In June 2007, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion unveiled a new cellar. The occasion was celebrated by a grand dinner, in the cellar itself of course, for the international media and guests from around the world.
The high iron-clad gate at La Mission Haut-Brion was built by a Celestin CHIAPELLA who acquired the chateau in 1821.
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion is one of 13 Classified Growths for red wine under the 1959 Classification of the Graves.
Prince Robert de Luxembourg's family acquired Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion in 1983. They were already owners of neighbouring Chateau Haut-Brion since 1935.
Although it was not included in the 1855 Medoc Classification, there are many people who consider La Mission Haut-Brion to be as great as Haut-Brion. Perhaps, 151 years ago when they decided on which chateaux to include in the classification, the people responsible felt that after already making an exception for Haut-Brion from the Graves (and, therefore, outside of the Medoc), another exception could have been one too many.
We must also remember that Chateau Haut-Brion was not just included in the classification, but that it was one of the four original First Growths (Lafite, Latour and Margaux being the others, Mouton promoted from Second Growth only in 1973).
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, to give it its full-name, is a very impressive wine. When you drink it, it is immediately evident that it possesses that extra quality that only the very, very top bordeaux possess. It's hard to describe because these things are not scientific or measurable with a tape. Yet, the extra shimmer is there. Drinking these greatest of the great wines, you could even go as far as to say that while the extra quality is not measurable in a physical sense, the additional edge these wines possess is pretty obvious.
It's like some women who are not just pretty but outrageously beautiful. Gorgeous to the point of god-like. Or listening to a musical masterpiece such as "Flowing Water", that most famous guqin composition. Or seeing a painting by El Greco or Xu Beihong (his oils especially) for the very first time. You recognize their greatness immediately even before you can begin to describe it. La Mission Haut-Brion is such a gem.
When I started writing this article, half way through, I was invited to dinner by a very good friend. Quite co-incidentally - but what a grand treat - he opened a bottle of La Mission Haut-Brion 1982!
In 1983, the Dillon family acquired La Mission Haut-Brion from the heirs of the Woltner family (who acquired the chateau in 1919). The new owners were of course proprietors of Chateau Haut-Brion just across the road. The friendly rivalry between the two wines therefore came to an end as a new era began for La Mission.
Already, parcels of lands from the two properties intermingled even before the acquisition. A good portion of Haut-Brion vines ran alongside those of La Mission. When the sale of La Mission Haut-Brion became known, it was therefore only "natural" that one of the first bids came from Domaine Clarence Dillon, the family company that own Château Haut-Brion. There were other interested suitors but none as persistent as La Mission Haut-Brion's neighbour from across the road. Finally, in 1983 their offer was accepted and the sale went through.
After the purchase, renovations were made including to the old cellar and the winery. The present construction of a new cellar is therefore an added expansion to the previous renovations in the 1980s.
The most visible sign of La Mission Haut-Brion from the road is the main gate. It is not particularly big but it is quite high. The gate is also more than 150 years old. In 1821, La Mission was bought at a public auction for 91,000 francs by Celestin CHIAPELLA who was born in New Orleans but whose father returned to France when he retired. Through his family's ties in Louisiana, Chiapella traded with his birth-country, the United States of America.
Celestin Chiapella commissioned a large model of a boat to commemorate the transatlantic background of his family. Today, a small model of this is still used as a weather vane at La Mission. Chiapella and his son Jerome (named after his grandfather) also built the iron-clad gate of La Mission which still stands today.
The present owning family is very respectful of the history of La Mission. Although they have been owners since 1983, they are only too proud to inform the world of the complex background of La Mission, generously identifying the many personages that have been involved in and responsible for this legendary estate.
La Mission Haut-Brion also produces a second wine named La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion. The website of La Mission Haut-Brion is found within that of Chateau Haut-Brion. It is one of those few chateaux that have a Chinese version. In fact, two versions, both qian di zi and fang di zi. Readers interested in reading more about both La Mission and Haut-Brion can log into www.haut-brion.com