The 2021 Haut-Bailly is built around 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, the blend employing less Merlot and more Petit Verdot this year since the latter was not affected by frost. It was picked between September 27 and October 11 and matured in 50% new oak with 10% vin de presse. Allowed to open in the glass, it unfurls to reveal blackberry, briar, touches of crushed stone and cedar. The taut, fresh palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit and fine acidity. This is back to the older style of Haut-Bailly in some ways; less opulent, in keeping with the style of the vintage, and delivering good weight on the finish, even if there is not the persistent aftertaste of previous vintages. The great virtue of this Haut-Bailly is the sapidity that marks the conclusion. The kind of Pessac-Léognan that needs to be decanted then poured at the dinner table.
Drink 2029 - 2055
Neal Martin, vinous.com, (May 2022)
Impresses from the first moment with its enveloping nose, and purity of flavour. Plenty of estate signature, with finely grained tannins and creamy black fruit that is concentrated with density through the mid palate but not opulent, delivering cocoa bean, slate, cassis and gunsmoke personality and poise. One of the few where I can really see the comparison to 1996, or perhaps 2000, with firm tannins that are subdued but with clear ageing potential. An excellent Haut-Bailly, with a small 19hl/h yield, meaning that in this first year with the new cellar they used just 20 of the smallest size vats (out of 50 in total). Harvest September 27 to October 11. Axel Marhal consultant.
Drink 2028 - 2044
Jane Anson, janeanson.com (May 2022)
A classic in the making, the 2021 Haut-Bailly wafts from the glass with aromas of dark berries and wild plums mingled with sweet spices, loamy soil, raw cocoa and violets. Medium to full-bodied, seamless and concentrated, with bright acids, ultra-refined tannins and a long, penetrating finish, it's a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, only 22% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. With yields of a mere 19 hectoliters per hectare, it's impressively intensely flavored despite its quintessentially elegant, classically proportioned profile. In many respects, it may represent the Cabernet-driven modern-day alter ego of the superb Merlot-dominant 1998 Haut-Bailly.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (Apr 2022)
Elegant and flowing with mineral, dark fruit and smoky notes. Plenty of freshness, the fruit juicy and gourmand. Grainy tannins and a saline finish. Less grand scale than recent years but harmony and balance prevail.
Drink 2027 - 2038
James Lawther, jancisrobinson.com (May 2022)
Lots of graphite and crushed-stone character with redcurrants and pine needles. Medium body with silky and layered tannins. Pretty balance and elegance. 65% cabernet sauvignon, 22% merlot, 10% petit verdot and 3% cabernet franc.
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (May 2022)
About this WINE
Château Haut-Bailly is a Graves Cru Classé estate that has really hit form in the last 5-7 years. Haut-Bailly was bought by the Sanders family in 1955 and was run by Jean Sanders until 1998 when Robert G. Wilmers, an American banker, purchased it. It is located in the commune of Léognan, which is usually more associated with white wine production.
Haut-Bailly has 28 hectares of vineyards which are very well sited on high, gravelly ground just east of Léognan village. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (25%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). It is matured in small oak barriques (50% new) for 15 months and is bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Ch. Haut-Bailly makes small quantities of a rosé from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, preferring to use the single varietal to maintain freshness in the blend. The wine is fermented 1/3 in new oak barrels and 2/3 in stainless steel at 16°C.
Haut-Bailly is renowned for its smoothness and silkiness but, since the mid 1990s, the wines have better depth of fruit as well as more grip, concentration and body. They are now amongst the top echelons of Pessac-Léognan wines.
In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the classed growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.