Château Haut-Bailly vertical 
A vertical tasting, 1986-2010, of this highly regarded Graves (Bordeaux) property, with proprietor Véronique Sanders

Haut-Bailly is one of Bordeaux’ best wines, even if it keeps a somewhat lower profile than some of its more famous peers. Indeed, from 1870–1914 Haut-Bailly achieved the same price as the first growths. This was a remarkable chance to taste a range of different vintages side by side with Véronique Sanders (pictured above).

The property was purchased by her great grandfather, a Belgian wine merchant called Daniel Sanders, in 1955. At this stage, there were only 10 hectares of vines on the estate – a waste of an outstanding terroir. So Daniel replanted the vineyards, and eventually these were returned to their original size of 32 hectares.

In 1998, Haut-Bailly left the ownership of the Sanders family, and was purchased by Robert Wilmers. He retained the services of Véronique’s grandfather, Jean, and the Sanders family are thus still involved with Haut-Bailly. 

‘Haut-Bailly respects the customer with its stable pricing,’ says Véronique. ‘We don’t do speculative or ambitious pricing.’ They are also trying not to join the stampede to Asia and the USA. ‘We are not going to put all our eggs in one basket and target the USA or China,’ she says. ‘We are faithful to our traditional markets.’

The second label was first made in 1967 by Véronique’s grandfather, and since 1987 there has been a third label. Now, approximately 50% of production from the property is Grand Vin, 30% is second and 20% is third wine, although this will depend on the vintage.

‘Every year we start working in the vineyard thinking that we are going to make a Grand Vin,’ says Veronique. ‘There are no parcels dedicated to second wine. Our second wine is a true second wine.’

I asked about the samples for primeur each year, and how these were decided on. ‘We decide about the blend in January and then blend in April,’ says Véronique. ‘We have 6 different coopers. For primeur, we blend from different barrels.’

And have the way the wines are made changed at all of late? ‘2008, 2009 and 2010 are some of the most precise wines that we have made,’ she says. The style in the latter two does seem to be a bit different, perhaps a reflection of these vintage conditions.  But there has been no conscious change of style. ‘Over the last 10 years we have wanted to keep our soul but gain in density and intensity,’ says Véronique, pointing out that in the past, the great vintages were more-or-less an accident, whereas now they understand a lot more about what makes a great wine.

‘A great terroir can do 45/50 hectolitres/hectare,’ she says. ‘When we do just 36, as in 2010, it is a disaster for us.’


Château Haut-Bailly 1986 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
This is unusual in that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromatic, complex and mineral with some evolution on the nose. The palate is mellow, spicy and a bit earthy with nice tannic grip. A very stylish mature wine. 94/100  

Château Haut-Bailly 1989 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Slightly lifted nose of sweet cherry and berry fruits. Smooth, ripe, pure and open with elegant berry fruits on the palate, and silky tannins. Quite mature, but drinking perfectly now. Sweet, supple and smooth. 93/100

Château Haut-Bailly 1990 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Beautifully aromatic, sweet dark black cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice elegance. Quite sweet but also with nice density and some earthy notes. Silky, smooth and elegant with lovely maturity and some subtle undergrowth characters. 95/100

Château Haut-Bailly 1995 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Sweetly fruited and elegant, with lovely broad textured cherry and berry fruit. Quite dense and structured with notes of earth, tar and spice emerging from under the fruit. Grippy structure and a drying finish. 93/100

Château Haut-Bailly 1998 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Nicely elegant with some gravel and chalk notes. Quite silky in texture with stylish blackberry and black cherry fruit. Very nice tannins. Drinking beautifully now but still has some distance to go. 95/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2000 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet, slightly gravelly nose with lovely aromatics . Smooth, pure and quite elegant with cherry and blackberry fruit. The palate is fresh, elegant and well balanced with subtle hints of gravel and earth. Fresh, pure cherryish fruit. Nice structure here. 94/100

Château Haut-Bailly  2001 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot. Nice fresh, slightly lifted blackcurrant and blackberry fruit nose. The palate is fresh and structured; assured, with lovely depth and nice gravelly notes. Good concentration, with some firmness. Classic Graves. 94/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2002 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
‘We’re quite proud of our 2002,’ says Véronique. ‘It has a ripeness that wasn’t easy to achieve that year.’ Firm, grippy and angular with black cherry and plum fruit, and hints of roast coffee. Some gravelly structure. Fresh and not without elegance, the structure suggesting it has a good future ahead of it. 92/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2003 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Veronique describes this as her Californian vintage. Sweet, aromatic, ripe berry fruits nose is fruity and quite seductive. The palate is supple, soft-textured and ripe with some chalky tannic structure. Ripe but still elegant. An outlier. 90/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2004 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Lovely rich, ripe, sweet, elegant cherry and berry fruits. Firm but fine-grained tannic structure. Silky and seductive yet classic Graves with real finesse. A lovely wine, showing power and elegance, that needs more time. 95/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2005 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
This was a hot vintage harvested only in the mornings, because of the high temperatures. It was the first time this had been done, and the harvest took 11 days in all. Taut, mineral blackcurrant and blackberry fruit nose has some sternness to it. The palate is firmly structured with high acidity and firm tannins. Blackcurrant and berry fruits dominate this dense wine, and the firm structure is currently locking everything down. Not for drinking young. 93/100 (but with the potential for a higher score in a decade)

Château Haut-Bailly 2006 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Sweet, elegant and aromatic blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Inviting and quite open. The palate shows some lushness and sweetness: it’s ripe and approachable with lovely fruit and a nice mineral dimension, as well as good structure. Classic and nicely balanced. 94/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2007 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Sweet blackberry fruit nose with some gravel and roast coffee notes. The palate has nice fresh green notes as well as ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Fresh and appealing with some structure. I actually really like the subtle greenness. 92/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2008 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Ripe, aromatic cherry and berry fruit on the nose with some subtle roasted oak. The palate is taut and fresh with new oak showing. Quite ripe and supple with firm structure and good acidity. Classic style, but in need of time to  integrate the components. 93/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2009 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Sweet, almost lush black cherry and blackberry fruit nose. Very pure and sweet and aromatic, and fruit-driven. The palate is ripe, lush and generous with an open character. Dominated by smooth, ripe, primary black fruits at the moment. Deceptively simple. 93/100

Château Haut-Bailly 2010 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
This was a cask sample. Lovely sweet, aromatic, intense berry and blackcurrant fruit nose. Seductive and intense. The palate is sweet, concentrated and intense with amazingly vivid, lush ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit, backed up by oak spice. Forward, seductive and powerful. 93–96/100

See also:

Chateau Pontet Canet vertical tasting
1961 horizontal tasting, Bordeaux 
2000 in Bordeaux

Wines tasted 10/11  
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