If you must touch, do it gently.
Château Haut-Bailly’s proud position tells a tale of enduring good fortune, perched atop the gentle slopes of Bordeaux's historic Graves region. Ancient archives prove that from as early as 1461 these lands were already recognised as excellent for the cultivation of vines. Centuries of commitment and unwavering conviction have established Haut-Bailly as a visionary estate, but one which also possesses a wealth of memories.
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Haut-Bailly's ancient roots
The vineyard of Haut-Bailly as we know it today began to take shape when the Goyanèche and then the Daitze family acquired and unified the best vine growing plots in the 1530s. The estate remained in the Daitze Family until 1630 when it was purchased by Firmin Le Bailly and Nicolas de Leuvarde, wealthy Parisian bankers and lovers of Graves wines.
Following substantial investments, the property continued to be passed down the Bailly family line until 1736, when Irishman Thomas Barton took the helm. His strong business network allowed him to spread word about the quality of Château Haut-Bailly at a time when French ‘claret' was beginning its rise to stardom in England and Ireland.
The evolution of an identity
Throughout the 18th century powerful, well-connected and ambitious owners drove Haut-Bailly to new heights, including Christophe Lafaurie de Monbadon and his son Laurent who went on to become Mayor of Bordeaux in 1805.
In 1872, Alcide Bellot des Minières acquired the estate and constructed the imposing, stone chateau building that remains to this day. He pioneered a precise, science-driven approach to viticulture, becoming a figure of legend widely known as the 'King of Vintners'. Thanks to Alcide's incredible drive, Haut-Bailly experienced a remarkable golden age, commanding the same prices as the First Growths: Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion.
Following Alcide’s death, Haut-Bailly experienced a period of instability, regularly changing hands up until 1955. Nonetheless, the value and quality of its wines were never called into question, leading naturally to the classification of the property as a ‘Cru Classé de Graves’ in 1953.
The purchase of Haut-Bailly in 1955 by Daniel Sanders, a Belgian negociant, opened up a new era. Daniel and his son, Jean, recomposed the vineyard, renovated the winery and took pains to select only grapes from the best vines for their grand vin. They succeeded in giving the wines a unique style and reputation, and Haut-Bailly recovered its image as a great wine on the international marketplace.
An investment of passion
In July 1998 Château Haut-Bailly was purchased by American Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO of the M&T Bank based in Buffalo, New York. A lifelong lover of Bordeaux Grands Crus, Bob is behind every strategic decision, ensuring that Haut-Bailly follows a path of progression and continuity whilst remaining ever-respectful of its heritage.
After Mr. Wilmers purchased the property, he first asked Jean Sanders to stay on board, and then Véronique Sanders, fourth generation, to serve as general manager, overseeing a far-reaching investment programme to modernise the vineyards, cellars, offices, and château itself.
Bob and his wife Elisabeth share a love for art and French culture. For them, Haut-Bailly goes well beyond a financial investment: it is a joint passion.
A patchwork of vines spreads across ridges of sandy, gravel-studded soils that sit atop a layer of sandstone. The soils are petrified with the remains of prehistoric fossil shells that descend deep into the earth, offering exceptional drainage and rare minerals. At the heart of it all, a stone’s throw from the chateau building, lies Haut-Bailly’s most precious jewel: an eclectic cohort of ancient vines that each year bestow soulfulness and timeless continuity upon the wine.
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Diversity, giving complexity and consistency
Château Haut-Bailly is one of the most prestigious Crus Classés de Graves, situated at the gateway to the city of Bordeaux. Its 30-hectare (74-acre) vineyard lies at the heart of the Pessac-Léognan appellation, on the left bank of the Garonne river.
The vineyard is a mosaic: certain plots lie a full 20 metres higher than others, demonstrating the topological diversity for which Haut-Bailly is famous, and which allows for consistently superb quality. The variety of soils and the balance between higher and lower plots, which put greater or lesser hydric stress upon the vines, gives Haut-Bailly a unique ability to adapt and perform in both wetter and drier vintages.
A treasure preserved for over a century
Haut-Bailly has successfully maintained 4 hectares (10 acres) of century-old vines, planted by Alcide Bellot des Minières, owner of Château Haut-Bailly at the end of the 19th century. This single plot is unusually interwoven with 6 varieties of vine: 1/12 Carmenère, 1/12 Merlot, 1/12 Cabernet Franc, 1/12 Malbec, 1/12 Petit Verdot and 7/12 Cabernet Sauvignon.
These vines are the heart of Haut-Bailly, a fundamental part of its genetic makeup. Their rarity, mystique and superb fruit are to be tasted in each bottle of Château Haut-Bailly.
Confidence and respect for the quality of Haut-Bailly's fruit demands gentleness and minimal intervention in the winery to nurture wines of purity, charm and precision. Each subplot is harvested ‘à la carte’ to ensure that early-ripening Merlot and late-ripening Cabernet are picked in their most perfect state. Technology is placed at the service of mother nature to add precision and reduce compromise.
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A delicate touch
At Haut-Bailly there is deep-rooted understanding that delicate, painstaking work contributes to the refinement of the wines. Emphasis is placed on manual intervention in the vineyard, carried out by people who are exceptionally invested in their craft. Sorting begins in the vines, with harvesters seeking to eliminate any unwanted berries. After de-stemming, the grapes pass along a single, gently vibrating sorting table where hands are at the ready to pluck out any less-than-perfect berries before they pass directly into vats.
Preservation of uniqueness and character
Plot-by-plot vinification enables superior accuracy in winemaking and blending, making it possible to achieve the fullest expression of every micro-parcel of the vineyard. Thirty concrete vats allow the evolution of each plot to be closely surveyed. Our aim is to preserve the fruit and extract velvety tannins with the aid of temperature regulation and gentle remontages. Unique character and individuality are preserved and analysed so that they can be blended masterfully together, allowing the sensuality of the Graves terroir to shine through in Haut-Bailly’s wines. Ageing lasts for 16 to 18 months, and takes place in French oak barrels selected from 6 different cooperages.
A philosophy of innovation and a desire to push boundaries compels Haut-Bailly to embark on projects that are truly groundbreaking: from research into key molecules involved in the evolution of wine aromas with ageing to working with experts on the development of more gentle pruning techniques that respect the sap flow of the vines. Oenologist Gabriel Vialard, Technical Director at Haut-Bailly, drives progressive change through experimentation while perpetuating the estate’s traditional values. A discreet but efficient artisan, his hands-on approach to winemaking is tempered by an inclination for reflection and constant re-evaluation.
A long-term collaboration with Bordeaux University contributes to educating and enabling the next generation of winemakers, while membership of several research groups has brought tangible results and technological breakthroughs.
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