Angélus & Haut-Brion Vertical Tasting

It’s always a great experience to attend a vertical tasting of a top Bordeaux producer. But to have the opportunity to enjoy vertical tastings of TWO top Bordeaux producers is both unique and special. And when those two producers are Château Angélus and Château Haut-Brion, you’re talking about a once-in-a-lifetime tasting experience. The event was hosted by Victoire Touton and Delphine Blanchot, the representatives of Angélus and Haut-Brion, respectively. The venue itself was ideal for such a great tasting, the Wine Watch wine bar in Fort Lauderdale. This new wine bar offers not only a great setting for a tasting, but also some fantastic food for pairing as well.

This was a ‘collector’s event,’ where each attendee brought a bottle from their own cellar. In total, there were eight vintages of Angélus and seven vintages of Haut-Brion (two white and five red).

IMG_40521988 Angélus Light ruby color. Certainly a charmer, with its dark fruit, curry, herbs, truffle, and leather on the nose. Had good complexity, but nowhere near the 1989 and 1990. Not as much tension on the palate. Overall light and easy-drinking. A medium length finish, but the tannins stood out a bit. Obviously lacked the balance of the 1989 and 1990. Now is the time to drink this, as this bottle indicates it may be on its decline. – 92/100


1989 Angélus A true beauty, that showed off matured, layered aromatics and excellent balance on the palate. After a couple of hours of aeration, this wine really came together. This was the consensus favorite wine of the tasting among the 18 attendees. The nose showed lots of depth, with ripe cassis, plum, damp leather, truffle, and espresso. Powerful and dense on the palate, but didn’t quite exhibit the intensity of the 1990. The wine was equally good on the nose and the palate. Really nice freshness on the finish, which lingered with beautiful plummy and earthy notes. Tannins well-integrated. Whereas the 1990 just kept emerging during the tasting, this 1989 stayed solid and consistent throughout the evening. It never lost steam or closed down at all. This wine is in a perfect spot for drinking now. – 95/100

1990 Angélus This wine was quite interesting, as it changed considerably throughout the evening. At first, I wasn’t certain that this was a good representative of the 1990. The nose certainly took awhile to open up, but when it did, it dazzled. The nose showed off a beautiful earthiness that married well with the ripe plum and blackberry. Along with this, there was truffle, eucalyptus, anise, and tobacco. This slightly edged out the 1989 on the palate, with its elegance and incredible length. The finish left you with soft tannins and a fresh acidity that completed a seriously good tasting experience.- 96/100

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1994 Angélus A bit outmatched on this evening, this wine just lacked the interest and complexity found in stronger vintages. The nose was shy and reticent, with the fruit peeking through. One thing I love about Angélus is how well the truffle and herbs complement the fruit so well. This was not so with this vintage, as the tertiary development seems stunted. Light on its feet on the palate. Showing some age with its garnet color and lightened edges. Noticeable tannins but lacking a bit of freshness on the finish. On its own, this was a nice wine that still provides pleasure. It will just never achieve the heights of vintages such as 1989, 1990, or even 1995. – 90/100

1995 Angélus Easily one of my favorite wines of the evening. This showed off the beautiful truffled earthiness, barnyard, dark plum, cassis, cigar tobacco, and dark chocolate. Sweet on the palate, and very elegant. Soft tannins for a 1995 from Bordeaux. In fact, bottles I had from only a year ago seemed much more tight and tannic. Perhaps it’s finally starting to soften. There’s also great acidity and impressive length on the finish. I’m starting to really expect big things from this wine. – 95/100

1998 Angélus Perhaps surprisingly, the 1998 wasn’t on the same level as the 1995. The nose was quite aromatic and inviting, with plum, black cherry, soy, all-spice, and fresh flowers. It was quite an exotic and spicy nose. Quite generous on the palate, but not quite the concentration I would expect in this vintage. Very good length and nicely structured. This obviously still needs more time for everything to synthesize on the palate. Perhaps give this another 2-3 years, and hope it follows the same trajectory as the 1995. – 93/100

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2004 Angélus Drinking quite well out of the gate. Had a nice sensual smoothness and soft mouthfeel. The oak is still noticeable, but doesn’t stick out too much. Lots of cassis, blueberry, curry, leather, violets, earth, and coffee. Good complexity and concentration. At this point, it’s more interesting on the nose than the palate. Nicely textured with a smooth finish, round tannins, and medium acidity. Compared to other right bank wines from 2004, this is truly a nice effort. I expect this to reach its peak in the next 5+ years, but there’s no question that it’s good to drink now. – 92/100

2009 Angélus For a wine this young, this is really drinking quite nicely and is completely approachable. I actually expected the oak to be more dominant, but it didn’t stick out much. The fruit was big, ripe, and in the forefront. The plum and blueberry was so incredibly ripe and juicy, along with fresh herbs, violets, anise, spice, and espresso. Full-bodied, powerful, and with good tannin integration. The tannic structure is obvious, but it’s just so well-balanced. Medium level of acidity and freshness. The finish was long and full of fruit. I did detect a touch of heat as well. Overall, this young wine held its own, even in the face of a number of fully mature and charming wines. – 94/100

IMG_4001.JPG1985 Haut-Brion Blanc Deep golden color. Lots of tertiary development, with the nose showing a bit of mustiness. Lemon, some brioche, and nuttiness. Appeared somewhat oxidized on the nose. Freshness fading a bit. Was this an ideal specimen? If so, then it’s seen better days. – 90/100

2003 Haut-Brion Blanc It’s always a treat to try an Haut-Brion blanc. This 2003 was fresh and with generous fruit. On the nose, there was lemon, fresh flowers, and hazelnut. Appeared somewhat early in its evolution. Really fresh finish with bright acidity. – 93/100

IMG_40691994 Haut-Brion Light ruby color. Not terribly interesting, especially compared to the other wines in the tasting. There was a nice mix of black currant, pencil shavings, cigar box, and leather on the nose. Austere on the palate. Didn’t possess the smokiness and Graves character that I’ve found in the 1994 La Mission. Straightforward and easy to drink, I would probably drink this over the next 5 years. – 91/100

1995 Haut-Brion My favorite Haut-Brion of the tasting, this 1995 definitely showed up. Floral, leathery, smoky, and with nice minerality, this just kept improving and showing off its complexity throughout the evening. Silky textured and with excellent balance overall. Tannins were round and integrated well. Seemed to gain weight in the glass. Great balance of acidity with the fruit. This wine has definitely improved in the past couple of years, and I expect it to reach its peak in the next 5-10 years. – 94/100

1996 Haut-Brion This was definitely an off-bottle, though it wasn’t tainted. It was certainly too advanced for a 1996. The aromatics showed off cassis, earth, damp leather, and library book. It lacked overall complexity on the palate, but had a nice fresh finish. Tannins were also in check. Again, not a good representative of 1996 Haut-Brion. – 90/100

IMG_4003.JPG2003 Haut-Brion A solid performance for such a young wine. Not showing the heat of the vintage with any overripeness, this wine showing off excellent balance. The black currant was ripe and fresh, along with lots of spiciness, musk, cigar tobacco, and leather. Not a blockbuster on the palate, but nothing seemed out of place. I was impressed with the length and softness of the finish. The question with this wine will be longevity. How will it fare compared to others from 2003? My sense is that this hasn’t peaked yet, and will get better. – 93/100

2008 Haut-Brion Okay, so while this is somewhat approachable, it is way too young now and far from maturity. The fruit was incredibly ripe, with plum, blackberry, and blueberry. Other aromatic components were fresh tobacco, clove, coffee, and smoke. Oak was still apparent. Nicely structured with firm tannins. Young on the palate and very fruit-driven. Impressive length on the finish. This wine needs more time. And while you can certainly drink this now, I probably wouldn’t touch this for 8-10 years, as it will improve considerably. – 94/100

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