Next Veronique led us indoors to understand better the wine-making process at Haut-Bailley. We started in the fermentation room where the concrete vats stood side by side on two sides of the room. This is usually the first place the grapes come inside after sorting and de-stemming. It was surprising to see so many concrete fermentation vats in France because in the US we see mainly steel and wood vats to ferment wines. There are steel tanks that are used to ferment the second and third label wines. The second and third wines of a Chateau are the plots of wine that do not make the cut into the Grand Vin that allow for a better Grand Vin, or first wine, because it allows for a stricter selection process of what juice makes it into the Grand Vin. We later made our way to a transition room where the wine goes from tank to barrel to age in newly toasted or once used French oak barrique. The Grand Vin is aged in 50-60 new French oak, the second wine is aged in 20% new oak. The barrel room was cool and dark, as it should be so these wines can rest from 18-24 months before they are ready for bottling. Once they are bottled they are stored in the cellar on their sides for 1 year before they are given a label and then shipped around the world to consumers that likely paid for the wine via the futures process 2-3 years prior to this point.
2007 La Parde de Haut-Bailly (2nd wine) – A typical Grave nose of scorched earth with bright red fruits. Excellent acidity, great with food, good balance if a little lean because of the weak 2007 vintage conditions.
2004 Chateau Haut-Brion – Earthy, quite terroir driven with leather, deep, yet bright red fruits like cassis and cherry, the mid-palate expands with a clear and precise expression of terroir, with some cigar box, good balance and length for the vintage.
What came next was an immensely good sign of things to come. We were brought a tree like instrument that had glass blown bowls hanging from it like ornaments. Inside of each of these glass blown ornaments was a tasty bite combining traditional and exotic ingredients that woke up our palates with a delectable punch of flavor and creativity. Oyster and pineapple in one, foie gras mouse and caviar in another, and the last one I recall something with those wonderful truffles and caviar! We toasted to a start our wonderful evening and savored our first bites. I perused the wine list that was chock full of Saint-Emilion wines I had never heard of. We found a wonderful wine from a small Chateau that made old school claret. I had never heard of them and have only seen the wine for sale once since we have been back here in the USA. We wanted an older vintage with some age so that it would be more elegant and not overpower the meal so we chose a 1998. 1998 was a stellar year on the right bank and the wine had great tannic structure, yet had wonderful finesse and elegance.