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Haut-Brion history dates back 500 years, new research shows

New research has uncovered the oldest known mention of Chateau Haut-Brion dating back to the beginning of the 1500s, 139 years earlier than previously thought.

Art historian Laurent Chavier (right) and Prince Robert of Luxembourg hold a copy of the document he found in front of Chateau Haut-Brion

Following a competition launched by owner Prince Robert of Luxembourg, a medieval history researcher in Bordeaux found a written mention of Haut-Brion dated 21 January 1521.

That indicates the Graves first growth estate’s wines have been highly prized for around 500 years.

The document, found by art historian Laurent Chavier, is the sale of an annuity worth 400 Bordeaux francs, the equivalent today of around €50,000. It is drafted in French – rather than Gascon – by Maitre Hamelin Gemisson. The borrower, Jean de Monque, promises to deliver each year ‘four pipes of wine from the vineyard of Aubrion’, as part of repayment.

Until now, the earliest known mention of Haut-Brion was in the English National Archives at Kew, London. It features in King Charles II’s cellar book in 1660, the year of his Restoration to the English throne. It is also mentioned in the diary of parliamentarian Samuel Pepys, from the same era.

‘The 1660 mention was already the first known record of a wine bearing the name of the estate on which it was grown,’ Prince Robert told Decanter.com.

‘To go back a further century and a half is extraordinary. We are now in the sixth century of producing a wine under the same name from the same vines.’

The new mention also pre-dates the Pontacs, the family that was believed to have first established the renown of Haut-Brion. ‘It turns out that when Pontac bought the estate, he would have already known its reputation,’ Prince Robert said.

The winning researcher wins Haut-Brion wines worth an estimated €37,500, including two cases of the 1989 vintage.

The document will remain in the public archives of Bordeaux.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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