Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion

Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion was originally part of the Ch. Haut-Brion property, up until the 16th Century (1584) when the owner donated the property to the Carmes monks who went on to manage the vineyards until the French Revolution.

Château les Carmes Haut-Brion

About the producer

During the revolution, the property was confiscated and finally sold to the Chantecaille-Furt family who went on to manage the property from 1850 to 2010.

Haut-Brion actually translates as "hilltops" and the Haut-Brion property has three to its name - La Mission Haut-Brion, Carmes Haut-Brion and the original Haut-Brion. These three elevated sites on the border of Bordeaux city, produce some of the finest wines in Bordeaux and are the closest vineyards to the town centre.

Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion is in fact the only winery in Bordeaux that is fully located in the city of Bordeaux, with the 10 hectare property (including five hectares of vines, completely surrounded by houses in the suburban district of Talence). This is not the only thing distinct about Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion. Due to it proximity to the city, its climate is in fact 2-3 degrees warmer than the other vineyards of Pessac-Léognan, often harvesting up to 10 days earlier than the rest of the appellation.

This in fact better protects the estate from the spring frosts and enables them to fully ripen their Cabernet Franc – which is another distinct element to the property. The château has the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc in a blend on the Left Bank. The Cabernet Franc dominant blend, coming from limestone/clay soils, makes for a very unique expression of Pessac-Léognan, unlike any other wine in the appellation.

Following the acquisition, Patrice Pichet hired Guillaume Pouthier to manage the property. A winemaker from the Rhône valley he brought his own winemaking influences, including the use of whole bunch fermentation to the vinification.

Whilst this was a technique traditionally used in Bordeaux, it is very rare these days. For Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion, it has a very positive effect on the wine. Due to warmness of the site, they use the high level of mineral salts in the stems to affect the pH, the alcohol levels are also reduced due to the water found in the stems, as well as bringing an aromatic complexity to the wine. The aromatics in the wine are also further increased by experimentation with clay and ceramic amphorae.

The porous clay amphorae promote increased oxygenation of the wine; the reaction with the oxygen bringing out more aromatic complexity. This oxidative technique is applied to only a tiny amount of the final blend, with a reductive approach used for the rest. The blend is aged in barrels (80% new oak) and not racked at all throughout the ageing process, creating a highly reductive environment which protects the purity of the fruit.

The advantage of having a property owner who doesn’t rely on the estate's success for income is that it allows for a much more qualitative approach and plenty of room for experimentation. Not only is there experimentation with amphorae and whole bunch fermentation, the tannin management is also experimental and the results are to be applauded. When using whole bunch in the maceration, the tannin management has to be super gentle and the winery has adopted a new “infusion“ technique as opposed to the normal pump-over technique, more regularly used in Bordeaux.

This gentle infusion involves an inflatable rubber doughnut-shaped bladder, which sits on top of the cap, keeping the cap constantly wet (stopping any risk of volatility whilst the hole in the middle allows for continuous movement of the wine in the tank).


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