Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Los Angeles 1-29-2016
Since the Union des Grands Crus tour did not stop in Miami this year, we instead attended the tasting in the great city of Los Angeles. The tasting was actually held at a really interesting venue, the Santa Monica Museum of Flying. Hosted by Wally’s, this UGCB tasting featured the 2013 vintage. But while this vintage was quite challenging for the majority of properties in Bordeaux, we found a number of bright spots and cause for optimism.
It is generally agreed that the white wines from 2013 are overall more impressive than the reds. This was quite apparent at the tasting, as we sampled all of the white wines from Pessac-Léognan. They all showed excellent freshness and approachability across the board. Standouts included the wines from Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clément. However, we were also impressed by other producers such as Olivier and Larrivet Haut-Brion. The red wines from Pessac lacked the consistency and complexity typically associated with this region.
The wines from Sauternes were also quite impressive. From Doisy Daene to Coutet to Guiraud, these wines all showed great balance even in their youth. They all had really nice acidity to balance the concentrated sweetness. These appeared to show better than those from 2012 overall. It was great catching up with Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu from Château Doisy-Daëne. We both agreed that the wines of Sauternes are great accompaniments to meals, and should be offered more by the glass at restaurants. One can only hope that this becomes a trend one day, as it is rare to see a restaurant or wine bar offering any Sauternes by the glass.
Overall, the red wines from the right bank appellations of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol seemed to fare better than those from the Médoc. The common theme was that this was a challenging vintage and yields were low. The always friendly Stephan von Neipperg told us that his production was only 30,000 bottles, compared to the typical 80,000 bottles. Despite this drop in production, his 2013 Canon-la-Gaffelière was one of the strongest of the night. It was also great to catch up with Monique Bailly from Château Clinet. This was also one of our favorites of the night. After tasting wines from Canon, La Dominique, Gazin, Troplong Mondot, and others, it was apparent that while these wines may lack the intensity and concentration of other recent vintages, they appear to be somewhat accessible even at this youthful stage. With time, some of these may actually outperform expectations.
The 2013 vintage in the Médoc was also challenging. Again, these wines seemed to share an accessibility at this stage, but there is less stuffing and complexity for long-term aging. But to us, one of the beauties of Bordeaux is the variability among its vintages. I have enjoyed many Bordeaux wines from ‘lesser vintages,’ so it is still a good idea to pay attention to all vintages. There are great values to be found in every vintage. While tasting the left bank wines, it was particularly nice to catch up with Patrick Maroteaux of Château Branaire-Ducru, who is a true gentleman. We also enjoyed speaking with Frederic Vicaire of Château Coufran and Jean-Luc Chapel of Château La Lagune, who are both extremely friendly as well.
All in all, the UGCB tastings are always wonderful occasions to taste Bordeaux wine in a relaxing environment, while getting to know the winemakers and proprietors from the region. If you have not yet attended one of these events, we highly recommend it to anyone who loves wine. They visit various cities in North America every January, and their schedule can be found on their website. And if you really want the ultimate UGCB experience, consider coming to Bordeaux for Le Week-End des Grands Crus, which is their large annual tasting with dinners and tours at the châteaux.
The Union des Grands Crus will host this tasting event in Bordeaux on June 4th, 2016. They will showcase the 2013 vintage in addition to a second vintage chosen by each producer. The For more information please visit www.ugcb.net.