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New reference dates Haut-Brion to 1500s

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A new historical reference mentions Bordeaux first growth Haut-Brion in 1521, over 100 years before Samuel Pepys’ famous diary entry.

The famed English diarist mentioned drinking “Ho Bryan” in 1663 and the estate is mentioned in the cellar book of Charles II in 1660 but the new shows that the estate was in existence over a century before, with two documents from the early 16th century noting orders of wine from a Pessac estate called “Aubrion”.

The documents were uncovered in the Gironde Departmental archives by art historian Laurent Chavier as part of the “Historical Challenge” laid down by the estate’s owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, in May of last year.

The challenge was for a researcher to uncover a reference to the estate that pre-dated the 1660 mention.

The oldest of the two new mentions dates to 21 January 1521 and is written in French (rather than Gascon) and concerns the sale of a perpetual annuity in wine between Jean de Monque, lord of the locality of Monque and a merchant of Bordeaux, Guilhem de Mailhois.

de Monque writes that he will repay the loan of 400 Bordeaux francs (around €50,000 today) with an annual delivery of “four pipes of wine” (eight barriques or 1,800 litres) from “the place known as Aubrion” and that if there is not enough of that wine then he must provide the shortfall with wine of a similar quality.

The original reference states: “« quatre pipes de vin, seront du cru des vignes appartenant audit de Monque du lieu appelé Aubrion, appartenant audit vendeur. Lesquelles sont sises derrière son bourdieu assis audit lieu appelé du Brion, en la paroisse Saint-Martin de Pessac, ensemble des vignes de Pins Bouquet, de la Gravette et de Cantegrit, le tout appartenant audit seigneur de Monque, assis en Graves de Bordeaux et si cas était que ne vint aucuns fruits de raisins qui fussent pour satisfaire lesdites quatre pipes de vin de rente, bon, pur et net et marchand, le dit vendeur sera tenu lui en bailler d’autres aussi bon provenu du cru desdites vignes dessus déclarées ».

“Four pipes of wine, will be from the vineyard (cru) belonging to the said de Monque from the place known as Aubrion, belonging to the said seller. The said vines being found behind his smallholding established in the said place known as Le Brion, in the parish of Saint-Martin de Pessac, all of the vines of Pins Bouquet, la Gravette and Cantegrit, all belonging to the said lord of Monque, domiciled in Graves in Bordeaux, and if there are no grapes to fill the said four pipes of wine as an annuity – good, pure and clean and sellable, the said seller will be obliged to provide him with others that are just as good from the vineyard of the said abovementioned vines”.

The second reference dates from 1 September 1526 and concerns the sale of “two barrels of clairet or red wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion in Graves”, which is being sold to Pierre Gassies and Pierre Mulle (possibly merchants) by a woman, Esclarmonde de Lagarde.
As the contact is made before the harvest, allowance is made for its colour and concentration hence the reference to red or “clairet” (a dark pink colour).

Rupert Millar

3rd October 2014

The Drink Business 

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