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Neal Martin looks back at La Mission Haut-Brion

Neal Martin has released an “armada” of scores for La Mission Haut-Brion, 1928-2011, and with two perfect ratings for legendary vintages.

  • Critic Neal Martin has published an in-depth overview of Château La Mission Haut-Brion. 
  • His scores for the estate include a complete vertical of the estate from 1957-2020. 
  • Two wines from famous vintages now boast 100-points. 

Neal Martin has recently published a wide-ranging set of scores for La Mission Haut-Brion spanning the vintages 1928-2011 for Vinous. 

This “armada of tasting notes”, means the publication now boasts a complete set of tasting notes and scores for the Pessac property spanning 1957-2020, with several scores from the early 1950s, 1940s, 1930s and late 1920s. 

His comprehensive overview includes a look at the estate’s history and an in-depth discussion of the production process with technical director Jean-Pierre Delmas. 

The elusive 1997

Martin explains in his review that he has been building to a near complete set of scores for the estate for several years but was regularly frustrated by the absence of the 1997. 

He was finally able to track down a bottle earlier this year, however, completing the set. At 90-points, the 1997 won’t be troubling the legends of Bordeaux anytime soon. “Did I finish the bottle?” Martin asked, “yes”, supporting his theory that, “this estate also offers so much in off-vintages”. 

La Mission unmatched

Martin concludes that, in his experience, La Mission Haut-Brion is “equal in breeding and complexity” to the First Growths and “would have had a chance of becoming a First Growth” if it had been part of the 1855 Classification. 

The 1989 and 1955 vintages carry scores of 100-points from Martin. The ’55 he deems “one of the pinnacles of the 20th century”, alongside legends such as 1945 Mouton-Rothschild or 1983 Margaux; while the 1989 La Mission may one day surpass its equally famous cousin of the same vintage. 

Price performance

La Mission Haut-Brion 1989

One of his “go-to” Bordeaux for many years, Martin laments that he can “no longer pick it off restaurant lists as I once did because prices have increased”. 

They most certainly have. As can be seen in the table above, the price performance of the highest-scoring wines over their maximum extent have been enormous. 

Clearly, older wines have had longer to appreciate and were released for far lower prices than is the case today. 

Even so, a rise of close to 7,000% percent for the 1989 is impressive by any standards. The 1989 Haut-Brion is up by almost precisely the same amount since release. The performance of Margaux 1983 (1,869%) seems positively tame by comparison. 

La Mission ranked in the 2nd tier of the 2021 Liv-ex Classification. With an average price of £2,968 per dozen it’s knocking on the door of the 1st tier but, despite its pedigree, remains distinctly more affordable than the c.£5,000 per case average of the First Growths.