Friday, July 24, 2009

Chateau Haut-Bailly, Cru Classe de Graves


Only about a 5 minute drive and we arrived at Haut-Bailly to be greeted by Noemie, the Marketing/PR Director who provided an excellent tour. We started in the vineyards, where we saw that they had a mixed field blend of cab, merlot, and CF – fascinating. The soil is gravel and sand – very porous and as they are on a small hill (48 meters), it is excellent for cabernet sauvignon of which they have 64% planted on their 30 hectares of red.

Some of the vines are quite old – up to 90 years. Double guyot, 8 buds. 1x1 spacing, 10,000 vines per hectare, achieving 45 hectoliters per hectare. Noemie was the first person to use the word “sustainable farming” instead of lutte raisonee. They perform green harvesting as needed.


Winemaking: triage, destem/crush, ferment in cement tanks ranging in size from 35 to 70 hectoliters. They begin with a 3 day cold maceration, and use both selected and natural yeast. Total maceration is 2 to 3 weeks with gentle pumpovers (remontage) twice a day – 28C. They prefer elegant wine with soft tannins. Free run and a minor percentage of Bucher pressed wine goes into 50-60% new oak for ML and 16 months aging in medium toast with 8 coopers. They blend in May and do a gentle filter before bottling. With 20 full-time employees they produce 150,000 bottles per year.


An interesting discussion we had with Noemie was regarding the benefits of cement over stainless steel. All of the chateaux seem to differ in their preferences, with some using large oak foudres and others using stainless, cement, or a combination. Obviously foudres are much more expensive and difficult to clean – so that decision is clear to me. However, cement and stainless are both easy to clean and maintain. She said their winemaker’s philosophy is that cement is better because it provides a more homogenous fermentation – just like cooking with clay casserole pans verses stainless steel pots. I thought this was an excellent analogy.


We tasted 4 wines: 2006 Le Parde de Haut-Bailly – red/purple; cassis and spicy nose/palate; soft tannins and med+ acid. Very approachable and easy to drink. 2006 Ch. Haut-Bailly – opaque red-purple; tight red fruit; highly concentrated with spice, minerals and velvety tannins. Long finish and good balance. 2003 Haut-Bailly – red-purple; ripe fruity nose; soft tannins with cherry on the palate, but fades a bit on the finish. 2008 Haut-Bailly – red-purple, almost opaque, and the most beautifully perfumed nose I smelled on the whole trip. The wine had spice, floral, plum and cassis, with excellent concentration and velvety tannins. Elegant but powerful.

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