Chateau Haut-Brion is one of the most-storied and beloved chateaux in Bordeaux. It was classified by the French government as a “first growth” chateau in the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines. That means that it was considered at the time, and is still considered by many people, to be one of the top five wines produced in Bordeaux, one of the top wine regions in the world.
Fine Bordeaux red wine has never been cheap — in fact, the first growths were initially chosen by determining the five most expensive Bordeaux red wines — but the modern price leaps of Bordeaux have been exponential, rendering most of these great wines undrinkable as they’re just too valuable to pour down your throat. Of course, this is an incredible shame as wines from these five chateaux are typically some of the most highly rated wines to drink in the world according to experts. It also means that I have only had a few opportunities to try these wines, mostly when I was I teaching assistant for the Introduction to Wines course at Cornell in the mid-90s.
Needless to say, I didn’t think my next chance to have one of these stellar, pricey vins would be in Dushanbe. I was wrong.
Expat oenophile and friend Oleg found a bottle of 1993 Ch. Haut-Brion tucked away on the shelves of a Dushanbe grocery store near the train station. Now, the stores located on this strip of Rudaki Avenue are where we usually go to stock up on imported Russian beer, but finding a fine Bordeaux there? I mean, no way. Except this time, there it was, an almost 20 year old bottle of the good stuff.
How good? Let’s look for empirical evidence at two of my favorite online wine resources:
- Price average $281 per bottle from http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/haut-brion/1993; and
- Rating average 93 points from http://www.grapestories.com/wine.asp?iWine=7064.
That’s pretty good.
To his everlasting credit, Oleg bought the bottle to my final dinner in Dushanbe. As we sat on the tapchan, surrounded by non bread and Tajik vodka, we had the chance to sip one of the finest wines known on Earth. I didn’t write any tasting notes, but I remember the intricate flavors, the smoky fruit, and the surprising strength of a wine that old. Taking off my wine snob hat, let me just say that it was a damn fine wine.
An unanswered question is: how the hell did a ’93 Haut-Brion find its way to Tajikistan? There were no tax stamps and no back label, which suggest that the bottle came from someone important’s private cellar. The skittishness of the seller, as reported by Oleg, and his vagueness about the bottle’s provenance support that guess as well. Could we have enjoyed some of President Rahmon’s private stash? Who knows, but I like to think that we did.