Calling in on Les Carmes, 2016

Over the years I have visited many Bordeaux châteaux. Sometimes they are flying visits for primeur tastings, sometimes they are longer and more leisurely tours which are, it has to be said, more conducive to actually learning something about the estate, its people, its vines and the wines they come together to make. For those châteaux where I have never gotten around to knocking on the tradesman’s entrance I have at least swung by, sometimes to check out the vines and soils for myself (yes, I have done a lot of weekend vineyard trespassing in my time), and to take a few photographs.

One château that eluded me on all counts, however, was Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. I have often found the wine of this unclassified vineyard noteworthy, with a quality easily placing it on the same level or indeed superior to many of its cru classé peers. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, the vineyard was once part of the estate of Jean de Pontac; if he hadn’t donated this particular morsel of his vineyard to the Carmelite monks in the late-16th century the vines would have probably remained just another corner of the Château Haut-Brion vineyard. Despite trying, I never seemed to be able to squeeze a visit into my hectic primeurs schedule, nor during my other visits to the region (because there is more to Bordeaux than the primeurs party week). And swinging by to check out the vineyard and château (pictured below) at other times was a fruitless affair. The vines and château are hidden behind trees and a two-metre high concrete wall, one which wraps around the entire estate and which also hides the vines from view, preventing nosey trespassers (who, me?) from taking a Sunday-morning walk through the vines.

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion

During 2016 I decided the time to put this right was nigh. I was in Bordeaux to taste some 2014s, but having landed at Mérignac and picked up my diminutive hire car I headed directly for Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion.

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