If the wines of Château Haut-Brion are today renowned all over the world, they owe this of course to the specific ecosystem of their terroir, but also to a succession of passionate, dedicated professionals, whose acumen has achieved to this day exceptional wines.
Harvest, the culmination of an entire year’s work
The harvest is the culmination of an entire year’s work. The grapes are picked by hand according to their ripeness, then sorted and de-stemmed (the stem is separated from the grapes), leaving only the quintessence. Their quality will determine the greatness of the vintage. The grapes are placed in vats and the temperature is gradually raised so that fermentation can begin.
The greatness of a vintage depends
on the optimal quality of each harvested grape.
From grapes to wine, a moment of truth in the winery
The grape bunches harvested and the berries placed in vats, the temperature rises …. Now it is time for fermentation to begin. Thanks to technology and precise temperature control, the winemaker knows how to regulate these fermentations. Two weeks later, when the colour, tannins and aromatic components have given their full potential, it is time to run off the wine from the vats. This is the real moment of truth, because from each vat bursts forth a wine possessing its own, unique personality.
An exceptional blending culture
In the world of wine, blending is the art of harmoniously marrying plots, grape varieties. At Château Haut-Brion, we have developed a century-old blending culture, a true expertise and signature. A particularity of the estate is that the outline of the definitive wine is drawn very early on and it is therefore the final blend that is presented during the “en primeurs” tastings, the following Spring.The blending tastings are a rite of passage at the end of the year. Creating a blend requires an in-depth knowledge of the history of the estate, its terroir, its signature, to anticipate and imagine how the wine may evolve over time. The transmission of this know-how is done exclusively in-house at Domaine Clarence Dillon.
Shaping a Premier Grand Cru
The best wines are selected for Château Haut-Brion and placed in barrels for 18 to 20 months. Maturation is also the art of integrating the barrels’ woods, to ensure that the new barrels’ woodiness never overwhelms the wine. Every year the percentage of new barrels is reviewed, according to the vintage’s characteristics and the wine’s profile. During this period, the wine is frequently racked “à l’esquive” (through the small bunghole at the base of the barrel), which is a lengthy and meticulous, traditional procedure that requires great attention. But it is also the most precise and gentle technique for the wine. During this process, the wine’s clarity is constantly checked by the light of a candle. This procedure conducted during maturation helps to develop the wine, gently oxygenate it and form its character. The wine is then bottled to continue the slow ageing process.
“Even after 34 vintages, it is impossible to tire of carrying out this blending exercise, which gives us something new to discover each year and is the completion of the work of the whole company. Without being conceited, it is quite thrilling, because we take part in the creation of a unique wine, a truly great wine!”
A passionate team of experts
Deputy Managing Director – Wines and Estates
Behind this slightly austere title is a man devoted to his art. Jean-Philippe Delmas, the third generation of his family in charge of producing Château Haut-Brion wines, recounts a new story every year. A true wine artist, he makes use of the subject matter with which nature and the work of men and women provide him throughout the seasons, to create all the wines that today make the reputation of Domaine Clarence Dillon’s wines worldwide.
Two roles, two complementary passions. A scientist and oenologist, he works in tandem with the Cellar Master, like a composer and a librettist, creating the great wine that is coveted by wine lovers all over the world. For Jean-Philippe Masclef, a great wine is one you remember. He and his team focus on a work of perfection, like creating a new opera year after year.
Born in Talence, Florence Forgas has lived in Bordeaux since she was born. She began her technical studies with a degree in viticulture and oenology, followed by an internship and an early career working in various Bordeaux appellations, from the Entre-deux-Mers to Saint-Emilion. She joined Domaine Clarence Dillon in 2014 and became Cellar Master, working alongside our Technical Director, Jean-Philippe Masclef. She added a further skill to her CV by obtaining, in 2021, the Master’s level National Oenology Diploma.
This gallery of artists would be incomplete without this man and his team who take care of the vines of Château Haut-Brion. A true gardener, his job is to enhance the quality of the terroir. His role is to produce the very best grapes, working tirelessly all year long. Like a luthier, he creates the magnificent instruments that will be used to their full advantage by those mentioned hereabove. A former rugby player, he knows how to get the best from his teams.