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Chateau Haut-Bailly
Terry Sullivan

Chateau Haut BaillySummary: A short drive south of the city of Bordeaux brings you to wine country. In the country setting there are hundreds of chateaus. Chateau Haut-Bailly has a unique vineyard planting and winery for you to explore. Although in the part of Bordeaux for white wines, expect to taste only reds.

We drove for less than an hour south of the city of Bordeaux. Most of the time driving was in city traffic though. There are large estate chateaus in the populous area prior to the setting turning into the French countryside. Chateau Haut-Bailly is in the countryside of Pessac-Leognon. This historic Grand has had vineyards on the property since the fourteenth century.

Chateau Haut BaillyVineyards

There are 30 hectares (about 75 acres) of vineyards planted in the red varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. Four hectares is a mixed planting of these varieties and over a century old. This is a unique planting of a vineyard in Bordeaux. Throughout this vineyard the mixed plantings include 7/12 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1/12 of each of the other Bordeaux varietal grapes. This old vine vineyard is hand harvested; the Merlot is picked on the first pass and the other varieties on the second pass.

Chateau Haut BaillyThe vineyard lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Garonne River. Summers are mostly hot and humid with plenty of sunshine. During the time of our July 2013 visit, the region experienced a cold wet spring that was just heating up. Grapevines are a few weeks behind the average timeline for this time of year. The river and ocean formed the soils of this area. The gravel soil provides great drainage and the formation of a very long root system.


The estate was built in the 17th century and has had several owners over time. Firmin le Bailly was the original owner of the property. In the early 1800s the estate was owned by the mayor of Bordeaux who hired a wine merchant from Ireland, Thomas Barton, to run the estate. The current chateau was built in 1872 by Alcide Bewllot des Minieres. He also improved the wine quality to the level of Premiers Grands Crus Classés.

Shortly after the estate was awarded Cru Classés de Graves, it was bought by a wine merchant from Belgium, Daniel Sanders. During his ownership and his son’s, modern equipment was installed. In 1998 the estate was bought by its current owner, Robert G. Wilmers, Chairman and CEO of M&T Bank. The new owner has invested in the latest technology for winemaking.

Chateau Haut BaillyWinery

The tank room has two walls of cement vats of differing capacities. These cement vats help to regulate the temperature of the wine. There is another room lined on two sides with stainless steel tanks. Grapes are sorted on sorting tables and a machine that can sort based on grape size. The grapes are then placed in the vats for fermentation and a maceration period of about three weeks. During pressing the free run wine is kept separate from the pressed wine.

Chateau Haut BaillyWine is placed in the barrels for the malolactic fermentation. After about ten months, the wines are tasted and blended. They are then returned to barrels for another several months of aging. Several different French cooperages are used for barrels, offering more complexity to the wines. The three barrel rooms have a total of 600 barrels. Each barrel is used for only three years then sold. Annual production averages 160,000 bottles.

Chateau Haut BaillyWines

We tasted two wines during our visit. The 2007 La Parde de Haut-Bailly was composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. The dark ruby colored wine offered dark fruits and leather with a touch of licorice on the aroma and taste. Tannins gave way to a fruity finish yielding to the oak influences. The 2007 Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classé was a dark ruby color. The blend for this wine was 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Black fruits, leather and bold tannins were characteristic for this wine.

Visit Chateau Haut-Bailly for a look at tradition and modernization in both the vineyard and winery.

Chateau Haut-Bailly
103 Avenue de Cadaujac
33850 Léognan - France

33 (0)5 56 64 75 11


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