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Chateau Haut Brion 1994Ten years ago I took my first trip to the Roman Forum. As a student of Roman Archaeology at UCL and at that time, a Brit who hadn’t spent much time abroad, standing there in the ruins of the Forum and imagining upon whose footsteps I now tread, I became a little awestruck by the history and energy of this place and wondered if I should even be there. When you are a student of any subject or passionately interested in any discipline, be it archaeology, history or wine, certain places and objects take on a religious quality and can make you feel, just that little bit small. (BTW, if you’re going to Bordeaux – check out this site for Hotels in Bordeaux France).
Now, as a student of wine, I feel that way about Chateau Haut Brion, I’ve been around this wine on a few occasions but hadn’t yet made bold to try it, somehow I didn’t feel ready. Now, I’m sure some of you think this is ridiculous and as an Italian Wine Blogger, I should just neck Haut Brion with a casual wave of the hand but I’ve always been one for honouring the moment and so it has taken till now for me to dare tackle Haut Brion, lest the wine gods strike me down. This being the 1994 Chateau Hat Brion and not some hallowed vintage I thought perhaps I was ready. If you don’t know much about Haut Brion you may be thinking that I’ve finally lost my marbles but this wine is to wine aficionados as a Bugatti Type 57S is to petrolheads. You wouldn’t simply jump in, start revving the engine and place your McDrink in the cup holder (not likely to have one really is it?). Haut Brion has been impressing the English for five centuries and was making waves across the Channel long before the other First Growths of Bordeaux. This wine is something to be approached with care or, as I nearly did, you might just miss it.
How did I miss it? A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum? Kinda. Perhaps this is the way with Bordeaux First Growths or even with Haut Brion itself, and if it is and you’ve experienced this, let me know, but this wine, full of sweet smokey vanilla on the nose and pretty much ruby red to the core, was rather disappointing on the palate. I had prepared myself to be amazed, or at least to taste something that was a little different, that something special, that something that justifies all these eye-watering Bordeaux price tags and says “there you go, this is why I’m worth £600”. When nothing happened, I felt a little tricked. All that build up, all those pages written and read. So, still shaking my head, I washed my glass and went to pull a new one from the rack …then it happened.
Hallelujah. A good 30 seconds after I had already dismissed this wine my tastebuds came alive, the sides of my tongue tingled and this wine came back with all the flavour of an initial attack from something 15 years its junior. BOOM. And it was good! Red fruits aligning perfectly with those fading tannins, raspberry, cherry and pepper notes and some high acidity. I’m informed that this is not classic Haut Brion, from a difficult vintage with a September wash out the ’94s ran the length of quality at the time and as they evolve seem even more unpredictable.Am I a convert? Not exactly, I love surprises, I especially love wine surprises, but perhaps I am not yet far enough on with my wine education to appreciate a £286 Haut Brion judgement slap but it was a lesson well learnt and as I only sampled this wine at the gorgeous Sampler in South Kensington, my lesson was just over £13, which I think is about fair for 30 seconds intensive education from a master.
Above is the fabulous location of the extraordinarily pretty “Sampler” in South Kensington. They have 1000 bottles of wine here to buy and 80 on sample. I did feel empowered enough to buy their last magnum of 1994 Leoville Poyferre (which was a steal!) who generally treats me a little less roughly than Haut Brion.
Where can I buy this wine?
If you’re in London you can go now and sample the Chateau Haut Brion 1994 at the Sampler in South Kensington, London. If you wish to buy it, you can do so via the links below.
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Which wine has given you a slap, what did it teach you and was it worth the money?
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