En Primeur 2023 | Vintage analysis and top picks from Pessac-Léognan

Pessac-Léognan vineyard

Our En Primeur coverage continues with this report on Pessac-Léognan wines and our tasting reviews. Overall, we found the red wines in this appellation to be the most diverse this year. While some wines left us baffled, we also found some real favourites with several properties standing out from the crowd.


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Pessac Léognan 2023 vintage: Overview of weather conditions

The weather in Pessac-Léognan, as in other parts of Bordeaux, was generally good throughout 2023. Cool, sunny weather at the end of winter prevented early budburst, reducing exposure to April frosts – although this partly urban appellation is less prone to frost than other Bordeaux vineyards. The greatest challenge during spring and summer was fighting the particularly severe mildew. Overall, summer was dry but not very sunny, resulting in a long veraison lasting until a heatwave in mid-August. With the exception of some rain, recorded around 20 September, the splendid late summer period provided excellent conditions for the harvest, producing beautiful perfectly ripe grapes.

White grape-picking started mainly during the last 10 days of August and lasted until early September. The first Merlot grapes were harvested at the beginning of September, followed by a generalised harvest of red grapes from mid-September. The Cabernet Sauvignon were picked from mid-September onwards, although most were harvested following the rainy spell on 20 September, which provided ideal conditions for the grapes to attain peak ripeness.

For further details, check out our dedicated article ‘En Primeur 2023 | Bordeaux 2023 coverage: Weather and wine characteristics’, which provides you with an insider’s view of the quality of the vintage.

Pessac Léognan 2023 vintage wines: Quality and characteristics

Several estates have undeniably produced great wines in 2023. This is clearly the case in the Haut-Brion galaxy, where the wines are absolutely breathtaking, but there are others too. Among the 2023 selection we selected as top picks, our team relished the impeccable balance of the wines, characterised by their invigorating freshness and intricately crafted profiles, exhibiting a rare finesse with incomparably silky tannins and occasionally airy textures. In short, we found them extremely sophisticated and well balanced! Other 2023 wines, on the other hand, are characterised by a light structure, showing less concentration and density than usual, hence the overall feeling of disparity across the vintage. Nevertheless, these wines can be appreciated sooner.

The quality of the white wines is high, and more uniform than that of the reds. This is indeed one of the great strengths of the 2023 vintage, which is proving excellent for both dry and sweet white wines. The lack of sunshine helped preserve the acidity, imparting extra balance and a welcome energy to the wines. The aromatic bouquet is also complex and varied (citrus fruits, white fruits, tropical fruits, peach, etc.), while retaining a fresh character, barring over-ripe or stewed fruits. All in all, these wines combine all the qualities you would expect from a great Bordeaux white wine, they are aromatic, fresh, elegant and full-bodied.

En Primeurs tasting

Our favourites from the 2023 Pessac Léognan vintage

Red wines

  • Château Haut-Brion 2023

This is one of our team’s absolute favourites! This wine immediately appealed to us on account of its small red and black berry aromas and notes of liquorice. The palate resembles velvet, characterised by beautifully fine tannins, superb depth, great concentration and a persistent finish. This perfectly balanced wine is particularly fresh and fruity.

  • Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2023

The bouquet reveals fruity, mineral notes, while the palate is silky, supple and fluid, offering a lovely acidulous fruitiness, plenty of sapidity and energy. A uniquely elegant wine.

  • La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion 2023

The nose reveals notes of black fruit such as blackcurrant while the palate is dense, creamy and silky, displaying excellent structure, fruitiness and mineral notes on the finish.

  • Clarence de Haut-Brion 2023

The nose reveals aromas of blackberry and blueberry. The attack is supple and fresh on the palate, revealing a very elegant, fluid yet concentrated body, with extremely fine tannins and beautiful length.

  • Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2023

The subtle yet complex nose displays aromas of black fruit, citrus zest and floral hints of iris and violet. On the palate, the wine is creamy and mouthwatering, delivering great intensity and delicious blood orange aromas. The round texture is complemented by elegant, silky, increasing tannins. The finish is velvety, saline and extremely refined. This wine stands out for its intense freshness and great drinkability.

  • Château Haut-Bailly 2023

Initially subdued, the nose gradually opens up to reveal a velvety, peppery, floral (peony) bouquet of red and black fruit, gradually increasing in intensity to reveal elegant notes of graphite and pencil lead. On the palate, the velvety attack leads to a sapid wine revealing a silky texture and crisp tannins. The whole is well balanced and structured by a woodiness that coats the aromatic bouquet with delicate vanilla notes. The intense finish combines spice, pepper and minerality with a mouthwatering burst of black fruit. Extremely elegant.

  • Haut-Bailly II 2023

The appealing, luscious, intense nose contains raspberry and blackcurrant notes. It’s a pure and fresh wine. The attack is lively before it moves onto a silky, round texture. The precise, fruity finish exudes energy and is complemented by elegant spicy and liquorice notes.

  • Domaine de Chevalier 2023

The aromas of red and black fruits combined with mineral notes are highly indulgent. On the palate, the wine is creamy and elegant, revealing a lovely tannic structure, fine-grained tannins, pleasant freshness and beautiful fruitiness.

  • Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2023

Offering aromas of red and black fruits along with mineral notes, this wine stands out for its full, dense palate, abundant yet silky tannins, fruitiness and exceptional length. A superb balance of power and elegance.

Haut-Baily bottles during en primeur tastings

White wines

  • Château Haut-Brion White 2023

The bouquet is exceptionally rich and complex, combining mineral and fruity notes (citrus, white fruit). The palate displays the same aromas, and in particular pear, coupled with a full, mellow body and a lingering finish. Superb!

  • Château Haut-Brion White 2023

The intense nose combines aromas of citrus fruit and flint with floral notes. The generous mouthfeel is sapid, characterised by fruity aromas, a lovely roundness and a lingering saline finish.

  • Domaine de Chevalier White 2023

Floral, herbaceous and lime aromas emerge from the glass. The palate reveals a delicate acidity combined with a full body and remarkable length.

  • Château Smith Haut-Lafitte White 2023

The bouquet reveals a wide range of aromas, from citrus fruit and flowers to mineral notes. The palate reveals great freshness along with a degree of structure and a fine saline finish.

  • Château Larrivet Haut-Brion White 2023

This wine exudes aromas of white fruit and peach combined with floral and notes. The palate displays considerable vivacity, with a lively, sapid character, fine bitters and a mineral finish.

  • Château Malartic-Lagravière White 2023

The complex, intense nose reveals aromas of white fruit, exotic fruit, minerals and flint, while the lively palate delivers subtle bitters and a long, saline finish.

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