iDealwine update: reliable Haut-Brion

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13th April, 2016 by Arthur de Lencquesaing for iDealwine

Château Haut-Brion is no longer quite the pre-eminent premier grand cru classé claret at auction, but where it does trump the likes of Mouton and Lafite is in its price stability.

2015-07-30-CMJNabout idealwineThis month, iDealwine focuses on the oldest of the four premiers grands crus classés of 1855, Château Haut-Brion. Created in 1553 by Jean de Pontac, Haut-Brion was the first Bordeaux estate to bear the name of its property on its bottles in an era when others generally sold their wines anonymously. This undoubtedly helped it to build its international reputation and it soon began appearing on the royal tables of European courts.

Owned by the Dillon family, the château is now managed by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, grandson of the American banker who fell in love with the property and purchased it in 1935.

With 48 hectares planted under red and three under white vines, Haut-Brion remains the smallest of the first growths and produces on average only about 10,000 to 12,000 cases of grand vin. The family also owns other vineyards: neighbour iconic estate La Mission Haut-Brion and two recently acquired Saint-Emilion properties, Château Tertre Daugay and L’Arrosée, which are now combined as Château Quintus.

Earlier maturing than the other grands crus, with a particularly high proportion of Merlot, Haut-Brion develops a legendary finesse, with very smooth notes of ripe blackcurrants and minerals.

Famous vintages

Great vintages from the Pessac cru, such as 1961 (iDealwine estimate €1,237) and 1989 (€1,105) have revealed the incredible potential of Haut-Brion. Praised by wine critics, no fewer than six vintages have been awarded the ultimate 100 points from Robert Parker: 1945, 1961, 1989, 2005, 2009 and 2010.

At auction, Haut-Brion appears to have a more stable value than its first-growth peers, experiencing less movement as a result of speculation than we have seen with Mouton or Lafite, for example, in recent years. This is most probably due to a combination of factors: relatively discreet communication, a smaller volume of production and a long and very established distribution in traditional markets.

On iDealwine auctions, Haut-Brion mostly sells to traditional wine collectors or merchants based, for the most part, in France, the UK and the US. By contrast, demand for the other grands crus classés and other bluechip wines usually is proportionately higher from emerging markets as China and Singapore.

One of iDealwine biggest recent discoveries was a very rare case of Haut-Brion 1945. Still in its original straw and in perfect condition, it had been laid down in the cellar of a wine collector since its release just after Second World War. The bids came from all over the world and finally a wine collector from Monaco became the successful bidder for a price of €2,500 per bottle.

In 2015, prices have remained relatively stable (+0,54%) with contrasting evolution depending on the vintages. Mature vintages increased significantly compared with previous average auction results – 1986 (+11% at €303), 1990 (+13% at €468) or 1995 (+7% at €300) – whereas more recent vintages are stabilising or even declining in price. The 2005 lost 10% at €467 and the 2010 decreased by 9%, but still with a very high price point, selling at €785.

Sitting pretty

With €244,000 of wines sold in 2015 on iDealwine auctions, Haut-Brion was the fifth most traded Bordeaux after Petrus, Lafite, Mouton and Margaux and just before Latour.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Haut-Brion dominated the auction market. It was the turn of Margaux in the 1990s, boosted by the emergence of the US market; more recently it has been Lafite with the boom in Chinese demand for its wines.

It is difficult to say whether Haut-Brion is going to be the next rising star; however, its small production, relatively low en primeur prices compared with the other premiers and high scores from key wine critics seem the best combination for a secure placement.

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