Haut Brion 1986
Tasting Notes and Scores
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 01/01/2003
This wine continues to be backward, but the bouquet is beginning to develop secondary nuances from roasted herbs and sweet cigar tobacco to compost, leathery notes, along with plenty of sweet cherry and black currant fruit. I had somewhat higher hopes for it a decade ago. The wine is still youthful, quite pure, medium to full-bodied, but somewhat elevated, austere tannins in the finish at age 16 are starting to make me think they will never become fully integrated. As always, making a judgment call on a wine destined to have a half-century of life is sometimes difficult, given the varying stages it goes through, but I wonder if this wine will turn out to be as profound as I once predicted. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2030. Last tasted, 11/02.
The 1986 Haut-Brion, which I thought should be fully mature by now, remains a backward, highly concentrated, powerful wine with more noticeable tannin than most top vintages. The wine does possesses a tell-tale smoky tobacco and sweet black currant-scented nose, in addition to subtle new oak and minerals scents. This medium to full-bodied, rich, intensely smoky wine has still not reached its plateau of maturity. It is unquestionably the wine of the vintage for Graves, and not far off the pace of the great 1986 first-growth Medocs. Anticipated maturity: 2000-2015. Last tasted 7/97.
Tasted at the château, the 1986 Haut Brion is a vintage that I had not tasted for some time. It is a blend of 28% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 62% Cabernet Sauvignon according to the chateau's records. Mirroring the 1996 La Mission, in this vintage that Haut-Brion occupies a higher quality level, with more complexity and vivacity on the nose: dusky black fruit, warm gravel, terracotta and cigar humidor. Lovely! The palate is very well balanced, maybe a little rustic compared to recent vintages, yet with firm body and grip. It's the kind of gruff, almost surly, broad-shouldered 1986s that might be a little curmudgeonly compared to 1985 or 1989, however after 30 years you are compensated with plenty of freshness and focus. I don't think it ranks up there with the best of the First Growth...that would come in other vintages, but it still provides plenty of drinking pleasure for those who love their classic claret with capital "C". Tasted July 2016.