A virtual tasting this evening with Veronique Saunders, compered by Sarah Kemp. We were down to visit Ch. Haut Bailey for lunch on 27 March before the coronavirus threw a spanner in the works, so this session assuaged that disappointment somewhat. The line up was impressive: 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 1998 and 1989. But I would have preferred one which included 2019, 2018 and 2016. I had a half bottle of 2004 on the side as my Brucie Bonus. Veronique, who reminds me of Madame Peignoir in Fawlty Towers, albeit in a good way, arrived on the scene in 1998, and she credits step improvements in quality at the estate first in the 2004 vintage and then again in 2008 vintage. Haut-Bailly is a single block estate dating back to 1613 with the highest plot in the appellation, which peaks at 48 metres where 120 year old vines reside. 2012 - quite closed now and not showing very much on the nose, but you get some rocky mineral notes, and later some good ripe red berry fruit. A good wine which needs a few years to come out of its shell, it is fresh and nicely balanced, but lacks richness and concentration, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You could say that it is a classic Englishman’s claret. If I was to attach a score it would be around 90. 2010 - the needle moves around the dial in every aspect with this wine because it is bigger in every way, particularly in its constitution, structure, power, richness, ripeness and concentration. But although it tips the scales at 14.3% abv it is not over the top in anyway and maintains impeccable balance and decorum. It is like a large muscular world-beating thoroughbred. Just so impressive. I would say 97 points. 2009 - weighs in a bit lower at 13.8% abv and is more inviting on the nose than the 10; it is more opulent, exotic and rounder. It has a marvellous seamless and silky mid-palate and a finish that goes on and on - for well over a minute. I marginally prefer this to the 2010 but they are both epic wines. Veronique said the 2019 is a carbon copy of this 2009, which I would give 98 points. 2005 - we come down to earth with quite a clunk; the 2005 is notable for its rumbustious, burly, tannins, which means it is completely unready to drink, unless you want to be a ‘baby murderer’ (VS) - the step down from the previous two wines is palpable though beneath the aggressive tannins you have a rich powerful wine from a hot vintage, which maintains reasonable balance, but you could say it is over-extracted as is the case elsewhere in this vintage. You need to wait at least a decade to drink this, when it might be due an upgrade from its interim score of 89 points. 2004 - from half bottle this is still backward and still needs 3-5 years, though is a better bet to drink now than the 2005. It is strict wine, but refreshingly cool-fruited. It did open a little bit after 10pm, five hours after opening, but if you have bottles of this try to hold off. It is similar to the 2012. 90 points. 1998 - also still quite strict and austere but with more tertiary tobacco notes. VS said the Merlot fruit was very fine in 1998 and two thirds of the wine was declassified to the Parde. It is still frankly too young and austere to drink now but has a pleasing energy, even electricity. 90 points. 1989 - a browner colour and a wine from a previous regime. It is pleasingly resolved and tertiary albeit somewhat shy and demure especially for the vintage. I got coffee and caramel tertiary notes and charcoal. After a while it grows on you and is an exquisite wine, albeit with an elegant and restrained, rather than exuberant, personality. An also ran in the context of this vintage. 91 points. Regarding other vintages, as noted VS she is very excited by 2019 which she even compares favourably to 2009 (RMP 100); she is highly complimentary about her 2018; she thinks the 2016 is similar to the 2010 with ‘great structure and depth’, while the 2015 she considers a ‘sexy beast’. She reserves special praise for her 2008, which she considers to be worthy as being ranked as a triumvirate with the 09 and 10, which should be taken with a pinch of salt. The 2000 is 50/50 cab/Merlot and a ‘ying-yang’ vintage but she concedes it not at the same level as 2009 and 2010. Her favourite wines to pull out of the cellar now are 2001, a superb cab sav year, and 2006, which has emerged from a relatively closed period. Their accent now, as it is across Bordeaux, is to make less extracted wines. Haut-Bailly wines seem to be austere and take an awful long time to come around in cool vintages and therefore need food; I remember coming away with the same impression at Simon Grant’s Haut-Bailly dinner at the Medlar several years ago. However this estate seems to excel in big vintages especially 2009 and 2010, though not in 2005, and the 2015, 16, 18 and 19 are probably close to the 2009 and 2010. One interesting theme from the three Bordeaux zoom sessions I have attended is how much better than 2005 are the 2009 and 2010 vintages, which have far better tannin management, and less emphasis on extraction. I own cases/half cases of 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2016 and a few odd bottles/halves in other vintages like 1998 and 2004.