|Grapes||Cab Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauv|
51% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot. Deep colour, nose quite restrained, floral and ripe berries, with a sweetness to the entry and mid-palate. Quite a big wine, with lots of density too. Ample feel with firm tannins half hidden by the fat. It's all a question of balance, and this is beautifully balanced, since despite the ripe weight, there is a 'real' freshness about it, with good tension and fresh acidity. Guillaume Pouthier tells us about his use of an inflatable ring (looks like a doughnut - as in towing behind speedboats - made from food-grade plastic) to put in the top of the cuve to keep the cap (of skins etc) submerged - infusion rather than extraction - 'using it means you can't take more than nature wants to give', he says. Drinking range: 2025 - 2050 Rating: 93-95 L&S (Apr 2017)
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Readers looking for the next superstar in Bordeaux need to jump on the bandwagon of Les Carmes Haut-Brion, who have produced one of the wines of the vintage in 2016. The 2016 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion checks in as a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that hit 13.8% natural alcohol and spent 22 months in 65% new French oak. Its deep purple color is followed by a complex bouquet of high-class smoke tobacco, decaying flowers, charcoal, gravelly minerality and loads of sweet black and blue fruit. Possessing full-bodied richness, flawless integration of its acidity, fruit, and ultra-fine tannins, and a blockbuster finish, this is another 2016 that possess both power and elegance. Do your best to hide bottles for 5-7 years and it will keep for 3-4 decades. Don’t miss it. Tasted twice. Drinking range: 2024 - 2064 Rating: 99 Jeb Dunnuck, www.jebdunnuck.com (Feb 2019)
The 2016 Les Carmes Haut Brion is a blend of 41% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot, with 13.8% alcohol and a pH of 3.55, the lowest acidity for many years. It was vinified in their Philippe Starck-designed "submarine" (this is what their aesthetically arresting winery looks like as it surfaces in the Bordeaux city suburbs!) with 48% whole berry fruit. Winemaker Guillaume Pouthier (ex-Chapoutier) showed me a large inflatable ring used to submerge the cap to create more of an "infusion" rather than a maceration. The 2016 is matured in 65% new oak, 30% one year old and 5% in amphora. It has a very pure, very attractive bouquet with ample blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and fresh fig aromas, a little more extravagant than some other Pessac-Léognan 2016s, yet it maintains impressive control and focus. It develops more pressed flower aromas with time. The palate is medium-bodied with tannins that gently grip the mouth, tertiary notes on the entry, fine acidity vis-à-vis the fruit, then a slight tarriness towards the broody black fruit on the saline, marine-influenced finish. It is an intriguing take on the vintage, classic in style like many others, detailed with impressive complexity. You know, it is not a million miles away from Lafleur in Pomerol, but in the same sense, it will require a decade in bottle to show what it can do. It is a new benchmark for this estate with big ambitions. Tasted twice with consistent notes. Drinking range: 2026 - 2050 Rating: 95-97 Neal Martin, www.vinous.com (Apr 2017)
Dark crimson. Sumptuous texture if not that much flavour at present. Very round and gorgeous with lovely Graves freshness on the finish. Very glossy and winning. Nicely managed tannins. Drinking range: 2024 - 2040 Rating: 17 Jancis Robinson OBE MW - www.JancisRobinson.com (Apr 2017)
Château Les Carmes Haut Brion
The core of this property is a five hectare vineyard, the only one with an address in Bordeaux itself, Carmes Haut Brion (although neighbouring Haut Brion and co. in Pessac). The little vineyard of Carmes HB, with a dominance of Cabernet Franc - very rare in the area - is planted at a high density of ten thousand vines per hectare. It was once part of Haut Brion, but was given by its owner to an order of nuns, the 'Carmes Blanc', hence the name.
When it was bought by property developer Patrice Pichet in 2010, the vat room consisted of three huge vats, one for each grape variety. Since then the vineyard has been completely restructured, and a new winery has been built.
Pichet has also bought one half of a property called Le Thil, and renamed it the 'Clos des Carmes'. As such it is not a second wine, but an entirely different property. The other half was bought by Smith Haut Lafitte.
M Pichet has also built a rather beautiful new chai, designed by Philippe Starck and the architect Luc Arsène-Henry, which resembles a cross between a submarine and a dreadnought battleship. We'd love to share a photo but it has been firmly embargoed until the unveiling date of the 28th of June 2016.
the winemaker/general manager is Guillaume Pouthier, who previously worked at Chapoutier in the Rhone, and he has brought with him the technique of using up to half whole bunch fermentation, creating layers the destemmed and whole bunch fruit in the vats. One to watch.
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