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Wine: Best Wines: Château Haut Brion

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Château Haut Brion (Pessac, Graves) - Premier Grand Cru Classé

Although by all accounts the vine has been rampant in these parts since at least Roman times, the earliest written mention that our archivist has discovered, citing a parcel of vines being cultivated at Haut-Brion dates back to only 1423. The Pontac family traces their origins to the small city of the same name in the Béarn region near Pau. The family history dates back to the 11th century. As early as the 15th century, the name Pontac is found associated with wine trading. Jean de Pontac (1488-1589) is the son of Arnaud is the original founder and builder of Château Haut-Brion. At the age of 37, he married Jeanne de Bellon who brought a part of the Haut-Brion domaine in her dowry. During the course of his three marriages, the last begun at the age of 76, fifteen children were born. As the years passed, Jean acquired parcels of the surrounding land thereby enlarging the Haut-Brion acreage. In 1550, he began construction of the château. His sole purpose was the exploiting the vineyards. Jean died at the age of 101, and his unusually long life spanned the reigns of Louis XII, François I, Henri II, Charles IX and Henri III. 

Geoffroy de Pontac (1576-1649) took over at the time of the death of his uncle, Arnaud II, Geoffroy was already residing at Château Haut-Brion. A man of the 17th century, he lived like the great members of the court. He built a magnificent home named the "Daurade", and decorated it with gilding and gold. The splendor of the residence attested to the already great commercial success enjoyed by Haut-Brion wine at this time. Arnaud III de Pontac (1599-1681) led a life as luxurious as that of his father. His marriage to the daughter of the president of the Parliament of Paris brought him still greater prestige. It also gave him a connection to the Parliament of Bordeaux. He eventually became the first President of the Parliament of Guyenne. Because of him, Haut-Brion developed its reputation in England. He was the first to understand the importance of the English market, despite the wars and other problems between the two realms. 

Louis de Fumel (1700-1749) became the Lord of Haut-Brion after the death of his mother. His time was short lived however, as he died one year after taking charge. Joseph de Fumel (1720-1794). After his father's untimely death in 1749, Joseph, the third son, inherited the domain. In 1748, he married Marie-Elisabeth de Conty d'Hargicourt. Although first a soldier, Joseph became the master of Haut-Brion in 1763. He designed a large park and added an orangerie along with several other buildings. Joseph developed the wine trade abroad. He sent much wine to England, his first foreign market. At this time, the French were becoming increasingly appreciative of the "vin de Pontac": it was during this period that the Duke de Richelieu introduced the King to Haut-Brion. 

In charge of foreign affairs under Napoléon, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838) bought Haut-Brion in 1801. He often served the Haut-Brion wine to his guests and he employed the wine to advance his many diplomatic efforts. Occupied with many problems, Talleyrand sold Haut-Brion in 1804. Between 1804 and 1836 Haut-Brion was owned by a banker and a wine broker before being purchased by the Larrieu family.Joseph-Eugène Larrieu (1777-1859) purchased Haut-Brion at an auction held on March 12, 1836. In 1841, he bought the third belonging to the Countess of Vergennes, daughter of the marquis of Catellan. For the first time since 1694, the domain was regrouped. Financiers and sponsors, the Dillon Family restored to Château Haut-Brion its well-founded prestige. In 1934, the Dillons brought back the tradition and pride of family ownership historically attached to Haut-Brion. Introducing select advances in technology to the vineyards, they have opened the door for continuation of the great tradition of Haut-Brion into the Twenty-first century. 

Château Haut-Brion is located in the suburb of Pessac outside Bordeaux. This 45 hectare Premier Cru Classe property was the only property outside of the Médoc and Sauternes to be included in the 1855 Classification. At Château Haut-Brion, all the wine is put in new barrels for a period of 18 to 24 months. This use of new barrels goes back to the beginning of the 18th Century. This marvelous vessel allows a single man to easily handle and move the contents of more than 300 bottles. The vineyards of Château Haut-Brion lie on large gravel banks interspersed with clay and the red wine consists of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon,  37% Merlot and  18% Cabernet Franc. Best vintages since 1945 are: 1945, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1969, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Address (also for Guided Tours):
Château Haut-Brion
Domaine Clarence Dillon S.A.
33608 Pessac Cedex
France
Tel: +33-5-5600 2930
Fax:+33-5-5698 7514 
e-mail: visit@haut-brion.com
website: www.chateau-haut-brion.com

Opening Hours: Visits are only possible by appointment. Château Haut-Brion can accommodate groups up to 10 people and look forward to welcoming you at Haut-Brion. To arrange a visit, please contact Turid Hoel-Alcaras or Carla Ducasse at the address above. Remember to leave Château Haut-Brion your address and phone number.
 


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