While the estate known as Chateau Haut-Bailly dates back to 1461, its wine production began in 1530, falling into the hands of the de Leuvarde and Le Bailly families in 1630. It was purchased in 1998 by Robert G Wilmers, a Harvard-educated banker, and his French wife Elisabeth and under their care, the estate has begun producing some of the best wines in its history. The cellars and production procedures were renovated and modernised and this year, the Chateau itself was awarded government recognition of its cultural and vinious heritage.
The estate’s second wine, La Parde de Haut Bailly, was released in 1967, first sold under the name of Domaine de La Parde and changed to its current iteration in 1979. A blend of 47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc, the 2016 has been widely praised as a “gorgeous” second wine with “feisty” characteristics and a smooth, supple texture.
Though wine has been made in Pessac-Léognan since ancient Roman times, it was only in 1987 that the neighbouring villages of Pessac and Léognan were singled out from the surrounding Graves region and given their own appellation. The designation acknowledges that Pessac-Léognan is home to the most acclaimed properties of Bordeaux’s Graves region, such as the Premier Cru Château Haut-Brion.
The vineyards of Pessac-Léognan, just south of the city of Bordeaux, are crowded by suburban sprawl. About 3,000 acres are dedicated mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown for red wines, with a small portion devoted to Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and other grapes for white wines. Pessac-Léognan red wines are elegant and concentrated, with medium to full body. They offer distinct aromas and flavours of mineral and earth, and can have lush fruit or smoky tobacco character. Pessac-Léognan white wines are dry, unlike the famous sweet white wines from nearby Sauternes. They are generally crisp and minerally with citrus notes, often with rich character from oak aging and capable of improving with additional age.