We were delighted to welcome Véronique Sanders, Managing Director of Château Haut-Bailly, to AWC earlier this week for an insightful and engaging vertical of the estate’s wines.
During the Champagne reception, which featured our superior house selection, Champagne Franck Bonville, guests enjoyed canapés of smoked salmon and sweet potato rosti, confit of pork belly with quince aioli, and chervil pancakes with aubergine caviar and pomegranate. Certainly this was a very delicious way to start off the evening!
Véronique started out by giving everyone a thorough overview of Pessac-Léognan and Château Haut-Bailly’s place in the Graves region. Explaining the long history of the property, she revealed that in the beginning of the 20th century, Château Haut Bailly was actually considered amongst the Top 8 of the greatest Bordeaux estates, alongside the likes of Château d’Yquem, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Ausone, Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion. Amazingly, she even had an original advertorial print to prove the point!
The Sanders family had owned Château Haut-Bailly for 4 consecutive generations until 1998 when it was sold to an American banker. While Véronique admitted that it was a difficult decision to sell the estate, she was pleased to have been appointed Managing Director by the new owner and she reported that she still works just as passionately as she would if the estate was still her own. She was also pleased to note that they are very much on track to achieve the objectives that they had originally set out for themselves during the sale proceedings.
Responsible for every major decision at Château Haut-Bailly and travelling over 50% of the time, Sanders maintains this is a, “fantastic profession– one day you can be in the vineyard, the next in the cellars, and the following in another country altogether promoting the wines you produce.”
Véronique strives to maintain the identity of Château Haut-Bailly year after year. If they’re not happy with how a vintage shows, they simply won’t bottle it. That, she comments, “is a very expensive decision to make, believe me!” However, if they’re not convinced that the wine will achieve anything less than the excellence and elegance they expect, then they also wouldn’t want their consumers to experience it and they are willing to take the loss of not releasing the wine.
Following the introductory overview, guests went on to experience the following, carefully paired vintages:
- Pair 1: 2010 Château Haut-Bailly and 2009 Château Haut-Bailly
- Pair 2: 2008 Château Haut-Bailly and 2006 Château Haut-Bailly
- Pair 3: 2005 Château Haut-Bailly and 2004 Château Haut-Bailly
- Pair 4: 2000 Château Haut-Bailly and 1998 Château Haut-Bailly
Beginning with the first pair, 2009 was described as being exceptionally charming with its long, silky finish. Véronique admitted that when 2010 vintage came along right after the success of the 2009 they were amazed that a wine of such high but equal quality could be produced. How could it be that the alcohol, sugars, tannins and acidity could be so high? “No one will ever believe us, we all thought!” With this, she also acknowledged the importance of wine critics and the key role that they play, “it’s great to produce a fantastic wine, but people need to be told about it.”
For Véronique, 2008 was a good, representative example of Château Haut-Bailly’s house style, with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot in the blend. As guests moved through the pairs, questions began to flow regarding her views on this particularity of this style and how it differs from the neighbouring estates, along with more technical queries on such areas as average annual production levels and the processes involved in harvest.
Reflecting, Véronique recalled a time she enjoyed a magnum of 1964 Château Haut-Bailly. She said she instantly recognised the taste, texture and aroma of the wine and that in tasting it she felt transported back to the times she spent with her grandfather as a young girl. Recalling this, she spoke of how wine can have quite strong emotional ties to certain points in someone’s life and that the taste and smell of a particular wine can easily transport you back to a specific memory.
The vote for Wine of The Night was overwhelming in favour of the 2000 vintage. Guests commented that although all of the vintages presented were remarkably consistent and pure, the 2000 was an outstanding and complex wine that showed beautiful development and yet promised a long life ahead of it still.
Guests were then given the opportunity to retaste each vintage and dine on a light, seasonal supper, while Véronique answered additional questions and wrapped up a thoroughly enjoyable and informative vertical.
The following day, The Drinks Business also had quite a nice article on the event. You can read it here.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our upcoming events at AWC Wine Academy in the near future, such as our 2005 Bordeaux Horizontal: Fine Wine Seminar on 23rd July, or our Private Collection Showcase: 1997 Piedmont & Tuscan Treasures on 4th September.