Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé 5eme
Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé 5eme

Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé 5eme

Bordeaux, France 2009 (750mL)
Regular price$115.00

Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé 5eme

On the same ship that landed us last week’s Saint-Emilion library hit, we also secured a small lot of Classed Growth Pauillac from the highly acclaimed, highly rated 2009 vintage. The wine hails from Château Haut-Bages Libéral, a superb, classic estate that is best known for their innovative approach to biodiversity and agriculture, including biodynamic farming. They’re also well known since most of their vineyards sit directly adjacent to Château Latour, one of the most famous properties in the world. There you have it: An acclaimed winery, a phenomenal vintage, top-notch terroir, and a wine that is entering its peak drinking window as it hits its 15th year…sounds like a Bordeaux slam dunk. But in case you still aren’t convinced, the famous critic Robert Parker said of this 2009 that it is “Probably the finest Haut-Bages Libéral since the 1982.” Go ahead Cabernet lovers, eat your heart out!

The term “Haut-Bages” means, quite simply, the highest point in the area of Bages, and indeed this property sits partially on a hill that overlooks the nearby Gironde river. In the early 1700s, the Libéral family purchased the estate, already planted to vines, and began to produce wine under the name of Haut-Bages Libéral. In 1855 they received the coveted Grand Cru Classé designation, becoming one of just 61 châteaux to earn that honor. The estate was bought and sold several times before Jacque Merlaut purchased it in 1982, and it’s still in the family, with his granddaughter Claire Villars-Lurton running the entire operation for over two decades now. 

Claire has a passion for viticulture and nature, and farming with a focus on the environment and the biodiversity of her region has been at the forefront of this estate since she took over. There are numerous trees and shrubs planted around the vineyards, and a variety of beneficial grasses and other cover crops are seen year round in between the vines. Chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides, have been banned by Claire and her team since the beginning, and they received organic certification in 2019 followed by Demeter certification for biodynamics in 2021. This approach is key to the long-term sustainability of the region, but it has the added benefit of producing impeccable balanced, perfectly ripe fruit in even the most challenging of vintages. 

Of course, 2009 was not considered difficult by any stretch; indeed it was a perfect vintage in many ways, with the only issue being potentially high yields and overripe fruit. But here as well, the farming virtuosity of the Haut-Bages Libéral team helped ensure that yields were in check and ripeness was, too. Oh, and there is a bit of a geological secret at the estate as well: About half of the vineyards lie on the Pauillac plateau, where the soils are typically dominated by alluvial gravel, but the other half are on a small hill that sits just above the Gironde escarpment, and here the soils are limestone and clay, a rarity in this area. This unique geography adds lift and elegance to the raw power that Pauillac is famous for.

2009 has a very long life ahead of it, but you can certainly enjoy this wine now with a vigorous decanting of an hour or more. Serve in a large Bordeaux stem, at around 60-65 degrees, and you’ll first be wowed by the vibrant, deep garnet color that is surprisingly youthful in appearance. This is Pauillac, so there is definitely some richness and power, but there are also loads of silky, elegant textures and complex, diverse aromatics. Black currants, ripe red raspberries, cassis, dark chocolate, cigar box, cedar, fresh mint, and a hint of vanilla extract are all present on the nose, and the ripe, up front fruit is balanced perfectly by a saline, mineral laden finish. This is a perfect pairing for any fancy meat preparation, but this time of year Beef Wellington seems most appropriate. We have a limited amount, don’t wait to grab a few for your next celebration.

Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé 5eme

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