Well I’ll start by admitting that the name of this wine played quite a part in me buying a bottle. The ‘Haut-Brion’ part conjured images of a wine somehow related to the great ‘Chateau Haut-Brion’. You know, a third or fourth wine of some sort made from ‘also ran’ fruit, or a wine from an estate established by a disgruntled family member. I was trying to temper my expectations , particularly as I was standing in the aisle in Sainsbury’s at the time, but it didn’t stop me putting a bottle in the basket. As it turns out I’m very thankful I did and really wish I had bought more!
So of course this wine has absolutely nothing to do with the famous Chateau Haut-Brion notable for being the only wine from the Graves in the 1855 classification and for being the first Bordeaux property to get a write up in the British press. Yes, in 1663, Samuel Pepys wrote that he had ‘during a session at the Royal Oak Tavern’ , ‘drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan that hath a good and most particular taste that ever I met with’. Reinforcement , if ever it was needed that 1. Do not drink too heavily when one is writing a wine review as your spelling goes out of the window and 2. Pubs have certainly gone downhill since 1663, very hard to imagine getting Haut-Brion in even the most upmarket hostelry these days?
Now the other reason I bought this was the very fact that I’d never heard of it. This gives me the chance to get my ‘World Atlas of wine’ out ( a must have book btw for any wine lover – hats off to Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson ) and pour over the intricate maps to see if I can find the Chateau. So thanks to this bible of the wine world I can tell you that this Chateau lies in the commune of Leognan just East of the town and very near to the classified ‘Chateau Haut-Bailly’.
Yes, French wine is rather hierarchical. Whilst Haut-Brion is the only wine from the region in the famous 1855 list, Graves (or Pessac-Leognan as it is now known ) also has it’s own classification. Established in 1953 this small group consists of 16 of the finest Chateau in the region. Approved by the minister of agriculture the list was slightly adjusted in 1959 but has not changed since.
So what about Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion and last nights wine? Well , whilst not classified , this estate has a long history and a back story of family run determination to improve. Acquired by the Gervoson family in 1987 the estate has grown from 17 hectares under vine to over 72 and is notable for being c57% planted with Merlot ( which is unusual for the Left Bank ) The Chateau produces wines, both white and red, in three tiers. A Grand Vin, a second wine and a third tier of wines aimed exclusively at supermarkets.
So, given its seemingly lowly status in the Larrivet third team, how was the ‘Blason’. Well, in summary , and given the £16 I paid for it on offer, it is frankly a ‘banging Bordeaux!’ ( note ‘banging’ roughly translates as ‘Very Good’ in the current teenage lexicon…….yes , I do try to be ‘down with the kids’ and wine can be cool too ) Lovely deep ruby colour with a pink edge with maybe a touch of orange. On the nose a bouquet of black currants blended with noticeable cherry amid warm leather and clove notes ( wines from Pessac-Leognan are noted for a unique clove like aroma ) Smooth and quite rich on the palate with a really savoury aspect. Tannins are genuinely refined and the earthy finish is of pleasing length for the price point.
Especially given Louise liked this ( I’m searching for Bordeaux that she doesn’t describe as tasting like it’s from a musty museum) ,and the price point, this is 8/10 for me. I’d buy again to have a lighter claret on hand just when you need it ( Scouts moto , be prepared! )
Food pairing wise my advice is be careful. We had this with a lamb shank in quite a rich red wine and herb sauce and I’m not sure it quite stood up to it. Would be great with a roast leg of lamb in a milder gravy for a top Sunday lunch.