Wine Star: Haut-Brion’s Prince Robert de Luxembourg

Warmth and generosity abound in a tasting of the Bordeaux first-growth’s 2003 vintage

Wine Star: Haut-Brion’s Prince Robert de Luxembourg
Prince Robert de Luxembourg of Bordeaux's Château Haut-Brion (Rick Wenner)
Oct 29, 2021

“One pioneering winery can bring an entire region into focus. … Bordeaux is a special case. It’s one of the most historic, powerful and successful regions in France. but one estate stands apart: Haut-Brion,” said Wine Spectator editorial advisor to the chairman Thomas Matthews, introducing Haut-Brion’s Prince Robert de Luxembourg at the New York Wine Experience.

“Haut-Brion is known as the first first-growth. Its wines have been praised by connoisseurs for centuries, including philosopher John Locke, our President Thomas Jefferson, and on and on,” Matthews continued. “You can argue that the idea of ‘claret’ was crystallized at Haut-Brion in the 17th century.”

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back at the Wine Experience,” said de Luxembourg, the subject of Wine Spectator’s Nov. 30 issue cover story and whose great-grandfather, Clarence Dillon, purchased Haut-Brion in 1935. “We come together here to share an extraordinary moment. There is a generosity in this room, and there’s a generosity in this community that permeates everything the Wine Experience has been doing for decades, raising $30 million for [the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation].”

De Luxembourg brought his Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2003 (96 points, $325 on release), a successful vintage despite that year’s devastating European heat wave. “Dry farming is the law in Bordeaux; we’re not allowed to irrigate,” said de Luxembourg. “And global warming is impacting our vines massively. We have to take this into consideration as we plan for the future.”

He brought the 2003 vintage, however, to prove a point: In notoriously hot vintages, “we can [still] make extraordinarily elegant wines that are very much in the image of Haut-Brion,” he said. “In fact, some of the most extraordinary wines in the history of Haut-Brion have come from vintages that are particularly dry and hot.”

De Luxembourg went on to compare the 2003 to other warm-vintage classics, including 1947, 1982 and 2015. For guests who’d attended the 2018 Wine Experience, the tasting was also an opportunity to revisit the 2003, one of the six vintages de Luxembourg and winemaker Jean-Philippe Delmas served at that event.

“This is a place of generosity,” de Luxembourg concluded, congratulating Matthews on his recent retirement as Wine Spectator’s longtime executive editor. “Once you’re part of the family, you’re always part of the family.”

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