Founded in 1935, the family-owned company, Domaine Clarence Dillon, is today chaired and managed by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, great-grandson of its founder, Mr. Clarence Dillon. The company has the unique privilege of producing five rare and exceptional estate wines: two red wines and two white wines from First Growth, Château Haut-Brion and its sibling Château La Mission Haut-Brion. Since the 2011 vintage, the company is also proud to represent one of the very finest wines of Saint Émilion: Château Quintus.
In 2005, the company created the Bordeaux Fine Wine Merchant, Clarence Dillon Wines, which has become one of the most important merchants in Bordeaux. In the same year, Clarendelle, "Inspired by Haut-Brion" was launched, thereby creating Bordeaux's first super premium brand wine, testifying to the far-sighted and innovative spirit that has come to characterize Domaine Clarence Dillon from the onset.
As wardens of three mythical Estates, steeped in close to two millennia of history, the family company strives to have this deep heritage reflected in all of the wines produced under its name. Domaine Clarence Dillon combines tradition with innovation in order to extract the quintessence of exceptional terroirs and produce comprehensive families of authentic wines, which can be defined by the words balance, complexity and elegance.
In 2010, Domaine Clarence Dillon and the Dillon family became Founding sponsors of La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux. This cultural center celebrating the global wine culture opened its stores in 2016, receiving close to half a million visitors per anum. Prince Robert of Luxembourg is a member of the Board of Directors of La Cité du Vin Foundation and President of its Cultural Committee.
On November 17th, 2015, Domaine Clarence Dillon's scope of activities broadens with the creation of two new companies, both based in its headquarters, an elegant mansion house located in the heart of Paris Golden Triangle, only metres from the world's most famous avenue, Les Champs-Élysées. This unique residence allows visitors to discover the atmosphere of Château Haut-Brion while also discovering a gourmet cuisine awarded 2 Michelin stars only one year after opening its doors, "Le Clarence". Housed in the same building, one may also discover "La Cave du Château", an exceptional Fine wine shop featuring a wide selection of wines sourced exclusively from the greatest terroirs of France. This selection is also available for global shipping via the online shop: www.lacaveduchateau.com
In November 2017, the Fine wine shop "La Cave du Château" opened a new online presence through the creation of a unique and focused website, celebrating large format bottles. Big French Bottle was born: www.bigfrenchbottle.com
In October 2018, Prince Robert of Luxembourg and Domaine Clarence Dillon joined Primum Familiae Vini, an international association of 12 of the world's finest wine producing families.
Left bank: Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion
The history and the terroirs of Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion are intimately linked. Crossed by the road leading from Pessac to Talence, in the heart of the Graves appellation, the two properties face each other like twin sisters, very close yet very different.
Ideal natural conditions
Managing a vineyard is a complex art. Creating a wine involves a subtle balance between the typical soils, the most appropriate varietals and their management methods, the region's climate and human experience.
The Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion vines enjoy a special climate, with warm, dry summers and mild autumns. The vines are staggered in terraces 20-30 metres above sea level, protected from the mist of the lower Garonne valley and the occasionally heavy rain of the Gironde moorland. The gravel soil lies on a single subsoil of clay, sand, limestone and falun (limestone shell) established at the end of the Tertiary era, then during the Quaternary era throughout the Ice Ages.
From 20 centimetres to over 3 metres thick, the gravel deposits form slopes that enjoy excellent exposure, with natural drainage reinforced by a large hydrographic network of small water courses, tributaries of the Garonne. The sun is reflected by the soil, concentrating its rays on the bunches of grapes, which gain optimum maturity throughout the spring and summer. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc for red wines (50 hectares at Haut-Brion and 25.5 hectares at La Mission Haut- Brion), Sémillon and Sauvignon for white wines (3 hectares at Haut-Brion and 3.5 hectares at La Mission Haut-Brion) have been selected over the centuries for their perfect adaptability to the soils and climate of the region. At the end of summer, when the warmth of the sun's rays starts to wane, the winegrowers begin preparing for the harvest.
Harvesting and wine production
As the last days of summer draw near, the sun rises later and sets earlier, and autumn arrives, in peaceful tranquillity. The air is calm, the sun takes its time to complete its work and the grapes finally ripen. These few phrases perfectly sum up the period, almost suspended in time, before the frenetic harvest begins, the culmination of a whole year's work. The grapes are harvested by hand according to their ripeness, then sorted and de-stalked (the stalk is separated from the fruit) leaving only the quintessence, which will determine the greatness of the vintage.
The fruit is placed in a vat and the temperature is gradually raised so that fermentation can begin. Thanks to technology and precise temperature control, the fermentation is fully controlled. Two weeks later, when the colours, tannins and principal aromas have delivered their full potential, it's time to drain the vats. This is the moment of truth, each vat containing a wine with its own unique personality. The best wines are selected for Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion and placed in new barrels for 20 to 24 months. Ageing helps to develop the wine, gently oxygenate it and form its character. The wine is then bottled to continue the slow ageing process.
Right bank Château Quintus
In 2011, the Domaine Clarence Dillon team began playing a new tune, taking a new terroir on the Right Bank under its wing. Château Quintus is at the South-western end of the Saint-Émilion plateau, sharing this beautiful location with some of the most famous names in the appellation. This exceptional site enjoys a unique terroir: perched on a limestone promontory overlooking the whole of the Dordogne valley, the Château Quintus vines extend over a stunning landscape. The originality of the terroir lies in its diversity of soils, slopes and aspects, all contributing to produce what is undoubtedly one of the very best Saint-Emilion wines.
Saint-Émilion, the unique Château Quintus terroir
Perched on a limestone promontory (knoll) at 62 m in altitude, overlooking the whole of the Dordogne valley, the Château Quintus vines extend over a stunning landscape. Quintus benefits from exceptional biodiversity, including oak woods, hornbeam copses and the acacia and willow trees that adorn the magnificent grounds around the residence. The uniqueness of this superb microclimate lies in the diversity of its soils, slopes and aspects. The main feature of the soil is a succession of limestone strata on all the south-facing slopes of the plateau. To the north of the property, the limestone is replaced by a clay-limestone mixture and by gravel soil that faces south.
The southern hillside is mostly planted with Merlot. The grapes ripen early on the limestone slopes, as they face south. These plots guarantee optimum maturity and a high concentration of tannins, resulting in the famous strength of Château Quintus. The northern slopes are planted with Cabernet Franc and produce the finest Cabernets in the Libournais region. The healthiness of the vines and the late harvests mean we can wait until the grapes are perfectly ripe. The 28-hectare vineyard contains 66% Merlot Noir, 26% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, with an average vine age of 30 years.
Harvesting and wine production
The grapes are harvested by hand, using small crates. The bunches are placed on a vibrating table that removes all the little stalks and other debris. They are then transferred to the sorting table, where six people remove the leaves and any fruit that is not sufficiently ripe or damaged.
After passing through the stalk separator, removing the stalks that can give the wine a bitter, green taste, the grapes are selected by optical sorting. They are sucked up by a flow of air and anything that is not perfectly spherical, such as stalk fragments or damaged grapes, is rejected. Only perfect grapes will reach their final destination: the vats. The grapes are then taken to a conveyor belt and just before they fall, are lightly crushed to release a little of the juice for vinification. The main stage of grape sorting takes place in the vines, just after ripening - the fruit that ripens too slowly is rejected, to ensure the harvest is as uniform as possible - but the final stage, in the cellar, guarantees extra enjoyment when it comes to drinking.
After sorting, alcoholic fermentation takes place in wooden vats, with stainless steel vats used for alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. During maceration, the wine is tasted regularly.
The fundamental stage of the blending process comes next, as each vat is tasted until the blend is considered satisfactory. This is a long, rigorous process, essential to understanding the structure of a new wine. The same process is used for Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, making this the decisive moment of the winemaking year.