On the Trail

Elegance and Finesse at Haut-Bailly

David Driscoll

Château Haut-Bailly can trace its origins back to the 16th century, but it’s been managed by a member of the Sanders family since the Belgian merchant Daniel Sanders bought the property in 1955 and began to restore the quality and reputation of the wine. Today it’s managed by his granddaughter Veronique Sanders, who was there to greet us as soon as we walked in the door this past April. It was opening night in Bordeaux; our first appointment after arriving in town. The event was split into three main rooms, each featuring a different expression from the 2015 vintage; the standard estate wine, along with the second wine La Parde de Haut-Bailly and a new project called Château Le Pape that they began producing in 2012. We shook hands, kissed cheeks, and grabbed a glass. We were thirsty!

The Graves region itself is named after the gravel that makes up much of the area’s soil content, so the wines of Pessac-Leognan tend to have a mineral-driven core that separates them from their other colleagues in the Mèdoc. That classic Gravsian came through beautifully on the back end of the 2015 Haut-Bailly when we finally got the chance to take a sip of the grand vin. The mineral notes were finessed and fine alongside all the complexity of the cuvée. Finesse is a word you'll hear a lot when describing 2015 Bordeaux because the wines are so pretty. It applies entirely and perhaps most applicably to the Haut Bailly. Underneath gorgeously lush fruit were fine tannins that cloaked the wine with elegance and finesse. Clyde was taking copious amounts of notes. Alex was right there in his ear: "If the rest of the Bordeaux vintage is this good, we're going to have a lot of good wine." My colleague Phil said: "Black cherry and dark fruits, spice, anise, and mineral notes. The purity of this wine is simply amazing!"

While finesse is the theme of the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux, elegance is the word to describe both wines of Haut-Bailly and the essence of the château itself. Veronique is pure elegance, through and through. Her taste, her manner, and her style are as breathtaking as the cuvée itself. She's like a timeless actress; a French Audrey Hepburn. Everything about her is tasteful. As we entered the parking lot that night and saw the sea of cars packing the estate grounds we realized we were in the midst of a seriously elegant party. Women were exiting black luxury vehicles decked out in Chanel and Louis Vuitton, while a staff of tuxedoed servers raced to supply them with Champagne as they entered. As soon as I realized the reality of the situation I was instantly over my jet-lag and ready to party. This wasn’t going to be some drawn-out wine pairing dinner with quiet conversation and lots of glad-handing. This was a full scale party on the grounds of a picturesque Bordeaux property with style and panache; a real soirée like you see in old movies. Everything at Haut-Bailly that night was about elegance. 

But elegance and finesse are still within reach this year. While other properties have bumped their prestige well over the $150 mark this year, the 2015 Haut-Bailly came in at a respectable $99.99. For a wine this good and this well-received critically, it's nice to know even guys like me can still afford a few bottles. Luxury hasn't been priced out in 2015.

-David Driscoll