Tonight’s dinner was a long time in the making. We had acquired a vertical case at Sotheby’s that had been consigned by Château La Mission Haut-Brion directly from their cellars. Not only this, but as Jean Philippe Delmas noted, 4 specialists from Sotheby’s visited the estate prior to the sale and carefully inspected and approved each individual bottle prior to accepting the sealed original wooden cases. That fussiness was evident in the pristine bottles. Even all the corks were original – so none of these bottles had been ‘re-conditioned’, all the levels were base of neck or better. Added to our blessings, none of the bottles turned out to be marred by cork taint or other issues.
Four years later (for as Delmas pointed out, he travels to quite a few more parts of the world now than his father did – such is the nature of the market) and we had our moment to open all these bottles around one table – a private room in a Michelin *** Chinese restaurant and a menu that turned out to work very well.
There are plenty of resources to tell you the story of Château La Mission Haut-Brion. I won’t repeat all that here. In fact, I’ll cut straight to the experience of the wines themselves, with a few tidbits in italics underneath where relevant.
At the end of the night each of us (we were 15 around the table) picked out our two favourite wines. You’ll see those results below too.
Yes, this is a highly cherry-picked selection from the past 60 odd years, and from one of the very greatest estates on the planet, so we expected greatness. But boy did we get it. It was almost overwhelming. I honestly cannot recall so solid a flight of clarets as these. The peaks left me giddy. It’s also said though that a great terroir is shown not in these great years (Delmas: “easy vintages”), but in tough vintages where on average not many good wines are made. Our third flight – ’95, ’94, ’78 – slipped in to support this point. These 3 wines were not ‘shown up’ amongst the greatness of the adjacent flights. In fact they shone. While I would put the ’95 at the upper middle of that vintage’s pack, both ’94 and ’78 arguably represent the best wines made in all of Bordeaux in those challenging years.
Read my full report with wine notes here (or download PDF here), and below is our latest stock available.