Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion: Tasting & Drinking

It is evident that, under the direction of the Gervoson family, there have been sweeping changes here at Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion. The wines have certainly improved in quality in accordance with these developments. They do not challenge the quality to be found at the estate’s namesakes, Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion but then that is hardly surprising. Nevertheless it is a comparison I make, because many years ago, during the estate’s heyday, it was said to be the case that Larrivet-Haut-Brion did indeed offer wines of comparable quality to these other illustrious châteaux.

The white wine is not one of the grander wines of the appellation; the style is much more towards the greener and fresher style, and therefore should be thought of alongside the likes of Olivier and Carbonnieux in terms of character, rather than the slightly more golden, riper and more harmonious polish of the wines of Domaine de Chevalier, Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Brown. They are probably for drinking younger rather than older, although the wines in the market place only tend to date back to the 1995 vintage – I imagine when the Gervosons acquired some white vines in their expansion program – and so we will have to wait and see what they are like in truly ancient maturity.

As for the red wines though, initially these were little more than solid and competent, flavoursome and at times rich, but not much more than that. In more recent vintages the wines are generally consistent, certainly full in body and texture, although as we have seen in the 2009 vintage they occasionally miss the sort of finesse many of us will be looking for from Pessac-Léognan. There is much potential here though (you only have to look at what some near neighbours have achieved to understand that) and I hope that there are continued efforts from the Gervoson family to tap into it. My only suggestion would be that the proprietors spend less time on publicity stunts involving mini-barrels buried in the oyster-rich sands of Arcachon, and more time focusing on obtaining wines of greater precision and finesse with attention to detail in vineyard and cellars. (4/9/07, updated 6/1/13)

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