Jean-Marc Quarin_2

 

On Thursday we
published
Liv-ex’s interview
with the Bordeaux-based wine critic Jean-Marc Quarin. We have recently added 5,300 of Jean-Marc Quarin's tasting scores to Cellar Watch and Liv-ex. Today’s blog features his
tasting report on back vintages for Haut-Brion and Margaux.

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The below article is copyright Jean-Marc Quarin.

 

Château Margaux versus Château Haut-Brion: 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003,
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

From Chronicle
n° 127 ( February 8, 2012)




What an
evening!

Take the
word of a demanding critic for it! Grander than the comparative tasting Petrus
– Le Pin, better than Mouton-Rothschild versus Lafite-Rothschild versus Latour,
or even than the Mouton-Rothschild vertical – with 50 vintages in the line-up.
It truly was a celebration of the gôut à la française, with a dazzling Château
Margaux and infinite pleasure each mouthful we took. The outcome was
particularly gratifying for me, as Château Margaux has pride of place in my
book as the leading red in Bordeaux. All that remained to be done was to sample
it blind and in public from bottles that had been purchased. I was not
disappointed. 


This
hedonistic and aesthetic success has a lot to do with Haut Brion and château
Margaux both boasting a gloriously elegant tactile feel on the palate, plenty
of taste, refine tannins and a beautifully aromatic length. And yet, they are
not alike. 


Because of a
higher percentage of merlot, for the same vintage, Haut Brion’s colour often
appears more evolved than château Margaux’s – a give-away at blind tastings.

On the nose,
the merlot gives Haut Brion a more meaty character, when the expression of
fruit is more vibrant and precise in château Margaux. I expected to find the
typical smoky notes of the Pessac appellation in Haut Brion, but I found more
of them in château Margaux! They are induced by new oak, without the wine ever
being oaky – a beauty!

On the
palate, château Margaux is better structured and more powerful, which can be
explained not only by lower yields but above all by a higher vine density (10,
000 vines/ha) than at Haut Brion – now increasing density whenever
replanting.  Although the merlot percentage –
the variety responsible for the quality on entry – is higher in Haut Brion,
château Margaux’s presence and flesh on entry are truly sublime. The quality of
its flesh also seems to be linked to a riper harvest. Too many green hints can
be perceived on the nose for Haut Brion. Since Jean-Philippe Delmas took over
from his father at the Haut Brion estate, he has been particularly attentive to
picking at the right point of maturity and has brought in the cabernet
sauvignon later on in the season. The change can be felt from the 2007 vintage
onwards and is particularly clear in the 2008, the only Haut Brion bottle to
perform better than château Margaux in the tasting. 


On the
palate, the two leaders do not evolve the same way. Château Margaux is often
denser and fuller on entry – a characteristic it retains right through to the
finish. Haut Brion tends to be more discreet to start with- hence the
impression of crescendo in its journey through the palate. I was very impressed
by some vintages when aromas came bouncing back on finish – a precious and rare
occurrence for any wine which Haut Brion should endeavour to include in its
signature. 


Conclusion:

All the
participants were bowled over by the incredibly high standard and the divine
pleasure induced by the wines. They did not expect to be so, which goes to show
that no matter how prestigious the labels, they still have a way to go to let
their true worth known.

The tasting
brought to light that the top vintages can easily be over-estimated and that
the true worth of the allegedly smaller vintages is often overlooked. The
discrimination between great and small years may have made sense in the past,
but things have definitely changed. The superb way the lesser praised vintages
now hold their own is a credit to both estates’ drive for quality. Before the
tasting, who would have bet on the 2002 performing better than the 1996? A
bottle of Château Margaux is first and foremost the soul of château Margaux,
before being of any given year. 


The wines
were served blind and decanted in the order below and in flights of four. Date:
January 30, 2012.



 

First
flight: 2002 versus 1996

MARGAUX 2002

Score out of
20 : 18,5    Score out of 100 : 96

Logo on
cork : upside down T

An
incredible score given the year! The bottle performed very well – better than
in Paris 12 months ago. Was it down to a longer decantation, the cork, or
simply the current state of the wine? A score to be confirmed.

Refine and
clean nose of fruit, with delicate hints of truffle and a pinch of coconut.
Mellow, melting and powerful with lush taste of truffle. Precise texture
throughout. Refine tannins on finish. A beauty! Taste it now – before 2025.

Pleasure
score: 17 (94)

HAUT BRION
2002  

Score out of
20 : 17,25        Score out of
100 : 94

Logo on
cork : upside down T

A less
bright and intense red. Fresh and subtle nose of flowers, but no surge of
aromas after stirring. Lively and perky on the palate, with plenty of taste and
refine tannins, but a touch over-oaky. Good finish, but showing a little too
much restraint overall. Wait until 2015.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

HAUT BRION
1996  

Score out of
20 : 16    Score out of 100 : 90

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Dense colour
with tawny hues. Slightly green on the nose. Pleasantly soft tactile feel on
the palate, a touch dull taste-wise and firmer on finish. Somewhat lacking in
generosity. The previous 1996 Haut Brion, which I tasted at the estate,
performed better.  

MARGAUX
1996 

Score out of
20 : 17,25        Score out of
100 : 94

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Deep red
with brick hues. Intense and elegant nose of fresh and ripe fruit. Aromatic and
lively on the palate, quite racy – almost vivid – but particularly savoury on
finish. Gorgeous aromatic length with fine-grained tannins and personality.
2012-2013.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

  

Second
flight: 2003 versus 2000

A truly
outstanding flight that bowled us over. The progress in quality due to a better
maturity of the grapes came to light, and favoured the 2003s.

HAUT BRION
2003  

Score out of
20 : 17.75        Score out of
100 : 95

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Intense deep
dark red. Refine, subtle and smoked nose of truffle and ripe fruit. Velvety on
entry, if not boasting a particularly tight frame. Melting with grace through
to the utterly delicious, tasty and subtly discreet finish. Good length. Drink
2012- 2040.

Pleasure
score: 17 (94)

MARGAUX 2003    

Score out of 20 :
20    Score out of 100 : 100

Logo on
cork : Letter « A » inside a circle

Intense deep
red.  Truly magnificent nose of truffle and ripe fruits with notes of
coffee and a floral hint. Positively dazzling and superbly generous and broad
on entry then revealing layers of complex and lush aromas before liveliness and
freshness spring back on the palate. Powerful, fleshy, juicy and complex
through to the long lingering and incredibly elegant finish.  Sublime
!  The perfect balance between fat and liveliness. A beauty! Drink
2012-2020.

2 bottles
have had a similar score since June 2011.

Pleasure
score: 18 (96)

MARGAUX
2000  

Score out of
20 : 19    Score out of 100 : 98

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Beautiful
deep dark red. Complex, clean and subtle nose – less intense than the 2003 but
fresh. Pretty entry: delicately pulpy, subtle and crammed with taste. Perky on
the palate, melting with grace and revealing tannins a touch firm and slightly
less ripe than the 2003. Yet, its elegance and the fresh expression of fruit
are a true wonder. Only now beginning to open up. From 2015.

Pleasure
score: 17 (94)

HAUT BRION
2000   

Score out of
20 : 18    Score out of 100 : 96

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Intense deep
red with brick hues. A hint of greenness on the nose – a shame, really. Broad
and generous on entry, with fruit, leading to a beautifully fat and powerful
performance and ripe expression of fruit. Tannic on finish. Once again, the
unique and distinctive presence on finish and the length are the true hallmark
of the cru. Drink 2015-2045.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

 

Third
flight : 2005 versus 2004 – surprises in store !

HAUT BRION
2005    

Score out of
20: 16.75        Score out of 100 : 93

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Deep dark
red. Rather animal nose- very merlot. Fresh and slightly green at the same
time. Lacking a real presence on entry but then becoming silky, smokey and
aromatic – but not convincingly enticing. Showing restraint on finish. Average
length leading to a dead end. Should be left to brood in the cellar.

Pleasure
score: 16 (90)

MARGAUX
2005   

Score out of
20 : 18    Score out of 100 : 96

Logo on
cork: upside down T

Deep dark
red, more youthful than Haut Brion. Intense and refine nose of ripe fruit –
subtle and complex. Stunning on the palate: fleshy, melting and wonderfully
aromatic. Marked but refine tannins on finish with elegant taste and a hint of
ink and blackcurrant. A beauty! To be honest, I never realized I was sampling
the 2005! Leave it to brood in your cellar until 2020.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

HAUT BRION
2004    

Score out of
20 : 17.25        Score out of
100 : 94

Logo on
cork : upside down T

More evolved
in colour than château Margaux. Less vibrant on the nose – less fresh, more
merlot and animal. Discreet entry and average mid-palate with a velvety tactile
feel in the mouth. The cru’s signature really comes on on finish when the wine
unfurls layers of gorgeous taste, a superbly elegant tactile feel and
wonderfully refine tannins. Good length. 2018-2035.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

MARGAUX 2004    

Score out of
20 : 18   Score out of 100 : 96

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Bright
glossy crimson. Mighty nose of ripe fruit: deep, complex and elegant. Precise
on entry – very much in the spirit of the estate – then unfurling layers of
vibrant fruit and taste with gorgeous notes of vanilla and smoke. Melting
through to the stunning and complex length, with a delicate pinch of oak.
Impossible not to swallow!  This 2004 took my preference over the 2005. 
Drink 2016- 2035

Pleasure
score: 17 (94)

 

Fourth
flight : 2008 versus 2006 (a vintage that is now closing in)

HAUT BRION
2008    

Score out of
20 : 18    Score out of 100 : 96

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Bright
purplish crimson. Fresh nose of fruit, still discreet and …too young! Pretty
flesh on entry leading to plenty of aromas and fat, a gorgeous tactile feel on
the palate and tight-ish frame. Tends to perform as a white wine would: melting
away and remaining ethereal. Truly magnificent – and impossible not to swallow!

For the
second time since October, this wine has proved to be a stunner. The only Haut
Brion to outdo château Margaux. From 2020.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

MARGAUX 2008    

Score out of
20 : 17.75        Score out of
100 : 95

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Beautiful
youthful colour. Refine and subtle nose of fruit and truffle. Slightly firmer
than Haut Brion on the palate, but remaining complex. Lifted and savoury
through to a beautifully tasty length with fruit and truffle. From 2020.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

HAUT BRION
2006   

Score out of
20 : 16.75        Score out of
100 : 93

 Logo
on cork : upside down T

Deep red
with brick hues. Old-fashioned nose, with green hints. Superbly soft on entry
but then a touch vivid. Marked tannins on finish. Average length. Lacking
presence overall and not quite on a par with the other more recent vintages.

Pleasure
score: 15.5 (88)

MARGAUX 2006    

Score out of
20 : 17.25        Score out of
100 : 94

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Fairly
intense red. Bursting with fruit and smoke on the nose. A touch austere on
entry then revealing a juicy and generous character on the mid-palate through
to a wonderfully savoury and long finish with taste and a slightly firm frame.
The wine is closed-in. From 2020.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)



 

Fifth
flight : 2007 versus 2001

HAUT BRION
2007   

Score out of
20 : 16.75       Score out of 100 : 93

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Deep
purplish crimson. Discreet on the nose. Melting from start to finish, with
layers of aromas and taste, a hint of ink and fruits. Refine tannins and
average body. Drink 2012-2030.

Pleasure
score: 16.5 (92)

MARGAUX
2007   

Score out of
20 : 17.25        Score out of
100 : 94

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Deep red
with brick hues. Bursting with vibrant fruit on the nose. Exquisite flesh on
entry, wonderfully vibrant on the mid palate, melting and superbly tasty
throughout. Long lingering and complex finish revealing layers of taste.
Impossible not to swallow! You can decant it a couple of hours before serving.
Drink 2012-2022.

Pleasure
score: 17 (94)

MARGAUX
2001   

Score out of
20 : 16.5        Score out of
100 : 92

Logo on
cork : upside down T

To me, the
stewed nose – not at all representative of Margaux -  and the over-simple
performance on the palate point to a bottle at odds with the standard. I
particularly enjoyed the 2001 vintage last May, grading it 17.25 (94).


HAUT BRION
2001   

Score out of
20 : 16.75    Score out of 100 : 93

Logo on
cork : upside down T

Suave on
entry and more racy on finish – a paradox pointing to a faulty bottle. Last May
a bottle from the same case scored 18.75 (97), which I believe to be its true
worth.