Chateau Haut Bailly vertical and lunch, 1986-2010

Some days I really feel I am quite lucky to have my job. Actually, most days. And I suppose you couldn’t really call it a job.

Today I attended a lunch at Berry Bros & Rudd focusing on Chateau Haut Bailly, the Graves (Bordeaux) property that is managed by Veronique Sanders (above), who attended also. We began with a vertical tasting from 2000-2010, and followed this up with a lunch at which we drank the 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 1998 vintages.

The guest list was quite impressive – indeed, I felt lucky to have been invited. Gathered were Oz Clarke, Steven Spurrier, Victoria Moore, Anthony Rose, Neal Martin and Jancis Robinson, plus Simon Staples, Max Lalondrelle and Vicky Williams from Berrys.

The wines were superb. The older vintages were all singing, with lovely personality and elegance. They predate the new regime: Haut Bailly was purchased by Robert Wilmers in 1998, and Veronique, grand-daughter of the previous owners was appointed to run things that year. 1990 and 1998, in particular, were beautifulle expressive and elegant.

Of the run 2000-2010, the highlights for me were 2004 and 2006. Just brilliant. 2005 no doubt will be great, but is difficult to approach now. 2003 is the Californian wine, as Veronique jokes. 2009 speaks more of the vintage than the terroir. 2002 is a classic for long ageing from a difficult vintage. 2010 could be quite remarkable in time – it’s a stunning, brooding, ripe, spicy wine at the moment, but has perhaps the potential to be a true great. Of course, this is just a barrel sample of the final blend, but it’s remarkable nonetheless.

It’s such a treat to be able to taste through a big vertical tasting like this. You get a feel for the terroir, and how it is interpreted in different vintages. Haut Bailly rocks.

We also learned that Veronique often calls Simon Staples while he is in the bath, and that Veronique, Simon and I share the same birth year. Which wasn’t a good one in Bordeaux. This vertical showed that bad vintages, of which there used to be quite a few, are rare these days.

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