Please read below for Simon's offer on 2016 Le C de Carmes Haut-Brion
At Atlas, we have championed the remarkable turnaround that has taken place at Château Les Carmes Haut Brion since it was acquired by Patrice Pichet in 2010. The vineyards were once part of the First Growth Château Haut-Brion when it was owned by Jean de Pontac. The story has it that, as de Pontac approached the end of his life, he wanted to buy his way into heaven and so he donated this small part of his vineyard to a Roman Catholic order called the Carmelite monks. The monks went on to tend these vineyards until the French Revolution. The property was more recently owned by the Chantecaille-Furt family for many years before being sold to Monsieur Pichet for the princely sum of 18 million euros.
With such an investment, it is clear that Monsieur Pichet has serious ambitions for the estate and, unsurprisingly, quality has ramped up considerably. The Château and cellars were renovated, and the famous designer Philippe Starck was hired to create the new winemaking facilities and barrel cellars. This was no modest refurbishment; it is the most extraordinary, eye-catching facility. Monsieur Pichet also hired Guillaume Pouthier to run the estate and oversee winemaking. Guillaume previously worked for Michel Chapoutier in the Rhône and his attentions have already paid off handsomely with vintages 2015 to 2017 showing a huge step up in quality. Production of Les Carmes Haut-Brion is just 1,800 cases on average per annum are produced from just 4.7 hectares of vines – remarkably small by Bordeaux standards.
Moving onto the topic at hand, Monsieur Pichet also purchased 6.5 hectares of vineyard from Château Le Thil (which lies close to Smith Haut-Lafitte) and 17 hectares from Château Haut-Nochet in Martillac in order to expand the production of Le C de Carmes Haut-Brion, which is the second label of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. I should stress that this is not the second wine of Carmes Haut-Brion as it is made from two distinct vineyards which are well-removed from the Château. It is, however, made by the same winemaking team and to the same exacting standards. We have been tracking this wine for a while and recently received a sample of the newly-released 2016 vintage, which impressed us greatly. We had high hopes for what they might achieve in this impressive vintage and the wine certainly lived up to our expectations.
The wine is made from near equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I really enjoyed deep fruit, the freshness it revealed and the supple, approachable nature. This has far more texture than you would expect of a Bordeaux of this level, although I am not sure I would push it as far as the end drink date in Neal Martin’s note below. I would sooner suggest that it would drink well from 2020 to 2028 as it seemed remarkably open for business! A really fine effort and surely a bargain in terms of the quality in the glass.
2016 Le C de Carmes Haut-Brion
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond
(90-92) points, Neal Martin
The 2016 Le C des Carmes Haut-Brion comes from vines located in the clos over towards Martillac, rather than the vines in the original Les Carmes Haut-Brion vineyard in the Bordeaux suburbs, known as "Le Clos des Carmes Haut-Brion" up until the 2013 vintage. It is a blend of 51% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvigon and 1% Petit Verdot, matured in 30% new oak and the remainder one year old barrels. This includes 25% whole berry fruit. It offers plenty of brambly black fruit on the nose, crushed violets, fresh fig and a touch of spice that opens nicely in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, neatly integrated oak, a little plushness on the entry thanks to the Merlot, and then it dovetails into a more structured, gently grippy, chalk-textured finish with attractive black fruit. Give this two or three years in bottle just to shave off a little abrasiveness and you will have a fine Pessac-Léognan. Drink 2020-2035.
I should add that we only have a limited volume so do please let us know if you would like a case.