1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

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Kelly Flynn
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1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#1 Post by Kelly Flynn » September 15th, 2020, 9:15 am

A two-hour decant was perfect for this unexpected treat, with a simple flank steak.

I don't have much experience with this property, but I really enjoyed a recent Larrivet Haut Brion 2000, so I was in a Gravesy mood and decided to give this one a try.

Not particularly Graves-like, but so delicious in a rather understated way. In fact, this mainly cab franc/merlot gem was barely recognizable by this humble palate as bordeaux. Though clearly Old World. Very very soft mouthfeel. Soy and soil, mainly. Spiced tomato soup (in a good way). A very mellow wine, but muscle underneath. Sort of a BAMA in personality but with much more character. Not even remotely hedonistic.

For some reason it reminded me of an older Corton. If I knew it was bdx, I might have guessed Magdelaine or VCC.

Finished with a Dow 1985 VP. Decanted several hours. Just so delicious with a pistachio-crusted fig tart. Still more iron hammer than velvet glove after a mere 35 years, but we do have a nice peak of what is to come, thanks to the extended decant. (Next time I will decant all day.) Very long. Is there a better bargain in the wine world than 1985 port?

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Robert.A.Jr.
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#2 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 15th, 2020, 10:08 am

Excellent! This is exactly why I prefer Les Carmes prior to the big overhaul starting in 2012 and now resulting in 98 points wines that cause the critic’s loins to stir. Great reference points: Magdelaine, VCC, BAMA. The 1999 drinks very similar to what you described, the 2000 has more heft considering the solar vintage. See if you can find some 2010, should be available.

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Ian A
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#3 Post by Ian A » September 15th, 2020, 1:55 pm

I was underwhelmed by this wine when I tried it about a year ago, when it was paired up against a 1998 Haut-Bailly - much more taut and precise by comparison, and which showed up the short comings of the soft and somewhat superficial Les Carmes. A case of 1996 drank early but was disappointing with the same deficiencies. I am not a particular fan of the fashionable modern version of this wine either, because it is eclipsed by other estates around it, which are still imho better wines, despite the hype around elevated share of the cab franc in the CHB blend. Head to head I even preferred the 2016 DDC.
Ian Amstad

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Neal.Mollen
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#4 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 15th, 2020, 2:11 pm

I don't think I've ever seen "tomato soup" in a description of a bdx wine, and I am not at all sure it would appeal to me.
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Arv R
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#5 Post by Arv R » September 15th, 2020, 2:51 pm

That's a strange sounding bottle. I've had the 98 CHB a bunch of times since release, and that description of the taste doesn't line up with my memory, although everyone's palates are different.

Maybe more medium bodied, and herbal than other estates, but I wouldn't think it was pinot like....
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#6 Post by Kelly Flynn » September 16th, 2020, 8:54 am

Thanks for the perspectives, folks. I guess these different bottles and opinions are a large part of why we keep coming back for more!

Robert, I will be on the lookout for more -- and nota bene on pre 2012. Neal, I was going to say "gazpacho" but I thought that sounded overly hyperbolic. Like I said, in a good way. :)

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Ramon C
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Re: 1998 Les Carmes Haut Brion

#7 Post by Ramon C » September 17th, 2020, 6:06 am

I've had this but don't recall enough, nor can find recorded TN, whether I liked or otherwise.

However, with the spectrum of flavors that you noted from being non-Graves in character, to tasting some Corton, and even Magdelaine and VCC (these 2 are not similar in my opinion), and that stewed tomato character were quite concerning.

Glad you liked, though.
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