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Veronique Sanders' & Alexander Van Beek's 'Premier Grand Cru'

Veronique SANDERS is General Manger of Chateau Haut-Bailly. Husband Alexander van Beek holds the same position at Chateau Giscours and Chateau du Tertre. In December 2008, they produced their own 'Premier Grand Cru', a son named Adrien van Beek.

Story By Ch'ng Poh Tiong
Photos By Yew Xin Yi

Veronique Sanders is not only intimately involved with Chateau Haut-Bailly the Pessac-Leognan property as its general manager but also belongs to the family who, in 1998, sold it to the present owner, American banker Robert WILMERS (whose wife, Elisabeth, is French).

A Grand Cru Classe under the 1959 Classification of the Graves, Haut-Bailly is special and almost unique in that of the great estates of the Graves and Pessac-Leognan (the prestigious 'Pessac-Leognan' appellation was created in 1987), Haut-Bailly produces no white but only specializes in red wine.

In the late 19th and early 20th Century (until 1940), thanks to the visionary genius and tireless energy of then owner Alcide Bellot des Minières, prices for Haut-Bailly rose to a level alongside those of the Medoc First Growths: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Haut-Brion.

Although no longer fetching the same prices of the First Growths, the Sanders family, who arrived at the chateau in 1955, has done exemplary work to restore the status of Haut-Bailly as one of the finest wines of the Graves (Jean Sander, Veronique's grandfather, had to sell in 1998 because his two sisters wanted to realize their share of the estate).

Present owner Robert Wilmers has spared no expense to ensure Haut-Bailly stays at the top. It's not, I think, too far-fetched to add that Veronique Sanders' all-important permanent presence there all but ensures Haut-Bailly high reputation.

Alexander VAN BEEK first arrived at Chateau Giscours on 7 September 1995,

"I had just finished my MBA in Switzerland and there was a gap of four months before the start of an internship at the Bank of Luxembourg. I had learnt that Eric ALBADA had bought Chateau Giscours. I called him and asked if I could come to Giscours to do the harvest. When I first arrived, I hardly spoke any French."

Albada can spot good and talented people when he sees them. It didn't escape the business tycoon that the young van Beek was just such a person. Trust is also important and the fact that Alexander's late father Michiel VAN BEEK (who passed away in 1998) was one of his best friends was also important. Coupled with the fact that he needed someone on the ground in Bordeaux while he looked after his other business interests in Holland, Alexander van Beek was a godsend to be harvested.

"Being a family friend for so long, you could say that Eric Albada knew me even before I was born. He said to me 'Alexander, you stay here because I want to build something here in Bordeaux'. When I started, as I mentioned earlier, I could hardly speak French. I went about my job, armed with a dictionary in one hand and the yellow pages in the other as I called up and order things from suppliers.

Although he began as Chateau Giscours' Cost Controller and was therefore more responsible for things financial, Alexander also fell in love with the wine.

In November 1997, Eric Albada bought another property. Chateau du Tertre, also in the Margaux appellation is a Fifth Growth and Giscours a Third Growth under the 1855 Classification of the Medoc.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013