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Château Haut-Bailly 1995

Château Haut-Bailly 1995

I don’t generally make New Year resolutions, perhaps because it seems to me they are inevitably broken, resulting in disappointment and self-doubt. The simplest way to avoid such life-plan let-downs that is to never to make any resolutions in the first place. This is a scheme that seems to have worked for me for many years now.

I do occasionally resolve to feature more of a certain type of wine in my Weekend Wine slot though. Last year I decided I wanted to feature more wines from Bordeaux, the proviso being that they should be from off the beaten track, and away from the big appellations (and steering clear of some of the big price tags in the process). Both the 2010 Les Trois Petiotes from the Côtes de Bourg appellation, and the 2008 Château Cassagne Haut-Canon La Truffière from Canon-Fronsac seemed to fit the bill, but after that the whole concept ground to a halt. I failed. It was another well-meant resolution (although not a New Year one) down the drain.

You might think I would have learnt my lesson, but here we go again with another resolution. I am setting the bar fairly low with this one though. This year I resolve to bring some more mature wines up from the cellar, and hopefully some will be suitable for writing about as my Weekend Wine. It shouldn’t be too hard a resolution to keep, after all with the passing of each New Year’s Eve every bottle in my cellar is another year older, and as every one was bought with the intention of drinking it (rather than as an investment) some of my older bottles deserve to be suitably dispatched.

Château Haut-Bailly 1995

Having included no older Bordeaux in my recently published 1995 at Twenty Years tasting this is obviously where I should start, so here goes with a wine that this year celebrates its 21st birthday. The 1995 Château Haut-Bailly comes from the pre-Wilmers era, when the estate was owned by and was entirely under the direction of the Sanders family, following its acquisition by Daniel Sanders in the mid-20th century.

The wine unsurprisingly shows a maturing hue in the glass, although it is far from suggesting an ancient or decrepit state. There is plenty of good pigment here still, the core dark, the rim showing a gently faded, dusty rim. The nose feels very firm and tautly defined, with a certain gravelly character to it, and battling against this there is a perfumed, blackcurrant-skin scent. It has a cool, grey-smoke purity, adding some lift to the scents of dried and desiccated fruits. The immediate sensation on the palate is very much in accord with the nose, a precise frame of stony definition showing first, ahead of the very savoury panoply of flavours, dried berry skins, black olives and green peppercorn. Overall this is cool, correct, charming and it feels substantial, although the wine itself is in fact gently textured, with fading dry tannins in the finish, giving it a long and grippy hold on the palate. A delightful wine, definitely one for the table, its old-school structure working in its favour here.

I have to confess I adore this style of wine, dark and savoury, concentrated and yet not overly fleshy, rich, textured or sweet. It is a style that seems increasingly rare in Bordeaux these days. It will be interesting to see how more recent vintages from Château Haut-Bailly compare when they too hit their 21st birthday. 18/20 (4/1/16)

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