2012 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac Leognan

2012 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac Leognan

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A past Wine Access story about 2012 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac Leognan

The Finest $99 Bottle in the World (at least for another week or so)


On the morning of April 30th, The Wine Advocate’s revised 2012 vintage report hit the web. Mayhem broke out on the Place de Bordeaux as importers zeroed in on a handful of brand-new 96-pointers, with some traders telling us they sold millions of dollars’ worth of 2012s that had been moving slowly prior to publication. Prices soared, particularly for a handful of châteaux in Pessac-Léognan, most notably superstar Château Haut-Bailly.

With the exception of Parker’s 100-point 2009, the 2012 Haut-Bailly is the most extraordinary wine ever to come off these gravelly soils. Offered six months ago, we called it the “finest $99 bottle in the world.” That’s still the case today — but won’t be next week, after prices surge again courtesy of a second 96-point rave, this time from Parker’s one-time protégé, Antonio Galloni.

On the surface, the 2012 growing season was somewhat of a mixed bag. Spring and early summer were chilly and wet. But in mid-July, the weather turned. It wouldn’t be long before the Bordelais forgot the vintage’s sluggish start.

Six splendid weeks of blue skies and high temperatures spiked the maturation process until the fall equinox, when the rain returned. As Parker pointed out, it would be the Right Bank’s Pomerol and Saint-Émilion and the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan, which feature higher concentrations of earlier-maturing varieties, that performed most brilliantly — in some cases equalling or surpassing the grandeur of the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Such was the case for General Manager Véronique Sanders at Haut-Bailly. Parker called this 2012 powerhouse “a staggeringly great wine … rich, concentrated, stunningly supple, pure and a total hedonistic and intellectual turn-on… It should be drinkable reasonably young, but age effortlessly for 25-30 years.”

15 wooden cases have been earmarked for the WineAccess membership, each drawn from the cellar where they were bottled in Pessac-Léognan. Still $99/bottle. Please limit purchases to no more than 6 bottles per member. Thanks in advance.

Expert Ratings and Reviews

93 Points Wine Spectator, 2015
91 Points Wine Advocate
90 Points James Suckling
90 Points Vinous Media
85 Points Wine Spectator, 1993

Customer Ratings

Based on 15 ratings

Bordeaux 2012

2012 Bordeaux — Another Variable Year

After the difficult conditions of 2011, the Bordelaise were looking forward to a much easier year — but alas, it wasn’t in the cards. 2012 started with a cold winter, with the coldest February since 1956 followed by a wet, cool spring. April rains raised the risk of mildew and caused an uneven, late flowering and fruit set that would have consequences on yield and push harvest dates back. The wet, cool spring was followed by a July that was average, and hopes were raised a bit that the small crop might see a decent second act. But it was not to be — torrid heat in August (with several days over 100℉, and even one report of 107°) caused stress on the vines, but dry conditions through mid-September favored the dry whites. In 2011, most reds were in by the end of September, but in 2012, the red harvest was just getting started.

October began with warm days and cool nights, good for the early-ripening Merlot, which is the star of the vintage. But once again hopes were dashed when rains came in the second week of October, creating humid conditions and the risk of rot. In these conditions, many were forced to pick regardless of maturity, with later-ripening Cabernet and the Left Bank wines of the Médoc suffering as a result.

Overall, a vintage of good quality, with some very good wines made where hard work was done in the vineyard. It’s a vintage that favored early-ripening Merlot, and the Right Bank regions of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. Graves and Pessac-Léognan, typically a little warmer than the Médoc, also fared relatively well, as the Cabernet got riper before the October rains. Generally, this is not a vintage for the long term. It was possible to make some very good wines, but making crucial decisions and hard work in the vineyards was key to successful ripening.

Dry whites are fresh and clean and very good to excellent, but sweet wines suffered because of the late October rains, and some declassified their entire harvest.

Key Dates

Coldest since 1956

Cool, wet, well above average rainfall

Bud break began late, during the first 10 days in April

Drier than average May

Rain in June caused a prolonged, uneven flowering. Mid fleuraison on June 12th was 10 days later than 1999-2009

Dry, sunny

Heat waves with temperatures well over 100℉

Harvest Starts for whites

Harvest starts for Reds (in 2011, most reds were harvested by end of September)

Merlot harvest begins, picks up steam in early October to get in before rains arrive

Autumn conditions set in, and weather turned wetter

Cooler wetter weather continued, Cabernet harvest starts on the 8th, with a rush to pick before the rains, most completing by the 18th. Another week of sunny dry weather would have made all the difference in the ripeness of the Cabernet grapes

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