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WTN: 1956 Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac – Léognan

geo t.

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Opportunities to taste 48 – year – old Bordeaux First Growths aren’t exactly frequent events for Adams – Heritier & Associates, and are generally looked upon as blessings from Bacchus. Such was the case when that modern – day Bacchus, Jim Lester, uncorked a venerable bottle at a small gathering held at the home of John and Denise McKuen in the foothills of Southeastern Michigan. Needless to say, it was a special treat.

1956 Chateau Haut-Brion Graves, 11.5% alc.: Other than its color, which is roughly the vinous equivalent of old bricks, this wine is aging very nicely, despite the poor (now THAT’S and understatement!) vintage. Haut-Brion’s own website describes the year miserably: “A severe winter in Bordeaux: -20 C in February with tremendous snowfall (80 cm.) which paralyzed the region. Many vines died and in general vineyards suffered terribly. (A quarter of their own vines were lost.) The Garonne partially froze over. Results of the cold: a very late start to the growing season, then a cold and wet summer (July 112 mm., August 104 mm.) Little wine and few good ones.”

Nevertheless, this bottle gives evidence to the proposition that great producers often produce pretty damned fine wine, even under adverse circumstances. Exhibiting a brooding depth of character, this one exudes what one taster described as a “potpourri” bouquet, while Jim described a “smoky nose, almost like wet charcoal.” The wine is a seamless blend of texture, flavor and aroma, reminiscent of cassis, leather, tobacco, mahogany and cigar box, with fine presence, and a finish that lingered awhile, like that old jazz song. One person wondered if it might not have been better consumed ten years earlier, and that may well be so, but this bottle was still so rich, mellow and delicious, I didn’t worry about it much. Bravo!

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

Edited by geo t. (log)

George Heritier aka geo t.

The Gang of Pour

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