Chateau Haut Batailley is a Fifth Growth from Pauillac and in 2017 it marks a wonderful new era in the Chateau’s development. The Estate was originally part of Chateau Batailley, which was purchased by Francois Borie and Marcel Borie in 1932. In 1942 they divided the two properties to prevent inheritance issues, with each retaining their rightful Fifth Growth status. Chateau Haut Batailley was the smaller piece of the vineyard pie, which was snaffled by Francois Borie, who then added other Chateau, buying Chateau Duhart-Milon, while also running Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. The property was passed down through the Borie family, until in 2017 it was bought by the Cazes family, who are famous for owning Lynch Bages. This makes sense, as it is sited just south of Lynch Bages on excellent terroir, just behind Pichon Baron, which with Pichon Lalande and Latour is found to its immediate east. The Chateau is located in the south-west part of Pauillac, closely bordering St.Julien, the 22 hectares vineyards stretched over deep gravel soils, which provide the promise of truly Pauillac-esque claret. In fact, the vineyard referred to as Petit Batailley is planted next two Chateau Latour vineyards, used primarily for Forts Latour. The other vineyard segment is due North of the Bages Plateau, next to Lynch Bages itself. The terroir has never been in question and now, the ascent of this excellent Estate surely begins.
The chateau is signified by the L’Apsic tower, which is found at the vineyard entrance. This is redolent of the Tower at Chateau Latour and this will not adorn the new label shown above, which is both luminous and golden. It is a symbol of a new era, one where the Cazes family have invested heavily with the intention of rising Haut Batailley to a golden status. They have invested heavily in the chateau, while adding a brilliantly camp pastel pink colour to the chateau itself, which we loved. They did not release the 2016 vintage officially, which was surrounded in some controversy. In 2017, the Cabernet Sauvignon percentage has been decreased, with Merlot topping up the blend, 66% of the former and 34% of the latter make up the 2017 which will be considered as one of their finest ever vintages. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, with 60% new oak. In 2017 the wine has added structure, with noticeable density and weight. There is far more balance than in recent years, harmony ad power enveloping purity of fruit. James Suckling has awarded it 94-95 points, his highest ever.
Today’s release price of £490 per case of 12, or £245 per case of six is a 63% increase on the 2015 and it is expected to sell very well, there is a lot of excitement about the new vintage and those which will follow. The Estate has production of 9,000 cases, which is a lot lower than most of its neighbours. The price is also a bargain compared to the price of the vineyards that surround its illustrious terroir.
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This morning also marks several other releases. Chateau Fombrauge in 2017 has been awarded 91-92 points by James Suckling, placing it in line with the 2014. The price today reflects a two-pound increase on 2016. The explanation must be that the Estate feel that they incremental investment and improvements being made, requiring a slow re-pricing. After all, with 91-92 points and a price of £207 per case of 12, this superb St. Emilion has a price over Points ratio of 18, surely one of the lowest of the campaign.
Chateau Fombrauge is classified as a St Emilion Grand Cru Classes and is the flagship St. Emilion Estate of Bernard Magrez, the owner of Pape Clement. Magrez purchased the Estate in 1999 and has been investing heavily in it ever since. His first action was to hire Michel Rolland as their consultant and the results speak for themselves. Fombrauge is the largest vineyard in St. Emilion, which goes a long way to explain how it can successfully release so competitively. It is also one of the oldest Estates on the Right Bank, heralding back to 1679. The vineyard is located at the west of the St. Emilion appellation, on a limestone plateau known as the commune of St Christophe. The blend is 93% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc and it spends 14-16 months in barrel.
Also released this morning is Chateau Doisy-Vedrines priced at £316 per case of 24×37.5, or £158 per 12×37.5, with these only sold in half bottles. In 2017 the Estate have made a wonderful wine, which has been awarded 93-94 points from James Suckling. Their release today reflects a 2.3% increase on last year.
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The estate was rated as a Second Growth in the 1855 classification and was purchased by the Castéja family in 1946. The current owner is Olivier Castéja, brother of the Managing Director of Bordeaux’s largest negociant, Joanne. The family’s history is intertwined with that of Bordeaux’s ,having owned Duhart Milon from 1710 to 1929 and Joanne since its foundation by their direct descendant, Paul Joanne in 1865. The family also own Batailley and TrotteVieille. The vineyards are planted with 85% Semillion and 15% Sauvignon Blanc with an average age of 30 years. Aging takes place in 60% new French oak barrels for 18 months and yields are kept incredibly low even by the standards of other Sauternes properties.
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