as I did) and consume them within an hour of opening. On that basis, this 1985 is clearly a low-90 point wine. The problem is that for the most part, 1985 does not have that extra level of concentration possessed by the great vintages. However, it offers a softness to go along with the fragility of the wines as most 1985s, including this La Mission-Haut-Brion, are fully mature. A dark plum/garnet color reveals a pinkish lightening at the edge, and the bouquet reveals plenty of smoke, camphor, charcoal, graphite, sweet kirsch and blacker fruit aromas intermixed with meaty, sauteed mushroom, cedar and spicy notes. The lovely aromatics are followed by flavors that do not quite match the intensity of the bouquet, a sign of a fully mature wine. This medium-bodied effort has plenty of glycerin, low acidity and not a trace of tannin. While not terribly generous, it is a soft, round, charming, delicious, very good La Mission, but not a great one. Drink it over the next decade. Wine Advocate.August, 2012



Perhaps not as powerful as expected but the pure flavors are impressive. Wonderful berry, raspberry and cherry character, full body and silky tannins. Drink now.--The Bordeaux 50. James Suckling, Wine Spectator 1994

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Chart showing (to 22/03/2017) market price for 12x75cl standard case:

La Mission Haut Brion 1985
+£1,949.00     (+216.8%) Latest price:  £2,848.00
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La Mission Haut-Brion: The Importance

Located in the Bordeaux appellation of Pessac-Léognan, La Mission Haut-Brion has been producing exceptional quality wine for many centuries, often rivalling its first growth neighbour Château Haut-Brion in both quality and desirability.


La Mission Haut Brion is sometimes overlooked, as it was not included in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. However it is a firm favourite of those in the know, commanding similar prices to its first-growth neighbour and earning much critical praise. Jancis Robinson calls it “the quintessential insider's wine…”, while Robert Parker describes this estate as “certainly a wine of first-growth quality, brilliantly made and extremely long-lived,” adding that “I have more bottles of La Mission-Haut-Brion in my private collection than any other wine in the world… La Mission has long been one of the greatest wines one could ever possibly drink as well as one of the most remarkably consistent.”


Parker’s stance is shared by fine wine exchange Liv-Ex, who rated La Mission Haut Brion as a First Growth in their updated ranking of Bordeaux wines in 2009.


Much like Château Latour, La Mission Haut-Brion has long been celebrated for its ability to create the highest quality of wine in the most disappointing of vintages. During one tasting which included some particularly tricky vintages, Jancis Robinson remarked that some of the most dismal vintages of La Mission performed far better than most other Bordeaux wines produced in those vintages.


La Mission Haut Brion: The Insight

La Mission Haut-Brion is consistently extremely highly rated by critics, and many vintages have received a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker. Some of the best more recent vintages have been 1982, 1989, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015. Writing about the perfectly rated 2009 vintage, Parker  writes that, “perhaps the two most singular aspects of this wine are its surreal aromatics and its ability to combine power with sublime complexity and harmony.”


While the château of La Mission is directly across the road from Haut-Brion, the vineyards of the two estates are further apart, and while most of the vines of Haut-Brion are in Pessac, the majority of the vines for La Mission are in Talence, and the difference in terroir and vine density between the two explains the difference in style between those two wines.


A white wine called La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc is produced at the estate and considered one of the best dry white wines in Bordeaux. Until the 2009 vintage the wine was known as Laville-Haut-Brion. This wine often rivals the exceptional white wine produced at Haut-Brion, and in youth displays the aromatics found in Gewürztraminers which then develops to deep nuttiness and richness found in the greatest sweet Bordeaux wines. La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc also has a second wine called La Clarté de Haut-Brion, which is shared with Château Haut-Brion and serves as the second wine for their white wine and is thus a blend of grapes from both estates.


La Mission Haut-Brion also produces a second wine called La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion. This wine is more approachable in youth, although it remains of exceptional quality, concentration and depth. Robert Parker says of this wine that those “looking for excellent value should seek out the limited production second wine of La Mission Haut-Brion, La Chapelle. It can be very fine and certainly ranks as one of the best second wines in all of Bordeaux.” The vineyard at La Mission Haut-Brion is planted to largely equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with approximately 7% Cabernet Franc. 3.5 hectares of vines at La Mission are reserved for white grape varieties, and this land is planted to approximately 62% Semillon and 38% Sauvignon Blanc.


La Mission Haut Brion: The Background

The history of this estate goes back to the 16th century when the brother in law of the founder of Château Haut-Brion, Jean de Pontac, Arnaut de Lestonnac started producing wine at La Mission. It was bequeathed by the Lestonnac family to the Congregation of the Mission, giving the name of the estate as it is now known. Throughout the 18th century the Pères Lazaristes, worked at the property in order to restore it and during this time, the property became well known partly through the patronage of the Maréchal de Richelieu, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who is claimed to have said of the wine produced at La Mission Haut Brion, “If God forbade drinking, would he have made this wine so good?” In 1815, the estate was purchased by the Chiapella family, who had been involved in Bordeaux for some time and had managed Château Cos D’Estournel.


In 1919, the property was acquired by the Woltner family, a sale which most people consider as marking a change in winemaking at the property, with wine produced becoming much more concentrated and long-lived than before. In 1983 the property was sold to the Dillon family who owned Château Haut-Brion, and these two great estates are now both run by the same team. A huge amount was invested into the property, with a replanting programme in the vineyards and the château and winemaking facilities being modernised. Modernisation and renovation have been carried out continuously, with the latest works being completed in 2007, and more work no doubt to be carried out in the future. Both La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau Haut-Brion are currently managed by Jean-Philippe Delmas, who was the third generation of his family to manage Haut-Brion and the second to manage at La Mission.

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