This summer Jane Anson wrote a short profile for Decanter magazine featuring under the radar Pessac Leognan gem Château Larrivet Haut Brion, and a vertical of the last seven vintages of their reds and whites.
The château, which has been in great form over the last decade, is about a 20 minute drive south of the legendary Haut Brion and the city of Bordeaux. It occupies a prime spot right in the heart of the ‘Leognan’ section of Pessac Leognan, which in turn is an appellation that defines the best bits of the wider but more famous ‘Graves’.
Larrivet immediately borders megastar Haut Bailly and is also within a five minute drive of Domaine de Chevalier and Smith Haut Lafitte. Not bad company!
The top scorer in the Decanter vertical was the red 2010, perhaps not surprising given the stunning quality of the vintage, and there could not be better way to introduce yourself to the château than this. As so often with the wines that I think are the best buys, this is now in its drinking window and open for business- but that window is long and while the wine doesn’t need cellaring, it will still reward doing so if you care to.
2010 Château Larrivet Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan
Powerful and intense, with deep dark chocolate, black cherry and blackcurrant...black everything. It has more depth of flavour than the 2011 vintage, although both are exceptional wines with lots to offer. Very tannic, this is austere but doesn't show any bitterness. 65% of production was used in the grand vin, matured in 33% new oak. 92 pts., Jane Anson, Decanter
A sleeper of the vintage from this under-the-radar estate, this is a complex, fragrant, sexy style of wine with deep ruby purple color, loads of red and black fruits intermixed with caramelized character, supple tannins, a savory and expansive mid-palate and finish, and sweet tannin. I found this wine extremely endearing and far better from bottle than it had shown from barrel. Give it several years of bottle age and drink it over the following two decades (written 2013). 91 pts., Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
More about the wine:
While the potential here must always have been sky high, and while I only got to know the wine starting around the 2005 vintage, it seems that throughout most of the 20th century things were pretty underwhelming. This is in fact a common story with Bordeaux estates, two world wars and a market collapse in the 1970s meant that by the 1980s many châteaux were struggling for money and things were in disrepair. Everyone has a different story about what started turning around and why, but time after time you’ll fine that at all sorts of places up and down the Médoc, the turnaround starts at the end of the 20th century, and that turnaround often takes ten or twenty years to really take affect given that replanting is often required, and the wines take time to really start singing.
The other recurring story is that these previously disappointing but revitalized properties also offer some of the best values, as their ‘brands’ didn’t get the same opportunity to build followings when the interest in Bordeaux was booming in the 1980s and 1990s.
The soil here is intensely gravelly (hence ‘Graves’) over a clay base, and the wine is 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet, and 3% Cab Franc. The hallmark of the region, and certainly present here, is an intense minerality beneath the fruit that keeps things feeling zippy fresh, despite the fact that the area is just about Bordeaux’s warmest, which can give a bit of extra ripeness.