1990 Pessac-Léognan

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion

By Aymeric de Clouet

Originally written in French

Enter the competitors: Château La Louvière, a wine from Léognan (South of Bordeaux), well known for its white more than its red, but I tasted it before so I knew its exceptional quality and value (around 20 € in France). Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, not related with its prestigious neighbour, not a Cru Classé from Pessac area, but a wine first tasted with the 1953 vintage and many more since then. The story of Les Carmes is that of a sleeping beauty, a fantastic wine poorly rated because it doesn’t fit to current tasting standards. In deed, I found it well-balanced, tannic, no exaggerated new wood, no excessive alcohol, no residual sugar… it needs time to evolve, again, not fit for the recent trends in tastings!

Unfortunately, Château Les Carmes-Haut-Brion was recently purchased, of course the new owner decided to “make a better wine”, which generally consists in making 100% strong new oak, late harvests, long macerations, etc. Not wine, really, but fit for the most critics. Forget about recent vintages, take 1990, a great vintage (with exceptions) and savour.

Les Carmes is much more typical of what is called “Goût de Graves”, which is the smoky after taste of Pessac wines. La Louvière is excellent, but the taste could be typical of Médoc as well as Graves. After evolving in the glass, La Louvière stands as the soft rounder one, more easily pleasant, but Les Carmes surpasses it with a great strength, a long finish, and this special Graves taste. Should I be in a picnic, I would certainly prefer La Louvière, but here with a traditional Côte-de-Boeuf Château Les Carmes-Haut-Brion is an obvious choice.