Aline Baly Talks Wine, Family Business, and Her Heart’s Delight

May is a special month for the Chateau Coutet winemaking family based Bordeaux’s sweet wine region of Sauternes. Not only is May marked by the vineyard’s anticipation of flowers blooming, it’s also the time of year when Aline Baly flies to Washington D.C. to attend the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction.

For Baly and her family, participating in this annual four-day celebration of exceptional food, wine, and fundraising is not only good for business, it’s personal. That’s because a Baly family member was recently stricken with heart disease.

“We’ve been attending this American Heart Association benefit for over a decade. Our participation evolved into a labor of love due to the great friendships we’ve developed over the years. This year raising money for the prevention of heart disease has become more personal for Chateau Coutet as we are experiencing first-hand the life-changing recovery process of a stroke survivor,” Baly said.

Upscale Living Magazine got together with Chateau Coutet’s Owner to discuss what she’ll experience at this year’s Heart’s Delight gathering of wine and culinary greats. Baly also shared the latest news about Chateau Coutet’s amazing wines from the village of Barsac in the region of Sauternes.

Aline Baly, owner of Chateau Coutet

How will Chateau Coutet be involved in this year’s Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction on May 9-12 in Washington D.C.?
On Thursday evening at the Winemaker and Dinner Series we will be presenting both our 1989 and 2009 Chateau Coutet, two epic vintages for the golden sweet wines of Bordeaux. We’ll also introduce a 2014 Dry Opalie de Chateau Coutet, our dry white.  On Friday we will be donating an imperial of 2014 Chateau Coutet as part of the Vintner’s Dinner and Auction. On Saturday evening we’ll be showing both our sweet and dry wines from the 2015 vintage in the Bordeaux Master Class & Wine Tasting.

What stands out about this particular event?
My Dad, Dominique, and I have been attending the Heart’s Delight for 12 years. We’ve developed business relationships that have turned into friendships. There is such a spirit and genuine enthusiasm for wine. Participating in Heart’s Delight doesn’t feel like work to me.

Aline Baly, owner of Chateau Coutet

Looking back on 2009, what stands out about your first year working in the family business and what you had to learn about the Chateau Coutet line of wines?
(Laughter) First, I should apologize to everyone who had to deal with me my first few years on the job. My background was in the bioscience industry. I had a lot to learn about the most famous sweet wines in the world. The wines from Sauternes and Barsac are Bordeaux’s best-kept secret.

Please talk about the region of France in which your wines originate?
Our vineyard is in the southern region of Bourdeaux. The Chateaux is a former English military fortress dating back to the 13th century. In 1787, when Thomas Jefferson was the Ambassador to France, he called our Barsac the country’s best. Our 95 acres are located in the Garonne Valley near the Ciron River in the Sauternes appellation. Our region is known for its unique climate that is perfect for growing sweet wines.

How important is the weather to your wine development process?
We are totally obsessed with the weather. We talk about it daily. A dramatic change in weather, such as unexpected frost or hail can be detrimental. A best-case scenario for us is an Indian summer along with a level of humidity that is specific to our types of wines.

Aline Baly, owner of Chateau CoutetWhat do people find interesting about Chateau Coutet’s history?
There is definitely a historical and architectural feel to our property. We used to be a military fortress, then a horse stable, and there was even a time when peacocks were bred. You can still see one of the original wine presses from the 1920s, a 14th Century chapel, and a Bordeaux cobblestone courtyard.

How many visitors does Chateau Coutet see annually for tours, wine tastings, and culinary vacations?
Over the past three years, the southern wine making region of Bourdeaux has really grown as a tourist destination. Chateau Coutet offers private tours, wine tastings, workshops, lunches, and dinners.Chateau Coutet Sauternes Wine Barrels Which of your wines is creating the most buzz?
Our 2014 Chateau Coutet, this sweet wine was ranked third on Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 Wines in 2017. The international response to this news was huge. We sold out. So we are excited that we are able to include an imperial from our personal cellar for Heart’s Delight Friday night auction.

What is there one thing you wish you knew when you started with Chateau Coutet that you know now?
It would have been fun to know how much my life was going to change once I joined my uncle and Dad in the family business. This move allowed me to discover the world of wine. I also wish I knew sooner how perfect it is to pair our Sauternes with lobster! That’s my favorite.