Château Haut-Bailly, 1998 – 2021

During the course of the last two decades, during which I have been a regular visitor to Bordeaux, the face of this region has changed appreciably. The swell of investment has been palpable, coming partly off the success of recent vintages and the high prices achieved (the number of renovation projects in the region increased significantly after the 2009 and 2010 vintages), and partly off the continued influx of new sources of finance, wealthy individuals, corporations and financial fund-keepers hungry for a slice of the action. There was a time, only a few years ago, when it seemed there were more cranes dotted along the Médoc than there were châteaux. And during the years I have been coming here there are a couple of properties which have undergone not just one major rebuild, but two.

In very recent years, however, two projects have been more notable than many, both involving the construction of entirely new, 21st-century cellars. In each case the cellars were required to offer everything the modern winemaker desires, including multi-level facilities from reception, down to the vats, and down again to the barrels, to facilitate working entirely by gravity. And this had to be achieved while seamlessly slotting these new buildings into a landscape the history of which dates back centuries. Long-established vineyards populated with precious old vines were not to be touched; rooflines were not to be broken; the view of the châteaux was to remain clear and unfettered.

This is quite a tall order.

The first of these new cellars I have already described in detail, following a visit back in November 2021 and a tasting of older vintages (back to 1946) in 2022 to celebrate their inauguration. That was at Château Figeac, which later that year went on to secure promotion to the premier grand cru classé rung of the St Emilion classification.

Château Haut-Bailly

The other is, of course, Château Haut-Bailly. As with Château Figeac I also first toured these cellars in November 2021. In this update I report on these new facilities, accompanied by new notes from a vertical tasting of 25 vintages, held in early 2023. This was not to mark the completion of the new cellars, however, but to celebrate 25 years of ownership of Château Haut-Bailly by the American Wilmers family.

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