The Exceptional Château Haut-Brion Library curated by Domaine Clarence Dillon
“With every sip, over two millennia, Château Haut-Brion has been a privileged witness of our human story and in many ways the ancestor of all of the existing fine wines in the world. Since its earliest days, the estate has also forged a symbiotic union with the world of gastronomy. By creating this unique treasure of a library at our vineyard in France, we bare witness to this noble past while uniting documents that like Château Haut-Brion have survived the ages in order to tell their own stories and thereby reflect the passion of our ancestors. This collection gathers us all around a venerable metaphorical table as we share in a sensorial banquet that spans the ages and continues to inspire the world of fine wine and gastronomy… to this day.”
Prince Robert de Luxembourg
Inspired by two millennia of winemaking history born from the legendary gravelly soils of its fabled estate, the mother company of Château Haut-Brion has now endowed this vineyard with a new cultural treasure that can only be described as one of the very finest collections of antiquarian wine and gastronomy books in the world. Under the leadership of its Chairman and CEO, Robert de Luxembourg, the family-owned company has scoured the globe to cobble together what will be considered as an exceptional new jewel in the already particularly ornate crown of this most ancient and venerable of estates.
Château Haut-Brion is by its history, the ancestor of the great and fine wines of Bordeaux. Whereas, for example, the appearance of the great Medoc wine estates dates back to the 17th century, it is believed that the first vines appeared in the soils of Haut-Brion in the 1st century AD. We know that the Romans shipped their finest wines all over Europe, North Africa and even the Indies over this period, reaching markets where people still enjoy the wines from the very same parcels of vines, today.
Over the millennia, one can only imagine how much pleasure this estate and the glorious libation produced from its enviable terroir has provided wine lovers the world over. From Roman Emperors to Queens, Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Château Haut-Brion has indeed been a privileged witness of historical encounters as, throughout the ages, the estate will also have been to millions of more modest gatherings shared by lovers, good friends, families and acquaintances.
Buried in this rich historical soil, the estate can also boast an extraordinary and ancient union with the world of gastronomy. From its presence at unassuming get-togethers to coronations and state dinners, the owners of Château Haut-Brion have also presented these wines to the world through their very own gastronomic endeavours. In 1666 the Pontac family opened Pontac’s Head, one of Europe’s very first gastronomic restaurants. In 1787 Joseph Fumel receives Thomas Jefferson at the estate for a repast and a tour of his estate. In 1803 the “Louisiana Purchase” will once again connect the then owner of Château Haut-Brion, the Prince de Talleyrand-Perigord with the relatively newly minted President of the United States. It is about a decade later that Talleyrand became the most admired host and diplomat at The Congress of Vienna not least due to the presence of his famous Chef, Marie- Antoine Carême (dit Antonin), who would himself become the first true “star chef” and the very first cook to be ascribed the moniker “Chef”. Talleyrand fully understood the importance of his gastronomic diplomacy which he alluded to in his exchanges with King Louis XVIII: “Sire, I need pans more than written instructions.” or “Provide me with good cooks and I will furnish you with fine treaties.” In later writings and by now known as “the king of chefs and the chef of kings” Antonin Careme wrote: “the great diplomat requires the services of a talented chef”.
“Two of Chef Antonin Carême’s books signed by his hand, Le maître d’hôtel français and Le pâtissier pittoresque were an early inspiration that would become the cornerstone of the Château Haut-Brion library. As two of my very first purchases, these represented world history, gastronomy and of course the renowned diplomacy of the erstwhile owner of Château Haut-Brion, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. I have little doubt as to what wine was served at his table during a congress that would contribute significantly to shaping modern day Europe.”
Prince Robert de Luxembourg
More recently, the Dillon family opened a new restaurant in Paris, Le Clarence**, to great fanfare, in 2015. The establishment lived up to expectations by rapidly becoming hailed as one of the “Best Restaurants of the World” thanks to the breath-taking originality and extraordinary talent of its Chef, Christophe Pelé and also to its rarefied décor and private mansion setting only meters away from the most visited Avenue in the world, Les Champs Elysees.
The excellence of the wines, formed by the hand of man at the Château Haut-Brion property, has inspired generations of wine-makers, farmers and owners to continually push the boundaries of excellence and attempt to go further than the generations that preceded them. It is no surprise then that the precursor of modern day red wines, as we know them, New French Claret, was born at this very estate. It was here that racking and topping up of barrels was invented under the ownership of the Pontac family. It is here that the first steel vats appeared in 1961, that the first agricultural clone program was initiated under Jean-Bernard Delmas. Currently a huge construction and renovation project is underway at Château Haut-Brion overseen by the architect Annabelle Selldorf (aided by the great professionalism of local architects, A3A) and commissioned by the Dillon family. This discreet future “rammed earth” structure aims to put the visual focus back on the original Château and also to be the first entirely carbon neutral facility among the First Growth estates of Bordeaux. All technical planning has been overseen by Managing Director of Estates and Wines, Jean-Philippe Delmas and Technical Director, Jean-Philippe Masclef. Matters of design are overseen with the architects and by Robert de Luxembourg.
These facilities will open their doors in 2026. Within the walls, built out of blocks moulded from Haut-Brion’s very own alluvial soils, will be housed the new wine-making facilities, but also the growing collection of menus, letters, documents and exceptional antiquarian gastronomy and wine books. The Château Haut-Brion library has recently benefited immensely from the addition of the Thackrey Collection of books which was shaped by a hugely passionate and talented California wine-maker, Mr Sean Thackrey. Mr Thackrey’s collection has undoubtedly added a new dimension to this Château Haut-Brion athenaeum.
8 original archives and approximately 3,000 books
One of the most revered and ancient terroirs now boasts a collection of books and texts dating back in one case 1500 years. Today the library encompasses:
- A section of 8 original archives on the history of Château Haut-Brion.
- Approximately 3,000 books – The main themes of the collection are viticulture, wine and gastronomy. 15 different languages are represented (French, English, German, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Greek, Dutch, Danish, Croatian, Coptic…).
312 historic menus & 100 prestigious restaurants wine lists
To name but a few:
- Four handwritten registers, detailing the menus served at the King’s table and on the different tables of the Château de Versailles: two concerning King Louis XIV (1694 and 1697) and two pertaining to the table of King Louis XV (1758 and 1767)
- A manuscript with two menus served to King Louis XVIII (1823)
- A silk dinner menu, dated May 2, 1903, offered to King Edward VII by French President Emile Loubet, (preparation of the treaties of the Entente Cordiale)
- A menu of a dinner hosted by General de Gaulle for President John F. Kennedy and his wife, on the occasion of their first visit to France, on May 31, 1961
- Four menus of dinners hosted at the White House by the United-States President for heads of State (1961 and 1963)
- A menu, specially crafted for the guests of the Shah of Iran, on parchment and enclosed in a small box also containing a mirror. The banquet was held on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the foundation of the Persian Empire, October 14, 1971
- A menu of the banquet held by President François Hollande, at the Château de Versailles, on Thursday, March 27, 2014, in honour of Chinese President Xi Jinping, signed by Chef Alain Ducasse
- A menu of the banquet held by Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace, on October 20th 2015, in honour of the Chinese President, M. Xi Jinping
43 original signed letters and manuscripts & 17 manuscripts in Japanese
- 43 original signed letters and manuscripts
- Arthur III of Brittany, M. Jacques Necker, Louis XVI Minister of Finance, President Thomas Jefferson, Prince of Metternich, Prime Minister Winston Churchill etc…
- Worth a special mention: A hand-written letter dated 1818, by Thomas Jefferson, former President of the United States, written at his estate in Monticello, and addressed to Baron Hyde de Neuville, representative of Louis XVIII in the United States, between 1816 and 1822. Jefferson expresses his attachment to and respect for France, its culture and extraordinary wines. In another known text, he writes “Haut-Brion is a wine of the first rank and se.ems to please the American palate more than all the others that I have been able to taste in France
- An attendance account signed in 1718, for the young King Louis XV, by his secretary, and written on parchment.
- The two original volumes of the Cellar Book of the Elysee Palace, under the first term of the presidency of General de Gaulle (1959-1965).
From the world of gastronomy:
- Antonin Carême, Grimod de la Reynière, Brillat-Savarin, Escoffier, Curnonsky…
- The manuscript, written in Carême’s own hand (project for a menu served to the bishop of Fréjus, in 1825, in Mazaugues, a small Provençal town) seems to be the only original handwritten document in existence.
From the World of the Arts:
- Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec…
- 17 manuscripts (often scrolls) in Japanese, devoted to agriculture, gastronomy and the art of the table.
In a world that is today so marked by the immaterial and the virtual, it is truly moving to be surrounded by letters, books and documents that have literally passed through the hands of our eminent forebears for centuries and even over millennia. These texts were first reflected on, then conceptually organised and eventually written in an era when we weighed our words more carefully than today and were more considerate as to what we would commit to paper. Their authors were ultimately driven by the same passions and respect that motivate the great chefs, wine-makers, wine-lovers and epicureans today. As it is at the genesis of fine wine history and lore, the First Growth Château Haut-Brion has now also become one of the ultimate repositories of the finest antiquarian Gastronomic and Wine libraries in the world. The collection will be made accessible to scholars by appointment in the future new installations, starting in 2026.