ChateauHautBailly_VeroniqueSanders(1)Véronique Sanders, in 1998, at the age of 30, became the general manager of Haut-Bailly, making her one of a very small number of women in charge of a vineyard and the fourth generation of her family to be associated with Haut-Bailly. After two years of preparation at the Grandes Ecoles françaises, she obtained a Master’s degree in economics at the Sorbonne. She worked for Publicis-FCB in Paris and Prague before returning to Bordeaux in 1997 to obtain her DUAD diploma from the Faculté of Oenology. From 2006 to 2009, she was chosen to serve as Présidente des Crus Classés de Graves. In 2011, Véronique Sanders has been awarded the honorary title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” by the French government.

Château Haut-Bailly is a legendary cru that occupies a special place for wine lovers and which certainly justifies all the attention that it receives. Planted exclusively for the production of red wine, the vineyard has some vines that are more than a century old.

Haut-Bailly is situated on the left bank of the Garonne, south of Bordeaux in the commune of Léognan—home of the 16 Graves Crus Classés. It sits on a high ridge above the small winding road from Léognan to Cadaujac and looks out over 30 contiguous hectares of vines whose wine production on this land has been traced back to the fourteenth century. The property changed hands many times. In 1955 it was acquired by Daniel Sanders, a Belgian wine merchant from Barsac (Gironde). Although the estate was suffering from years of neglect and the vineyard was reduced to 10 hectares (25 acres) Sanders was convinced of its potential and set about the enormous task of renovating the property. In 1979, his son, Jean, took over the management of the vineyard and continued to improve the reputation and prestige of the wine.

Almost 20 years later, Robert G. Wilmers, an American banker and Chairman of M & T Bank, and his French wife, Elisabeth, purchased the property in 1998. Today, Haut-Bailly is one of Bordeaux’s most respected vineyards and the day-to-day management of the estate is the responsibility of Véronique Sanders-van Beek, the fourth generation of her family to be associated with Haut-Bailly.  For more information about Château Haut-Bailly – Cru Classé de Graves, visit: (Website) (Twitter) (Email:

Praise for Château Haut-Bailly: 2009 Haut-Bailly received a 100 rating by Robert Parker, a service of The Wine Advocate, Inc.

Château Haut-Bailly – Cru Classé de Graves
33850 Léognan, France
Tél: +33 (0)5 56 64 75 11

Véronique Sanders, General Manager

INTERVIEW: Véronique Sanders, General Manager of Château Haut-Bailly – recipient of the “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” honorary title awarded by the French government

A great wine is one that holds true to its promises and to its sense of place and time. 

AWP: Wine bestows a record of ownership from the beginning of its origin. We might say the wine drinker and connoisseur is also buying into the romance of that vineyards life. What is it about Château Haut-Bailly that makes wine lovers connect in such a powerful way?

VS: The great wines of Bordeaux definitely symbolize tradition, quality and art de vivre à la française; they carry a strong image of the best of what France offers. Château Haut-Bailly is one of the greatest terroirs of Bordeaux with a defined sense of style and personality. There is a magic combination of the atmosphere, surroundings and the people I represent.

To produce a great wine is to respect a terroir, a style and a personality. It is both artisanal and artistic.

AWP: Together with owner Robert G. Wilmers, yours is an amazing success story, pushing this outstanding terroir to first-growth status with dedication and enthusiasm. What is the secret of its inimitable style?

VS: Haut-Bailly is a wine that keeps its promises. Our goal is to reveal each vintage and the best of its personality! The wines of Haut-Bailly are known for their elegance, purity and silky character. They have a subtle, harmonious style, combining finesse and consistency, suppleness and structure and soft tannins with rich aromas.

AWP: You are the fourth generation of your family to be associated with Château Haut-Bailly. What is this lineage like for you?

VS: Every day it is a challenge to try to maintain or even outperform my ancestors. Nothing is taken for granted. It is both a privilege and a responsibility: the pressure to perform has never been as high as today! It is an honor to preserve and cultivate the dreams and ambitions of those that came before me.

AWP: Winemaking in France has been an industry dominated by men. When you entered the industry in 1998, at age 30, what were the challenges and how did you grapple with the cultural differences? How has it changed?

VS: I always thought that it was an advantage to be a woman! And I truly believe in the complimentary balance between men and women. Nowadays more and more women are successful in the world of wine.

AWP: From 1940-1946, during World War II, many women tended winemaking and running the Châteaux. How was it at Château Haut-Bailly?

VS: Between 1940 and 1955, Château Haut-Bailly was owned by Georges Boutemy, a textile manufacturer from Northern France. The estate was the refuge to the family during the war.

For most of the properties, it was extremely complicated to find manual labor as most of the men were at war having the women to do most of the work. But at Château Haut-Bailly, women had held a key role for some time already since it was Catherine de Leuvarde and her daughter Marie de Caïxon who owned and ran the estate in the 18th century.

AWP: What was the best post-war vintage to date? What made this one of the truly great vintages?

VS: There have been many great vintages such as 1945, 1947, 1961, 1982 as well as 1983, 1989 and 1990, 2000, 2005… but especially 2009 and 2010 are what I believe to be the true masterpieces in these contemporary times. Nature gave us the same quality of fruit as in other great vintages, but the way we work today with so much more technology; but also the care, precision and sense of details has brought the wine to an amazing new level!

AWP: Respond to the demands created by the Asian market, the U.S. market, and the British market. Do you market differently to each?

VS: Although we have a worldwide strategy and we adjust to the “maturity” of each market, we have always remained faithful to our historical markets such as the UK, Belgium or Switzerland. Connoisseurs who love Haut-Bailly are to be found in every part of the world and we address them in a common language (even using social media for our future consumers). The Haut-Bailly language is perhaps translated to different cultures, but its true personality remains. All Haut-Bailly lovers share a sense for refinement and elegance.

AWP: Is there one vintage that channels everything you love about wine?

VS: Among the recent ones, I would say Château Haut-Bailly 2008. It is already terrific as a young wine, but will definitely keep for a long time. It displays the terroir of Haut-Bailly as well as a great deal of precision and balance. It is silky and extremely fine, powerful and very attractive with great purity!

A great wine is one in which its characteristics become more and more pleasing as the years go by, in a perfect alliance of classicism and avant-garde.

AWP: What kind of wine drinker, wine connoisseur do we find today?

VS: The wine drinker sees winemaking as an art. He knows that we share culture, tradition and historical values, combined with a constant research for quality. The wine connoisseur of today is much more skilled and demanding. We cannot afford to disappoint him or her.

GASTRONOMY: The practice of choosing, cooking, and eating good food. 

AWP: What are the great traditional culinary pairings with Château Haut-Bailly?

VS: Our in-house chef likes to pair Haut-Bailly wines with poultry, squab or veal and beef. A perfect Saint-Nectaire or a vintage Comté is also a great pairing… I agree with Steven Spurrier when he says “The joy of a wine cellar is that there should be a wine to match the mood, which won’t offend the food.”

AWP: Are you creatively testing new food and wine pairings? What exciting combinations of taste are you discovering?

VS: I enjoy foie gras with a fine and fruity red like our second wine La Parde Haut-Bailly. It brings freshness and spices. It is also nice with fish like the regional specialty “lamproie à la bordelaise” and other dishes with red wine sauce.

AWP: How do you orchestrate wine from the aperitif through the meal to its final course?

VS: There is nothing better than to start an apéritif with great Champagne or a Sauternes wine. Then you have to play with young and ripe vintages: you usually serve the youngest to the more mature ones but you can also wake up the palate with a younger one served with cheese… Every lunch or dinner is different according to the season, the temperature, the origin and the age of the guests. Quality is the basis, creativity is the key! And to quote Curnonsky: “to host someone is to be in charge of his/her happiness.”

AWP: Do North Americans bring a different set of expectations to the wine experience than do the French?

VS: American people are very open to unconventional food and wine pairings. Over the years I have had the honor to work with some incredible chefs in North America, and I am constantly impressed with the innovative and often surprising dishes that they have created to complement our wines.

AWP: Do the French have a different attitude toward what they drink?

VS: The French, as most consumers today, have become much more demanding to price and quality. They are opening their palates to many other wine producing countries. Therefore we always have to perform at our very best!

AWP: What was your first experience that made you fall in love with wine?

VS: Wine was always part of my culture and education. And it was not until I left my country for a little while that I really realized the value and richness of being involved in wine. To have the privilege of presiding over the future of this estate was a choice made by my heart!

AWP: Your life is extraordinary. What’s next?

VS: Today I feel so fortunate. Life is so rich—I aspire to make the most of each moment and each experience, and to enjoy Paradise as long as possible!

Hopefully I will encounter in my lifetime more vintages like 2009 and 2010!

Véronique Sanders: Ten wines to recommend

I like many wines from different regions. I wish I could also list my favorite Burgundy wines! But if we speak about red wines from Bordeaux, you definitely have to try one of the wines of my husband (Alexander van Beek), Château du Tertre which is located in Margaux, but also Château Palmer in the same appellation. In St Julien, Clos du Marquis is always a good buy. Lynch Bages or les Forts de Latour in Pauillac. In Pomerol, try Vieux Château Certan and La Conseillante. Then trust some Barsac or Sauternes to make you go to heaven: Doisy Daëne or Climens are fantastic. And the evening will never end if you continue with a great Quinta do Noval Nacional!

Château du Tertre, Margaux

Château Palmer, Margaux

Clos du Marquis, St Julien

Lynch Bages, Pauillac

Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac

Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol

La Conseillante, Pomerol

Doisy Daëne, Barsac

Climens, Barsac

Quinta do Noval Nacional, Douro region of Portugal

The Wines of Château Haut-Bailly

Château Haut-Bailly: This wine has a distinctive style that harmoniously combines classicism with modernity, elegance, finesse and softness with structure. 2009 Haut-Bailly: 100 rating by Robert Parker, a service of The Wine Advocate, Inc. 

La Parde Haut-Bailly: A true second wine and one of the first ever to be made at a Bordeaux vineyard. Although its softness and forward aroma mean it can be drunk sooner than Haut-Bailly, it also has good aging potential.

Pessac-Léognan: Created in 1987, it is the third wine of the estate and a generic wine.

Rosé de Haut-Bailly: The Seduction: Since 2004, a “rosé de saignée” has been regularly produced by Château Haut-Bailly.

Acknowledgements: Natalie Ehalt, Spanish teacher at Hiawatha Academies, Minneapolis, MN and Senior Editorial Manager and writer with A Woman’s Paris.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post Wine in France: Aline Baly, third generation owner of Château Coutet, on refinement and distinction in wine from one generation to the next. Wine bestows a record of ownership from the beginning of its origin. We might say the wine drinker and connoisseur is also buying into the romance of that vineyards life. More than just fermented grape juice, it is the result of centuries of contact with a terroir, decades of families transmitting their savoir-faire from one generation to another and the daily rigor of a committed team to perpetuate the quality and style of a château into the future.

Wine in France: Château Coutet’s distinctive quality celebrated in 1787 by Thomas Jefferson, and enjoyed today by wine enthusiasts worldwide. Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, then ambassador to France, celebrated Château Coutet as the best Sauternes from Barsac. In 1855, the estate was classified as a First Growth and recognized for its continued excellence. Today, as the oldest and largest Barsac estate, Château Coutet stays true to its tradition of distinction and quality.

Wine in France: Exceptional food pairings with Château Coutet Sauternes and dry white wines (recipes). The regions of Barsac and Sauternes have plenty of traditions, but there are no rules. There is no need to be a Michelin star chef—a grilled lobster or a roasted turkey will do the job. Also, pairing wines with cheese—Sauternes is the best hostess trick. When offering guests a diverse cheese tray, Coutet’s wines are the safest to serve; they go with most cheeses.

Wine in France: Florence Cathiard of Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, together with her husband Daniel (both former French Olympic skiers), brings finesse and exceptional detail to making great wines. “Impose your good fortune, keep hold of your happiness and embrace risk: they will be watching you and will get use do it.” —René Char, French poet (1907-1988). It’s a motto Florence Cathiard tells her grandchildren hoping it will inspire them as it has inspired her. In 1990, Daniel and Florence Cathiard sold all their business interests to buy Château Smith Haut-Lafitte. Over a two year period, they invested massively in renovating both the winery buildings and the eighteenth century manor house, where they decided to live and to devote their energy to their new found passion: making outstanding white and red wines.

Wine in France: Dewey Markham Jr., wine scholar, food connoisseur, and author of “1855: A History of the Bordeaux Classification” a James Beard award book, 1997Dewey Markham Jr. gives us a taste for the process of establishing that connection between wine and the wine drinker and shares with us the truly great vintages of the twenty-first century from Bordeaux, France. 

Wine in France: Charles-Erwan Savary, Champagne Ambassador to France, wine educator, and founder of “People and Wine”. Each type of wine is related to a different story, a different ‘mythology’ that comes from the improved quality of the beverage itself, Charles-Erwan Savary tells us. The history of the vineyard, the history of prestigious producers, the legend behind some producers and famous consumers… For sure Champagne lovers do not praise only the liquid itself, but also the myth of Champagne. 

Wine in France: Margareth Henriquez, CEO of Champagne Krug, shares with the world the vision of ultimate luxury that is Champagne. Margareth Henriquez, CEO of Champagne Krug: Real Luxury is always in front, is always the trend, so luxury can never be at the behest of what is increasingly demanding. It goes the opposite way—real luxury creates demand. Luxury will always be leading the way. It demands more than innovation and quality, yes. Luxury is the result of an emotional connection with the brand that comes from the way a brand behaves. Margareth is responsible for defining and maintaining the sophistication of the House of Krug.

Wine in France: Carol Duval-Leroy, President of Champagne Duval-Leroy and respected partner of the global sommelier community, on the essence of exceptional quality Champagne. Carol Duval-Leroy joined the very select group of women involved in running Champagne houses in 1991. After the sudden loss of her husband that same year, she became the company chairwoman. For ten years, modernization of production processes, development of traditional distribution channels, increased product range and expanded exports have all been Carol Duval-Leroy’s objectives for her company. Today, the brand’s whole image bears the mark of her passion for this profession.

Wine in France: Alice Paillard of Champagne Bruno Paillard on the delicate effervescence, remarkable purity, true freshness, and silky texture of Champagne style. It is probably the experiences abroad, combined with a fascination for the great wine that Champagne can be, that brought Alice Paillard back to where she grew up, in Reims. These contacts with very diverse cultures combined with the love for quality and the attraction of a young and dynamic company, quality gave her the will to join Champagne Bruno Paillard and help promoting her family’s wines through the world, in January 2007.

French Impressions: Mireille Guiliano’s “Meet Paris Oyster” in pursuit of the world’s best oysters and wine pairings with them. With her characteristic wit, wisdom, and storytelling flair, Mireille will soon have you wanting to eat oysters at least every week. A former chief executive at LVMH (Veurve Clicquot), Mireille Guiliano is “the high priestess of French lady wisdom” (USA Today) and “ambassador of France and its art of living” (Le Figaro). She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat, as well as French Women Don’t Get Facelifts. (Excerpt: Meet Paris Oyster)

French Impressions: Ann Mah’s “Mastering the Art of French Eating” on gastronomic adventures in France. Ann Mah is a food and travel writer and author of a food memoir, Masting the Art of French Eating and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. When journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, Mah, a lifelong foodie and Francophile, begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a yearlong post—alone—turning Mah’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light upside down. Including a recipe for Bavette aux Échalotes (skirt steak with shallots). (Excerpt: Mastering the Art of French Eating)

French Impressions: Capital Fare: Patricia Wells on great French food in Paris. Patricia Wells, author of the award-winning Bistro Cooking, and for more than two decades the restaurant critic for The International Herald Tribune, takes readers, travelers and diners to the best restaurants, bistros, cafés, patisseries, charcuteries, and boulangeries that the City of Light has to offer. Including Willi’s Wine Bar’s Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine—the irresistible chocolate dessert that is one of Patricia’s Paris favorites. (Excerpt: The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, ed. 5)

French Impressions: What’s cooking in Paris: David Lebovitz on the secrets of French cuisineTen years ago, David Lebovitz packed up his most treasured cookbooks, a well-worn cast-iron skillet, and his laptop and moved to Paris. In My Paris Kitchen, David remasters the classics, and introduces lesser-known fare. Through his recipes and stories we get insight into his delicious and extraordinary world. Including David’s recipe for Salted butter caramel-chocolate mouse. (Excerpt: My Paris Kitchen)

French Impressions: Alexander Lobrano on eating well in France: a culinary tour of alluring inns, food producers, restaurants and winemakers. Alexander Lobrano was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until its closing, and has written about food and travel for SaveurBon Appetit, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publication in the United States and the United Kingdom. Every food lover’s ultimate dream is to tour the countryside of France, stopping off at luxurious inns with world-class restaurants and sampling fresh produce and regional specialties from local markets. Including an excerpt from Hungry for France (Excerpt: Hungry for Paris)

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2014 Véronique Sanders. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.