A La Mission Haut-Brion Vertical Tasting (1961-2004)

Recently we attended a fantastic Château La Mission Haut-Brion vertical tasting (at the Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale), which was another ‘can’t miss’ event. Many Bordeaux wine enthusiasts consider Château La Mission Haut-Brion to be equal to the first growths. It is certainly difficult to argue with this, considering their long track record of consistently high scores awarded by critics. But despite producing incredible wines year after year, La Mission still seems to stand in the shadow of its next-door neighbor, Château Haut-Brion (which is a first growth that actually shares the same owners as La Mission). But anyone who drinks both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion knows that both produce great wines every year that are equivalent in quality. La Mission has produced a number of 100-point wines in the past fifty years, which includes the 1961, 1975, 1982, 1989, 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2010. On this evening, we tasted a broad range of vintages from several decades. While everything showed well, there were some standouts as well as surprises. And we were reminded yet again, “there are no great wines, only great bottles.”

IMG_32742004 Dark opaque color. A nice nose of blackberry, blueberry, cigar tobacco, oak, and vanilla. Dense and layered on the palate. Lots of structure to go along with the fruit. Give this 5-10 years. – 92/100

1998 Quite approachable for such a young wine. It’s still showing very young, and is far from maturity. There is rich, ripe fruit. The tannins are serious and firm. Give this time or a lot of aeration. – 94/100

IMG_3273

1990 This continues to be one of my favorite vintages from LMHB. The nose is just so fresh and exotic. There are all of the typical elements, with dark fruits, smoke, tobacco, spice, espresso, and fresh violets. Vibrant and fresh on the palate. Almost stunning balance, yet this wine still shows so young. A long finish that highlights its impressive complexity. – 96/100

1989 Easily the most disappointing wine of the night, especially considering how great this wine can be. This was clearly an off-bottle, as it was completely closed down for most of the evening. Initially, there was good fruit on the nose, but it quickly became shy and reticent. Also fell flat on the palate. This wine can be so much better than what this showed on this evening. – 92/100

1982 One of the strongest wines of the evening. The complexity on the nose was stunning, with cassis, iodine, balsamic, olive tapenade, smoke, thyme, leather, and fresh flowers. A gorgeous, pretty nose. Wrapped in layers of flavor on the palate. Excellent balance, with soft tannins. The fruit and acidity balanced very well. A long, seamless finish. – 96/100

IMG_32721981 A nose dominated by orange peel, black currant, herbs, and brown spices. There was a lack of ripeness in the fruit. Fruit was dominated by the drying effect of the tannins. This wine clearly lacked balance. – 88/100

1971 Had a very spicy nose, along with black currant, cigar tobacco, smoke, asparagus, and Provencal herbs. Hints of soy and somewhat medicinal on the palate. Still there was some charm and intrigue on the palate. Quite fresh on the palate, but with a bit of biting acidity on the finish. Very enjoyable overall. Hanging on, but likely near its end of life. -91/100

1970 The most disappointing wine of the night. Lacked complexity on the nose (though there was still some ample fruit), and was completely flat on the palate. – 86/100

1964 After the stunning 1961, a bit of a disappointment. More transparent and lighter than the 61. A bit of a metallic nose, with some cherry and earthiness, though there was some charm. Average complexity on the palate, and lacking in concentration. Tannins a little drying and high acidity. I just felt the balance was not quite there. – 89/100IMG_3271

1961 Not quite as strong as the last bottle (which was bordering on perfection), but this was drinking beautifully. Such a fragrant, open nose of blackberry and strong juniper berry notes. Lots of smoke, tobacco, and leather to accompany the fruit. Tannins soft and perfectly integrated. Elegant on the palate, with gorgeous fresh acidity. A long, vibrant finish. Not the best wine on the this evening (but the most special, given its age), but close. -96/100

 

 

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