Angélus & Haut-Brion Vertical Tasting

It’s always a great experience to attend a vertical tasting of a top Bordeaux producer. But to have the opportunity to enjoy vertical tastings of TWO top Bordeaux producers is both unique and special. And when those two producers are Château Angélus and Château Haut-Brion, you’re talking about a once-in-a-lifetime tasting experience. The event was hosted by Victoire Touton and Delphine Blanchot, the representatives of Angélus and Haut-Brion, respectively. The venue itself was ideal for such a great tasting, the Wine Watch wine bar in Fort Lauderdale. This new wine bar offers not only a great setting for a tasting, but also some fantastic food for pairing as well.

This was a ‘collector’s event,’ where each attendee brought a bottle from their own cellar. In total, there were eight vintages of Angélus and seven vintages of Haut-Brion (two white and five red).

IMG_40521988 Angélus Light ruby color. Certainly a charmer, with its dark fruit, curry, herbs, truffle, and leather on the nose. Had good complexity, but nowhere near the 1989 and 1990. Not as much tension on the palate. Overall light and easy-drinking. A medium length finish, but the tannins stood out a bit. Obviously lacked the balance of the 1989 and 1990. Now is the time to drink this, as this bottle indicates it may be on its decline. – 92/100


1989 Angélus A true beauty, that showed off matured, layered aromatics and excellent balance on the palate. After a couple of hours of aeration, this wine really came together. This was the consensus favorite wine of the tasting among the 18 attendees. The nose showed lots of depth, with ripe cassis, plum, damp leather, truffle, and espresso. Powerful and dense on the palate, but didn’t quite exhibit the intensity of the 1990. The wine was equally good on the nose and the palate. Really nice freshness on the finish, which lingered with beautiful plummy and earthy notes. Tannins well-integrated. Whereas the 1990 just kept emerging during the tasting, this 1989 stayed solid and consistent throughout the evening. It never lost steam or closed down at all. This wine is in a perfect spot for drinking now. – 95/100

1990 Angélus This wine was quite interesting, as it changed considerably throughout the evening. At first, I wasn’t certain that this was a good representative of the 1990. The nose certainly took awhile to open up, but when it did, it dazzled. The nose showed off a beautiful earthiness that married well with the ripe plum and blackberry. Along with this, there was truffle, eucalyptus, anise, and tobacco. This slightly edged out the 1989 on the palate, with its elegance and incredible length. The finish left you with soft tannins and a fresh acidity that completed a seriously good tasting experience.- 96/100

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1994 Angélus A bit outmatched on this evening, this wine just lacked the interest and complexity found in stronger vintages. The nose was shy and reticent, with the fruit peeking through. One thing I love about Angélus is how well the truffle and herbs complement the fruit so well. This was not so with this vintage, as the tertiary development seems stunted. Light on its feet on the palate. Showing some age with its garnet color and lightened edges. Noticeable tannins but lacking a bit of freshness on the finish. On its own, this was a nice wine that still provides pleasure. It will just never achieve the heights of vintages such as 1989, 1990, or even 1995. – 90/100

1995 Angélus Easily one of my favorite wines of the evening. This showed off the beautiful truffled earthiness, barnyard, dark plum, cassis, cigar tobacco, and dark chocolate. Sweet on the palate, and very elegant. Soft tannins for a 1995 from Bordeaux. In fact, bottles I had from only a year ago seemed much more tight and tannic. Perhaps it’s finally starting to soften. There’s also great acidity and impressive length on the finish. I’m starting to really expect big things from this wine. – 95/100

1998 Angélus Perhaps surprisingly, the 1998 wasn’t on the same level as the 1995. The nose was quite aromatic and inviting, with plum, black cherry, soy, all-spice, and fresh flowers. It was quite an exotic and spicy nose. Quite generous on the palate, but not quite the concentration I would expect in this vintage. Very good length and nicely structured. This obviously still needs more time for everything to synthesize on the palate. Perhaps give this another 2-3 years, and hope it follows the same trajectory as the 1995. – 93/100

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2004 Angélus Drinking quite well out of the gate. Had a nice sensual smoothness and soft mouthfeel. The oak is still noticeable, but doesn’t stick out too much. Lots of cassis, blueberry, curry, leather, violets, earth, and coffee. Good complexity and concentration. At this point, it’s more interesting on the nose than the palate. Nicely textured with a smooth finish, round tannins, and medium acidity. Compared to other right bank wines from 2004, this is truly a nice effort. I expect this to reach its peak in the next 5+ years, but there’s no question that it’s good to drink now. – 92/100

2009 Angélus For a wine this young, this is really drinking quite nicely and is completely approachable. I actually expected the oak to be more dominant, but it didn’t stick out much. The fruit was big, ripe, and in the forefront. The plum and blueberry was so incredibly ripe and juicy, along with fresh herbs, violets, anise, spice, and espresso. Full-bodied, powerful, and with good tannin integration. The tannic structure is obvious, but it’s just so well-balanced. Medium level of acidity and freshness. The finish was long and full of fruit. I did detect a touch of heat as well. Overall, this young wine held its own, even in the face of a number of fully mature and charming wines. – 94/100

IMG_4001.JPG1985 Haut-Brion Blanc Deep golden color. Lots of tertiary development, with the nose showing a bit of mustiness. Lemon, some brioche, and nuttiness. Appeared somewhat oxidized on the nose. Freshness fading a bit. Was this an ideal specimen? If so, then it’s seen better days. – 90/100

2003 Haut-Brion Blanc It’s always a treat to try an Haut-Brion blanc. This 2003 was fresh and with generous fruit. On the nose, there was lemon, fresh flowers, and hazelnut. Appeared somewhat early in its evolution. Really fresh finish with bright acidity. – 93/100

IMG_40691994 Haut-Brion Light ruby color. Not terribly interesting, especially compared to the other wines in the tasting. There was a nice mix of black currant, pencil shavings, cigar box, and leather on the nose. Austere on the palate. Didn’t possess the smokiness and Graves character that I’ve found in the 1994 La Mission. Straightforward and easy to drink, I would probably drink this over the next 5 years. – 91/100

1995 Haut-Brion My favorite Haut-Brion of the tasting, this 1995 definitely showed up. Floral, leathery, smoky, and with nice minerality, this just kept improving and showing off its complexity throughout the evening. Silky textured and with excellent balance overall. Tannins were round and integrated well. Seemed to gain weight in the glass. Great balance of acidity with the fruit. This wine has definitely improved in the past couple of years, and I expect it to reach its peak in the next 5-10 years. – 94/100

1996 Haut-Brion This was definitely an off-bottle, though it wasn’t tainted. It was certainly too advanced for a 1996. The aromatics showed off cassis, earth, damp leather, and library book. It lacked overall complexity on the palate, but had a nice fresh finish. Tannins were also in check. Again, not a good representative of 1996 Haut-Brion. – 90/100

IMG_4003.JPG2003 Haut-Brion A solid performance for such a young wine. Not showing the heat of the vintage with any overripeness, this wine showing off excellent balance. The black currant was ripe and fresh, along with lots of spiciness, musk, cigar tobacco, and leather. Not a blockbuster on the palate, but nothing seemed out of place. I was impressed with the length and softness of the finish. The question with this wine will be longevity. How will it fare compared to others from 2003? My sense is that this hasn’t peaked yet, and will get better. – 93/100

2008 Haut-Brion Okay, so while this is somewhat approachable, it is way too young now and far from maturity. The fruit was incredibly ripe, with plum, blackberry, and blueberry. Other aromatic components were fresh tobacco, clove, coffee, and smoke. Oak was still apparent. Nicely structured with firm tannins. Young on the palate and very fruit-driven. Impressive length on the finish. This wine needs more time. And while you can certainly drink this now, I probably wouldn’t touch this for 8-10 years, as it will improve considerably. – 94/100

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A La Mission Haut-Brion Vertical Tasting (1961-2004)

Recently we attended a fantastic Château La Mission Haut-Brion vertical tasting (at the Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale), which was another ‘can’t miss’ event. Many Bordeaux wine enthusiasts consider Château La Mission Haut-Brion to be equal to the first growths. It is certainly difficult to argue with this, considering their long track record of consistently high scores awarded by critics. But despite producing incredible wines year after year, La Mission still seems to stand in the shadow of its next-door neighbor, Château Haut-Brion (which is a first growth that actually shares the same owners as La Mission). But anyone who drinks both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion knows that both produce great wines every year that are equivalent in quality. La Mission has produced a number of 100-point wines in the past fifty years, which includes the 1961, 1975, 1982, 1989, 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2010. On this evening, we tasted a broad range of vintages from several decades. While everything showed well, there were some standouts as well as surprises. And we were reminded yet again, “there are no great wines, only great bottles.”

IMG_32742004 Dark opaque color. A nice nose of blackberry, blueberry, cigar tobacco, oak, and vanilla. Dense and layered on the palate. Lots of structure to go along with the fruit. Give this 5-10 years. – 92/100

1998 Quite approachable for such a young wine. It’s still showing very young, and is far from maturity. There is rich, ripe fruit. The tannins are serious and firm. Give this time or a lot of aeration. – 94/100

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1990 This continues to be one of my favorite vintages from LMHB. The nose is just so fresh and exotic. There are all of the typical elements, with dark fruits, smoke, tobacco, spice, espresso, and fresh violets. Vibrant and fresh on the palate. Almost stunning balance, yet this wine still shows so young. A long finish that highlights its impressive complexity. – 96/100

1989 Easily the most disappointing wine of the night, especially considering how great this wine can be. This was clearly an off-bottle, as it was completely closed down for most of the evening. Initially, there was good fruit on the nose, but it quickly became shy and reticent. Also fell flat on the palate. This wine can be so much better than what this showed on this evening. – 92/100

1982 One of the strongest wines of the evening. The complexity on the nose was stunning, with cassis, iodine, balsamic, olive tapenade, smoke, thyme, leather, and fresh flowers. A gorgeous, pretty nose. Wrapped in layers of flavor on the palate. Excellent balance, with soft tannins. The fruit and acidity balanced very well. A long, seamless finish. – 96/100

IMG_32721981 A nose dominated by orange peel, black currant, herbs, and brown spices. There was a lack of ripeness in the fruit. Fruit was dominated by the drying effect of the tannins. This wine clearly lacked balance. – 88/100

1971 Had a very spicy nose, along with black currant, cigar tobacco, smoke, asparagus, and Provencal herbs. Hints of soy and somewhat medicinal on the palate. Still there was some charm and intrigue on the palate. Quite fresh on the palate, but with a bit of biting acidity on the finish. Very enjoyable overall. Hanging on, but likely near its end of life. -91/100

1970 The most disappointing wine of the night. Lacked complexity on the nose (though there was still some ample fruit), and was completely flat on the palate. – 86/100

1964 After the stunning 1961, a bit of a disappointment. More transparent and lighter than the 61. A bit of a metallic nose, with some cherry and earthiness, though there was some charm. Average complexity on the palate, and lacking in concentration. Tannins a little drying and high acidity. I just felt the balance was not quite there. – 89/100IMG_3271

1961 Not quite as strong as the last bottle (which was bordering on perfection), but this was drinking beautifully. Such a fragrant, open nose of blackberry and strong juniper berry notes. Lots of smoke, tobacco, and leather to accompany the fruit. Tannins soft and perfectly integrated. Elegant on the palate, with gorgeous fresh acidity. A long, vibrant finish. Not the best wine on the this evening (but the most special, given its age), but close. -96/100

 

 

A Château Montrose Evening with Hervé Berland

If there is one Bordeaux property that deserves its ‘Super Second’ status, it is Château Montrose. This renowned estate, located in the Saint-Estèphe appellation, consistently produces some of the Bordeaux’s best wines every year. It is also one of only a handful of producers in Bordeaux to earn 100 points from Robert Parker in both 2009 and 2010.  But the excellence of Montrose goes well beyond these two vintages, which is tied to its prime terroir and vast history. With this in mind, we were very pleased to attend a dinner and tasting with Hervé Berland, the Managing Director of Château Montrose, held at Michael Mina’s Stripsteak restaurant in Miami. The dinner included wines from Château Monrose, Dame de Montrose, and Château Tronquoy-Lalande (also owned by the Martin Bouygues of Montrose). The event was sponsored by Best Wine Co., a negoçiant firm that specializes in high-end Bordeaux wines.

chateau-montrose-dinner-2Mr. Berland started the evening by offering a few words about Montrose, its terroir and its history. He discussed his role as Managing Director, and why he came to Montrose in 2011. Prior to Montrose, he was the Managing Director at Château Mouton Rothschild for many years. He has certainly approached his new role with both passion and dedication. Among the topics discussed were the prime location of the gravelly terroir, atop the hill overlooking the Gironde Estuary. Of course we discussed the wines of Montrose as well. He has quite a bit of enthusiasm for the most recent vintages, especially 2016. He described the near-perfect conditions during 2016, and is very optimistic about the wines to be produced. He drew comparisons to both 2005 and 2010, two exceptional vintages at Montrose.

img_1327We also discussed the massive renovations that were recently completed at Montrose. This included the creation of perhaps the most impressive barrel cellar in Bordeaux. Having recently visited Château Montrose, I can attest to the superb design and impressive facilities throughout the property. Mr. Berland told me that they are currently renovating their vat room, switching to smaller vats so that they can vinify individual parcels from the vineyard. As successful as Montrose has been in recent years, it is commendable that they continue such massive investments in their facilities. It is this type of dedication that leads to the fantastic wines that are produced in Bordeaux today.

chateau-montrose-bottles-2Paired with dishes such as lamb chops and steak (of course), we enjoyed a number of excellent wines. First up was the 2013 Château Tronquoy-Lalande blanc, which was quite impressive. This was very popular among the attendees, and is an extremely smooth wine. We then tried the 2012 Château Tronquoy-Lalande rouge, which is a nice red Bordeaux wine for early drinking. We moved on to the 2011 Château Montrose, which showed a step-up in complexity. Having tasted a number of 2011 Bordeaux wines over the past two years, it is apparent that these wines are started to soften and become approachable. This 2011 Montrose is definitely approachable now, but will need several years to show its true potential. Mr. Berland noted that this vintage is often overlooked, due to the stellar 2009 and 2010 vintages, but that it deserves far more attention. Next we tasted the 2012 Dame de Montrose, the second wine of Château Montrose. Being more Merlot-based, this wine was soft, fruity, and quite charming. These are known as some of the best second wines in Bordeaux, and for good reason.

chateau-montrose-botles-1We then tasted the highly acclaimed 2005 Château Montrose, which I felt was the most impressive wine of the evening. Despite its obvious complexity, it is only starting to show its potential. This is a wine that will drink well for decades. We finished the evening with the 1998 and 1986 Château Montrose. The 1998 was enjoyable, but lacked some of the concentration and complexity of the 2005; however, it is ready for business, and has shown improvement since I last tasted this almost two years ago. The 1986 vintage, provided by one of the attendees of the dinner, possessed the charming aromas and flavors found in aged Bordeaux wines. But it is obvious that the 1986 vintage does not possess the sheer beauty and poise of the 1989 and 1990 vintages that soon followed it.

chateau-montrose-herve-berlandThis fantastic evening perfectly demonstrated the consistent excellence of Château Montrose. The dedication and passion of Mr. Berland should help to maintain the excellence at Montrose, and perhaps propel it to even greater heights. Perhaps this will become apparent with the most recent 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages. But as the wines of Château Montrose are known to be some of the longest lived in Bordeaux, tasting these excellent wines in their youth provides only a glimpse of what these wines will eventually become. One thing is for certain; the investments and leadership at Montrose should help them to maintain their ‘Super Second’ status for the years to come.

A Château Latour Vertical Tasting (1937 to 2003)

Attending a vertical tasting of Château Latour is a once in a lifetime experience. But we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend not one, but two Latour vertical tastings this year. This second tasting was also held by Wine Watch, and took place at 1800 East Las Olas. While the last tasting featured fantastic vintages, like 1961, 1982, and 1996, this one included 1937, 1955, and 1959. In all, there were twelve wines represented in the tasting (one being 2000 Les Forts de Latour). Most showed well, though the 1937 proved to be undrinkable (possibly due to questionable storage). The other older vintages had held up quite well, though some appeared to be tiring a bit. As expected, 1959 showed extremely well, an excellent representation of this famed vintage. The tasting started out blind, and I was able to correctly identify a number of vintages. In this case, the blind aspect of the tasting made it much more interesting; in fact, a number of tasters chose the 1960 and 1980 vintages as among their favorites. If one thing is for sure, it’s that Château Latour can make a great wine in just about any vintage.
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1937 Light amber color. If you want to know how this tasted, imagine a mixutre of acetone and sour spoiled apple juice. This wine was difficult to taste. If you want to buy a bottle of this, pay what you think the bottle is worth, not the wine that’s inside. – 70/100
1952 Lots of browning at the edges. Very advanced on both the nose and palate. The fruit appears to be fading. A bit cheesy, some red fruits, stewed prunes, wet leaves, tobacco, and leather. Tannins have essentially resolved. Acidity is showing a bit much on the finish. Still a drinkable wine, but was obviously inferior to the 1955 and 1959 on this evening. – 88/100
1955 Showing its age, but quite charming. Obviously this wine is past its peak, but it’s still quite drinkable. Dark plum, black currant, herbs, curry, barnyard, and leather. Subdued but quite elegant on the palate. Tannins have essentially resolved but there is still a nice mouthfeel and good balance on the palate. Impressive length on the finish. Good level of acidity to give this wine good freshness. – 93/100
1959 My WOTN in this Latour vertical tasting. This wine is still rocking. The tasting started out blind, and I thought this wine was much younger. Medium ruby color. Improved significantly over 2 hours, more so than any of the other wines. Black currant, cedar, tobacco, and spice. Impeccable balance; everything just seemed to blend so well together. Full mouthfeel, with silky tannins. An incredibly long, lingering finish. This wine won’t be better than it is today, but it’s a strong contender for one of the best Latours I’ve ever tasted. – 96/100
img_15611960 This is why I love starting tastings blind. A lot of people loved this wine, and we were shocked to learn it was a 1960. In truth, this seemed like a soft, elegant right bank wine from 1982. Lots of fruit – very pure, herbs, cedar, leather, and dark chocolate. Still has a nice tannic structure, but soft and silky. As I said before, very soft and elegant on the palate. A medium-plus length finish. Perhaps this was a perfect bottle, but this was an overachieving 1960, for sure. It was very un-Latour like though, but I don’t mean that negatively. – 94/100
1962 This bottle of 1962 Latour was not as strong as the last that I had almost one year ago. It still had that oxidized note. Fruit profile of prunes and black currant. Also noted Asian spices, tobacco, and green pepper. Still had some life on the palate. Structure still intact with round, soft tannins. Fell a bit short on the finish. – 92/100
1970 I don’t know what it is about the 1970 Château Latour, but it always disappoints me. Perhaps it’s because I always try this in a vertical tasting with superior vintages. But on this night, it was one of the least impressive wines. The nose has lots of ripe fruits, with black currant and cherry. Very soft mouthfeel, but a bit thin on the palate. Reserved on the mid-palate. A charming finish, with very good freshness. I would love to drink this any night of the week, but there are simply better Latours out there. – 92/100
1975 Advanced color for a 1975. Dark and red fruits, fig, sous bois, tobacco, and Asian spices on the nose. Not terribly interesting on the palate. Past its apogee. Very drinkable now, but I wouldn’t hold this for much longer. – 91/100
img_15621980 On blind tasting, this easily outclassed the 1970 and 1975. One of the surprises of the evening. An exotic nose. A bit of Brett, saddle leather, tobacco, mint, fig, and black currant. Medium bodied on the palate. Tannins have essentially resolved, but a nice solid mouthfeel. Acidity does show a bit high. Really enjoyed this wine. It stayed interesting throughout the evening. It goes to show you that Latour can really shine in some of the off-vintages. – 93/100
1989 It seems that the 1989 is really starting to show its potential. Nice garnet color. Great aromatics of dark fruits, barnyard, leather, tobacco, spice, and musk. The nose was much more open than when I tasted this wine one year ago. Good, but not great concentration. Started out a bit tannic, but this loosened up after an hour. Earlier this year, I recommended others holding this wine for another year or two, and it seems to be ready to go now. Should still drink well for a number of years. – 94/100
img_15632003 From half-bottle. A gorgeous wine, and a crowd pleaser in this vertical tasting. On blind tasting, this and the 1937 were the easiest to identify. A big wine, and very concentrated. Still a dark opaque color. Cassis, pencil shavings, graphite, cigar tobacco, and espresso. Very smooth for a 2003, and with excellent ripeness of its fruit. Excellent balance, but still a bit tannic. A wine to hold, but surprisingly, this can be enjoyed now with a lot of aeration. – 96/100
2000 Les Forts De Latour Lacks the punch and concentration of a Latour, but this is a charmer that was among the better wines of the evening. Cassis, cedar, tobacco, barnyard, and dark chocolate. Silky tannins and a smooth mouthfeel. Good length on the finish, but a hint of bitterness noted. Truth be told, I prefer the 2001 Les Forts. – 93/100

1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux Tasting

1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux tasting 3-25-2016

Vienna Cafe and Wine Bar – Davie, FL

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1989 and 1990 produced some of the best wines out of Bordeaux in the past 25 years, and both have already become legendary vintages. This is certainly true in the Right Bank appellations of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. It is often debated which vintage produced the better wines overall, as well as at many of the top châteaux. Neither professional critics nor wine amateurs can agree on which is the preferred vintage at châteaux such as La Conseillante and Angélus. With this in mind, we arranged a tasting of some of the top Right Bank wines from 1989 and 1990. What we found on this night should not be surprising at all; all of the wines in the tasting were superb, and there was little variation in the strength and appeal of these wines. It was very difficult to rank the ‘best’ wines on this night, and the subjectivity of this exercise has never been more apparent than on this night. Any of these wines could have been ‘wine of the night,’ and it almost seemed unfair to rank and score them. But in the end, the top three wines (chosen by the ten participants) were the 1989 Château Angélus, 1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse),  and 1989 Château Clinet.IMG_8316

1989 Château La Conseillante: Elegant. A beautifully perfumed and fragrant nose. Very ripe red fruits, blueberry, truffle, very floral, with some Asian spices. Such purity of fruit in this wine. Not as concentrated and dense and the 1990 La Conseillante. Finesse and elegance on the palate. Excellent balance, with tannins nicely integrated. High acidity and a lengthy finish. This never ran out of steam, and just seemed to open and up and improve with passing time. 96/100

1990 Château La Conseillante: Layered and elegant. The nose started out a bit shy, but it really blossomed after two hours of air. Plum, cherry, floral, mint, sous bois, and sweet tobacco. Less floral and more earthy than the 1989 La Conseillante. This also exuded elegance, with silky tannins and a soft mouthfeel. Great complexity on the nose and palate. Beautifully balanced. Tannins nicely integrated. Medium-high acidity. A long finish with lots of lingering fruit and freshness. 95/100IMG_8285

1989 Château Clinet: Powerful. A beautiful core of plum and ripe cherries, with spices, mushroom, and damp earth. Dense and enormously concentrated. A rich wine. Full mouthfeel, with a fantastic balance. Nicely structured with soft but fairly prominent tannins. Well-balanced acidity on the finish. While perhaps not a 100 point wine, this is a powerhouse wine that is definitely at its peak and impressed most at the tasting. 97/100

1990 Château Clinet: Focused. One of the surprises of the night, in that it rivaled the 1989 Clinet (and surpassed it for some at the tasting). Really ripe and pure red fruits, with earthiness, mocha, and lots of floral notes. A beautiful ruby color. A really great weight to the wine. Very clean and linear. Less power and structure than the 1989 Clinet, but perhaps a bit more charm. Very soft tannins. This wine is in a good place right now, and was much better than the last bottle that I had several months ago. Probably won’t have the longevity of the 1989, when it’s all said and done. 95/100
IMG_8320.JPG1989 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Rustic and exotic. I was expecting big things from this wine, after the incredible bottle of this I recently had (from the same case). This started out with a really exotic nose of red fruits, bacon, pepper, flowers, and dark chocolate. Surprisingly, the nose seemed to close down over time. Good weight and concentration, but didn’t seem to have the same finesse and elegant mouthfeel of the last bottle. Standing on its own, this wine could still hold its own; tonight, however, it just didn’t stand out. Will have to try this again, as there is just so much potential with this wine. The complexity is obviously there, and there is ample fruit and structure for this wine to shine. 93/100

1990 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Dark and spicy. For most at the tasting, this was preferred to the 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf. Dark fruits, black cherry, sous bois, spice, flowers, and anise rounded out some really nice aromatics. It did start out a bit shy, but opened up very nicely over time. Exotic like the 1989, but with more power and concentration. Firm tannins and medium acidity. A really nice finish with medium length. While not one of the top wines of the evening, this was still an excellent wine that held its own. I would consider giving this wine more time, as it seems that a bit more synthesis needs to occur. There is a serious core of fruit here, so there should no worry with holding this wine for a bit longer. 94/100

IMG_83211989 Château Angélus: Powerful and earthy. Probably my favorite wine of the tasting (though this was a difficult choice, given that all of the wines were impressive and so evenly matched). This was easily the most intoxicating nose of the evening, and it was hard to keep my nose out of the glass. Ripe plum, cassis, blackberry, sweet barnyard, soy, chocolate. After about an hour, there was a serious burst of violets on the nose. Very ripe and pure fruits. Powerful and dense on the palate. Full-bodied mouthfeel. The complexity of the nose was matched on the palate. Good freshness on the finish. Tannins still need more integration. This was truly a complete wine, and one that stood out due to its uniqueness of its aromatics and its power on the palate. 97/100

IMG_8336.JPG1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse): Complex and complete. Struck by its very dark color, showing little signs of aging. Plum, dark fruits, mint, damp earth, and tobacco round out the aromatics. Complex, concentrated, and balanced, this wine seemed to have all of the necessary elements. Lots of structure; the tannins are round but still fairly prominent. High bright acidity contributing to lots of freshness on the finish. This wine has so much time left, and is just getting started. The immense amount of fruit, coupled with its solid structural makeup, bodes well for anyone who has this wine in their cellar. A standout on this evening. 97/100

1990 Château l’Evangile: Charming. This continues to be a really unique wine from l’Evangile. This was quite different from the other wines at the tasting. Red fruits, chocolate and sous bois. A bit lighter on the palate, almost seeming Burgundian at times. Still has noticeable tannic structure, with its ultra-soft tannins. High acidity creating a nice brightness on the finish. This is a very charming wine, especially if you like the light, elegant style. While some have reported bottle variation with this wine, this wine was spot-on with the last bottle tasted several months ago. 95/100

1990 Château Troplong Mondot: Dark and brooding. A bit closed down initially, but opened up nicely after an hour. Black cherry, raisin, earth, menthol, and coffee. Impressive concentration and complexity. A full-bodied mouthfeel. A really powerful wine. Lots of structure with firm tannins. A finish with impressive length. I get the sense that this is not yet at its peak and is going to improve. With the fruit concentration and structure here, this wine has a long life ahead of it. It just seemed like it was holding back a bit on this evening. 93/100

A Château Angélus evening with Hubert de Boüard de Laforest

April 20, 2016

L1020106bRecently we were contacted by Victoire Touton from Château Angélus, who informed us that proprietor Hubert de Boüard was scheduled to visit South Florida. When she asked if we would be interested in helping coordinating a tasting, obviously we agreed without hesitation. Monsieur de Boüard is one of the most iconic and recognizable figures from Saint-Émilion, also serving as a winemaking consultant to numerous producers throughout Bordeaux (such as Château Siran and Château de Fieuzal). Tasting multiple vintages of Château Angélus, while discussing the wines with him, would certainly be an opportunity noP1060929b.jpgt to miss.

The event was held at Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, and was coordinated by Wine Watch. There were eight vintages of Angélus included in the tasting: 1994, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Two vintages of the second wine Carillon d’Angélus, 2009 and 2012, were also included. Elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in 2012, Château Angélus has consistently produced some of the best wines in Saint-Émilion over the past twenty-five years. After Hubert de Boüard took the reigns at Angélus in 1985, the vintages of 1988, 1989, and 1990 brought life back into the château and placed it back into the Bordeaux elite. And over the next couple of decades, Angélus produced wines that were consistently among the best in the right bank of Bordeaux. Angélus is known for its appearances in James Bond films, which certainly helped raise global awareness of their wines. L1020104b.jpg

Humility and passion. This is how I would sum up Hubert de Boüard after speaking with him about his wines. He was extremely nice and forthcoming, engaging every person throughout the evening. But what is most striking is his unyielding passion for winemaking and his wines. He considers himself a farmer, who is quite proud of his family heritage. The legacy of the Angélus estate spans eight generations, which is quite a rare feat among the top properties in Bordeaux. M. de Boüard emphatically stated that he considers his greatest success to be the love and knowledge of winemaking that he passes on to the next generation, rather than his own successes in winemaking. While he still serves as the technical director at Angélus, his daughter Stéphanie has assumed more responsibilities in running the estate. This is a man who puts his heart and soul into producing the best wines possible every vintage.FullSizeRender 3.jpg

What truly makes nights like this special is the opportunity to get to know the personal side of the winemaker. Certainly we talked about wine, such as the underrated reputation of the 2001 vintage for the right bank. When I asked to name one of his favorite wines (other than his own), he mentioned the 1989 Haut-Brion without hesitation. We discussed the 2015 vintage at length; he drew similarities to 1998, but suggested the character of 2015 is somewhere in the middle of 1998 and 2005 (perhaps structurally as well). When discussing his wines, he commonly reminded me how important the Cabernet Franc is in the blend, and how it gives the wine longevity. His goal is to produce a wine that can span three decades, if not more, and the Cabernet Franc is the key. You will know what he is referring to if you have ever tasted the 1990 Angélus. And finally, he had an interesting anecdote about his dogs. Apparently, his labrador only likes to eat grapes in the vineyard when they are ripe; he joked that the dog knows when the right time is to harvest. L1020094b.jpg

Regarding the wines themselves, this was clearly a night of consistent excellence. All of the nights showed well, but perhaps the surprise of the evening were the two vintages of Carillon d’Angélus (2009 and 2012). These showed great complexity and drinkability, especially considering Carillon is the second wine of Angélus. Most of the vintages of Château Angélus were quite young, but there was great potential shown in most of the wines. It is always a good sign when no one can agree of their favorite vintages, and on this night, everyone seemed to indicate a different vintage to be their favorite. But on the this night, it certainly appeared that vintages like 2001, 2004, and 2010 stood out. The 2010 is an impressive effort, and should evolve into one of the greatest wines in the history of the estate; the complexity and mouthfeel are stunning. And despite the 15.5% alcohol level, there is no detection of heat at all. The 2001 and 2004 continue to show why they are among the best Bordeaux wines of their respective vintages. The 2005, on the other hand, appeared to be in a shy, shut-down phase on this evening. But the conclusion drawn from this tasting is that Angélus has produced impressive wines throughout the past 15 years, irrespective of vintage. Much of this could be attributed to advances in modern winemaking, but you cannot deny the influence of terroir and a passionate winemaker as well.

Overall, this was an evening of great company and great wines. We learned not only about the wines, but about the history of Saint-Émilion and Angélus. And as the night was closing, M. de Boüard told a story of his young grandson who is already learning to taste the grapes in the vineyard. The ninth generation is already learning to become a winemaker, which should ensure that the family lineage continues.

Tasting Notes

IMG_05851994 Château Angélus. Medium ruby color, mild bricking at edges. A very complex nose, with bright red fruits, tobacco, herbs, cedar, Asian spices, and violets. Lacks the charming earthiness of the 1989 and 1990, but has more of a spice element to it. Medium weight. Still has very fine tannins to resolve. This beauty is still in its drinking window, and there is enough fruit and remaining structure to take this at this five more years. In comparison to other vintages, this is not not as round and structured as the 1995; it is much more evolved than the still youthful 1995. This is more of an understated charmer than the bigger and more complex 1989, 1990, and 1990. For a so-so vintage, this is a success.

2001 Château Angélus. Deep, dark purple color. One of the more open and intoxicating noses of the night, with ripe plum, damson, licorice, mineral, barnyard, and espresso. Caressing on the palate, with soft, round tannins. Impressively structured. A long, lingering finish. There is always a lot of life with this wine. This is a vintage to follow. This wine showed extremely well tonight.

2004 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. Another fragrant, open nose of dark and red fruits, violets, sous bois, and chocolate. Impressive concentration. The palate seems to have layers, with a very pleasant mouthfeel. Tannins a bit firm and in need of more integration. Nice acidity on the medium-plus length finish. Optimistic of a long future.


IMG_05842005 Château Angélus. A shy nose. Not really showing its stuff right now. The nose is still quite primary, with dark fruits, spice, and vanilla. Dense and concentrated. A full-bodied mouthfeel, with serious backbone and structure. Fairly tannic right now. Lengthy finish. This is obviously an excellent wine, but this is nowhere near maturation. That said, with enough air, this is still very enjoyable and should start to nudge at its drinking window in the near future. This should easily eclipse three decades.

2006 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. This one is pretty tight right now. Probably needs a lot of aeration. Nice is fairly open, with black cherry, blackberry, herbs, and dark chocolate. Tannic and not quite balanced right now. Lots of acidity on the finish. Hasn’t quite entered its drinking window. If you’re planning to open this now, I would probably save most of it for the next day.

2008 Château Angélus. Nose somewhat subdued, but very floral. Lots of plum, black cherry, truffle, licorice, and violets. Really like the complexity on the nose and palate. A really silky mouthfeel, with nicely integrated tannins. A long, smooth finish with lots of balanced acidity.

2010 Château Angélus. Deep inky purple, almost black in color. A seriously densely aromatic nose of black fruits, licorice, truffle, and dark chocolate. Incredible concentration. Very tannic at this stage, but they are still surprisingly soft. A full-bodied affair, with so much intensity on the palate. Very impressive length on the finish. While this wine clocks in at 15.5% alcohol, there was absolutely no detection of heat at all. The most impressive wine of the evening. This wine deserves cellaring for at least 10 years, though it may become more approachable sooner.


IMG_0583.JPG2011 Château Angélus. Deep purple color. A bright, lively nose of red fruits, cherry, herbs, and vanilla. Full-bodied mouthfeel. Good concentration. Has that tannic edge that is characteristic of so many wines from ’11. Average acidity on the finish. This wine needs more time to come together and integrate. Still, this is a smooth drinker that just needs lots of aeration right now. I was able to try this on the following day, and it had shed some of its sharp edges and was even smoother on the palate. The nose was a bit shy, however. Should reach its prime drinking window within five years but expect nice longevity.

2009 Le Carillon de l’Angélus. The second wines were quite good. This had lots of ripe red fruits, black cherry, spice, and vanilla. Soft tannins with no astringency. Smooth finish. While lacking the concentration of the Château Angélus wines, this is so drinkable right now. A really great food wine, but could stand on its own as well.

2012 Le Carillon d’Angélus. Initially, this seemed to be pretty simple. Red currant, cherry, with a bit of licorice and spice. It was pretty straightforward on the palate, but with a nice medium weight and smooth delivery. I was fortunate enough to save some and drink it over the next two days. The improvement was quite impressive, with a much more open, lively nose. The balance was better. There was some earthiness that wasn’t apparent on the first day. This wine obviously has a pretty nice future, especially for a second wine. It’s a testament to the fact that the top producers take their second wines quite seriously.

Château Lagrange Tasting

Château Lagrange tasting at Wine Watch (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) – March 15, 2016

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With so many unique and impressive classified growths in Bordeaux, sometimes it is hard to stand out. But in Château Lagrange’s case, it is actually quite easy, as it lays claim to being the largest classified growth in the Médoc (Left Bank). At 113 hectares, Lagrange sits perched on a hill that is the highest elevation in the Saint-Julien appellation. Like many of the classified growth estates, Lagrange has had its ups and downs, with some degradation in the quality of its wines. Their course changed when the Japanese drinks conglomerate Suntory purchased Château Lagrange in 1983. Under the direction of Marcel Ducasse, Lagrange was revitalized with replanting of the vineyards and the building of a new winery. Due to these improvements, there has been a substantial increase in the quality of the wines produced.

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Due to its massive vineyard, Lagrange has a very large annual production. Typically, over 700,000 are produced each year! Less than half of this is the Château Lagrange grand vin, as there is a much higher production of the second wine, Les Fiefs de Lagrange. Interestingly, a white wine is also produced, Les Arums de Lagrange, which represents less than 3% of the estate’s production. The wines of Château Lagrange are classically Saint-Julien, with a solid tannic structure and a nice balance of power and finesse.

During a recent trip to South Florida, Charlotte Denjean presented a sampling of the estate’s wines at Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale. The 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintages of Château Lagrange were presented, in addition to the 2009 and 2011 Les Fiefs de Lagrange. Surprisingly, the majority of the wines were quite accessible at this youthful stage. Perhaps most surprising was the excellent showing of the 2009 Les Fiefs de Lagrange, which showed nice complexity and quite a bit of charm. As expected, the 2005 Château Lagrange was showing the best, with some developing tertiary aromatics and softening structure. Of the youngest wines, the 2012 Château Lagrange was the standout, exhibiting nice balance and ripe fruits; it has certainly evolved to a nice stage since tasting it a year ago. While the 2012 vintage was not lauded in Bordeaux, it may turn out to be a nice early drinking vintage, that hopefully provides some longevity to the wines as well. A big thank-you to Charlotte Denjean for sharing her wines with us on this very nice evening at Wine Watch.

First Growth Tasting – 1982 to 1996

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Tasting a first growth wine is always a special experience, regardless of the vintage. Even in weaker vintages, you are tasting the height of winemaking and the best the terroir was capable of that year. So of course we were extremely excited to participate in a first growth tasting to compare many of these exceptional wines. When you are tasting many high-end wines simultaneously, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are all great wines that could all impress on their own. But when you taste these first growth wines together, you really learn to find subtle nuances that make some stand out more than others. At this tasting, there was also a ‘mini-vertical’ of Château Margaux, that included four of the strongest vintages from 1982 to 1996; the stylistic differences among the vintages was evident, but the variability in vintage also allowed us to see the continuum of wine maturation. But as is often said, “There are no great wines, only great bottles,” we found on this night that there were many great bottles indeed.


 

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1982 Château Margaux: For much of the evening, it was difficult to decide whether or not this was better than the 1983. It seemed to have an intensity that built in the glass over time, gaining more aromatics and overall balance. There was beautiful black currant, violets, green pepper, and tobacco. Tannins are nicely integrated but are still present. A silky mouthfeel, with more elegance than power. A medium length finish that isn’t memorable but harmonizes well with the overall experience. There are still some years left here, and the fruit is robust.

1983 Château Margaux: Initially, this nose was much more perfumed and open than the 1982. With time, this shifted as the nose became a bit shy. More spiciness and earthiness than the 82. Both dark and red fruits, mushroom, green pepper, violets, and menthol round out the aromatics. A similar style to the 82, with more elegance than raw power. An appealing mouthfeel with good weight, some of which was lost with more time in the glass. Still fairly tannic, certainly more so than the 82. A medium length finish. Will be interesting to see if the the fruit fades before the tannins resolve. I would drink this fairly soon if you have it, though the fruit should last for the near future.

1986 Château Margaux: The consensus least favorite wine of the evening. The vintage really showed through, with harsh tannins and fading fruit. Interestingly, the color is still good, showing dark ruby. Perhaps the tannins were masking the fruit, which is the best-case scenario. A bit acidic on the finish. Disappointing on this night, certainly compared to its peers.

1996 Château Margaux: My #2 wine of the night. A really big wine with huge potential. A beautifully perfumed nose of black currant, blackberry, sous bois, violets, chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible complexity and concentration. Certainly well-structured, but the tannins are so soft and marry beautifully with the fruit. Very fresh acidity on the finish. Incredible length. Easily the best Margaux of the evening.


 

IMG_41961990 Château Haut-Brion: My #1 wine of the night. With the first sniff, I predicted this would be wine of the night. As good as the 1996 Margaux was, this was easily better due to its advanced level of maturity. A sexy wine that is a true stunner. An intoxicating nose of cassis, matchstick, wet gravel, barnyard, sweet tobacco, tar, and leather. Just incredible complexity. The balance is all there, with the tannins creating an exquisite mouthfeel. Acidity is in its right place. An incredibly long finish. I don’t particularly love scoring wines, but do so for my own relative reference; this is as close to 100 points as you get, in my opinion.

1995 Château Haut-Brion: It’s amazing how much younger this seems than the 1990. A shy nose that shut down in the glass. Still, there’s great fruit, chocolate, and developing tobacco and leather. Some floral notes as well. A bold wine on the palate, with firm tannins and lots of great structure. A very nice finish with high acidity. This is far from maturity, and I would give this wine at least three more years of aging.


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1995 Château Mouton Rothschild: The chameleon wine of the evening. At first, there was an enchanting nose with loads of fruit and complexity. With time, this also shut down in the glass. Lighter on the palate than the 95 Haut-Brion, but with a nice silky mouthfeel. The tannins aren’t overbearing, but there is need of more integration. Excellent concentration. Good acidity on the finish. This wine appears to be in an awkward phase, and I would probably hold off for a few years. I still feel there is great potential for this to turn into an impressive wine. Perhaps it’s showing a bit of the character of the 1995 vintage.

1982 Château Cheval Blanc: From a magnum. My #3 wine of the night. This really didn’t impress much from the get-go, but really blossomed after time in the glass. The aromatics showed nice complexity, with black currant, cherry, spice, toast, tobacco, and mocha. Medium ruby color. I really enjoyed the weight of this wine; after a few hours, at times it seemed almost Burgundian. While there are tannins left to resolve, they are ultra-soft and well-balanced. An outstanding finish with great length. While this vintage has suffered a bit in the critical scores department, this is yet another great example that there are no great wines, only great bottles.

Cheval Blanc Vertical – 12 Vintages

February 2016  Château Cheval Blanc tasting at Vienna Wine Bar & Cafe, Davie, FloridaIMG_4036.JPGIMG_4058

There are few more iconic wines in Bordeaux than Château Cheval Blanc. There is a storied history here that is perhaps only rivaled by those of the Médoc first growths, from its inception in 1832 to its sale to Bernard Arnault of LVMH in 1998. But the true history of Cheval Blanc can be found in its wines. Many believe that perhaps the greatest Bordeaux ever produced was the 1947 Cheval Blanc; every Bordeaux wine aficionado dreams of just one taste of this legendary wine. Since 1947, there have still been countless noteworthy, and even iconic, vintages produced by Cheval Blanc. And as a ‘first growth’ of Saint-Emilion, this château rarely disappoints, even in the lesser ‘off-vintages.’ To celebrate the history of Cheval Blanc, we arranged two special vertical tastings and dinners at the Vienna Cafe and Wine Bar. We were able to include a variety of vintages spanning almost four decades. There were some surprises, like the 1971, which proved once again that, “There are no great wines, only great bottles.” And as expected, the vintages of 1990 and 2000 truly rose to the occasion. But at the end of the day, these nights confirmed once again that it is always special to have the opportunity to taste any vintage of Château Cheval Blanc.


1970 light ruby. Fantastic nose, much better than the last bottle. Not as rustic and the old library book smell was lacking with this bottle. Light in weight but has a graceful mouthfeel. Red fruits, Brett, menthol, mushroom, and roses. The Brett was fairly strong, but something I tend to like when it has a sweetness to it, as with this wine. A finish that tails off. Lost steam after a couple of hours, so this is a wine to be consumed now.  92/100

IMG_3984 2.JPG1971. Did not seem like a wine from Saint- Emilion. A really nice, layered nose. More balanced and even than the 1970. Lacks the Brett of the 1970. Minty. Floral. Herbal. Great fruit. Loved this. Medium plus finish. Never lost any life even after a few hours. Based on this bottle, it appears that this wine should still drink well for awhile. Picked WOTN by 7 of the 8 in attendance. 97/100

1981 started out with a very off-putting nose; almost seemed to have some volatile acidity going on. This definitely improved after a couple of hours of air. Black currant, juniper berries, fresh herbs, musk, and Indian spices dominated the nose. It certainly had the most unique nose of the night. Stronger on the palate, with good depth. Velvety tannins that are nicely integrated. Fell short on the finish. Not a showstopper by any means, but a good showing considering the vintage. Would drink this relatively soon. 89/100

1986. Started out with a powerhouse nose of plum, lots of brown spices, tobacco, espresso, and mushrooms. Medium weight. Seems to have great balance. Easy to note the freshness and acidity. Exceeded expectations. 95/100IMG_7781

1988. The most reserved of the bunch. Red fruits, juniper, caramel, brown spices, and tobacco. Never really came alive. My sense is that this will lie dormant for awhile. Lacks some life on the palate. A medium length finish 90/100

1989. Moved in and out all night. When it was on, it was really on. Red fruits, some damp earth, cedar, herbs, and espresso. Moderate tannins. Some spiciness noted on the finish. Didn’t put on much weight throughout the night. One of the most enchanting noses of the night. Still has some years left in the tank, but the inconsistency throughout the night leads me to wonder how long. 92/100

1990. Simply a fantastic wine. Exudes elegance. Really ripe fruits at the forefront, but with a lovely earthiness and spiciness. Complex and beautifully balanced. Another wine that put on weight in the glass. While this is likely near its peak, there is still some room for growth and development. Love the mouthfeel and weight. Long finish. Superb. 96/100

1994. Blueberry, black cherry, tobacco, espresso, sous bois, and vanilla. Impressive. Velvety mouthfeel, still with tannins to resolve. Medium length finish. A great 1994.   94/100

IMG_77831995. Dark ruby color. Needed over 3 hours of air to open up, but seemed to come in and out. Blackberry, blueberry, dark chocolate, spice, and tobacco. Really nice concentration. Just seems like it’s holding back. You have to look really hard to see its potential, because this is still shy overall. Tannins are in good balance right now. Good acidity as well. No concerns about the fruit outlasting the tannins. Save this baby for at least 5 more years; the structure is solid. 93/100

1999. On opening, this seemed a little over-worked, but this was not the case as it mellowed. Really dense and layered. Menthol, cassis, Indian spices, black cherry, espresso, and cigar. The most full-bodied of the night, but the balance was still in check. Tannins are round but still in the foreground. With time, this could turn into an excellent wine. Hold this for a few years.  94/100

IMG_4041.JPG2000 From a magnum. A little closed on the nose initially, but really opened up nicely. Beautifully spiced. Ripe plum, black cherry, violets, smoke, and espresso. Incredibly soft in the mouth with silky tannins. Hard to believe how soft and plush this wine is at this stage. Pure elegance. An amazingly long finish. Will be a powerhouse wine. There is serious potential here. 97/100

2004. Very impressive. Just kept gaining weight all night. At first, was unexpressive but seemed to continually add new aromas. Blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, baking spice, and tobacco. Very smooth on the palate, with soft tannins. While it lacks the amazing perfume and complexity of the 2000, this wine has lots of charm and is definitely accessible now. 93/100

Win Tickets to the Union des Grands Crus

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We are so excited to attend the Weekend des Grands Crus tasting June 4th in Bordeaux! This event, sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, is an all-day wine tasting set in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, France.
Who else wants to win free tickets and join us in Bordeaux??
Here’s how to enter:
  • 2. Repost the image below (or post your own photo of a bottle of Bordeaux wine that is represented in the UGC)
  • 3. Add the hashtag #WGCBordeaux to your post
  • We will randomly choose a winner from the #WGCBordeaux hashtags on March 28th!
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This tasting event is an opportunity to taste over 100 Bordeaux Grands Crus. You will also meet châteaux owners and winemakers who will present the 2013 vintage for you to taste plus one other vintage of their choice. This is a must-attend event for all wine enthusiasts, and is one of our favorite wine events of the year. Contest photos can be posted on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. For more information about the UGC, please visit ugcb.net.