One of the greatest wine tasting events is sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB). Established in 1973, the UGCB organizes wine-tasting programs to promote and educate the world on wines from the famous Bordeaux region. In addition to tasting these wines, it is such a great experience to speak to the chateau representatives, which include many of the head winemakers and chateau owners.
With over 80 chateaux present at the tasting, it is virtually impossible to taste and admire all of the wines in less than 3 hours. We strategically selected some “must taste” wines according to our personal preferences and reputations from the 2012 vintage.
The event in Miami was the first of the North American tour. It was held at an incredible venue, the famed LIV nightclub. But instead of DJs and club-goers, the nightclub was transformed into a charming and elegant atmosphere. Due to the large space, the chateaux were all nicely spread out and arranged. The appellations (Bordeaux regions) were all arranged in a logical manner as well. The event was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, but we had purchased ‘VIP Access’ tickets that allowed us access at 7:00pm. We made sure to take advantage of the sparse crowds in these first 30 minutes! By the end of the event at 10pm, we had tasted over 30 wines and had delightful conversations with some of the most important people of the Bordeaux wine industry. In a later post, we will share some of the more memorable wines that we tasted. Right now, we just want to focus on the overall experience.
First, it is important to note that the 2012 vintage was somewhat difficult in much of Bordeaux. It was a late harvest and yields were reduced, especially in Sauternes. The general consensus is that this is a vintage for drinking, but not for investment. It was interesting to note that while some wines that we tasted had somewhat harsh and grippy tannins, many of the wines were already enjoyable and smooth on the palate. Merlot fared particularly well, but some chateaux on the Right Bank mentioned difficulties with ripening of Cabernet Franc (while Canon-la-Gaffeliere, on the other hand, contained 45% Cabernet Franc!). Overall, many consider this to be a ‘Right Bank vintage,’ but many in Graves and Pessac-Leognan produced some notable wines as well (especially the white wines). And while the fruit in many 2012 Bordeaux wines appear to be very ripe, we didn’t note much over-extraction in any of the wines. Perhaps 2012 will be a great ‘value vintage’ for lovers of Bordeaux?
It was certainly clear that many of the representatives were proud of their achievements, as they should be. Speaking with Julien Barthe of Beau-Sejour Becot, he noted that their goal was to produce a wine that would drink well young, and I think that they succeeded. It was simply sublime. Comte Stephan von Neipperg also noted that his Canon-la-Gaffeliere should be ready to drink in the near future. The representative from Gazin commented that their wine is 100% Merlot, due to the fact that they had poor ripening and yields of their Cabernet Franc. While we spent a lot of time tasting wines from Margaux, St. Julien, and Pauillac, it was clear that many of these wines are babies and nowhere near drinking well. Despite this, the concentration and complexity were there, in order to produce a nice product. It was nice to see that almost all of the wines exhibited ripe fruit, not surprising considering the heat experienced in the late season. But one of the main highlights of the tastings was being able to speak with the chateau representatives, who were all so friendly and engaging. From Anne Cuvelier (of Leoville Poyferre) to Emeline Borie (of Grand Puy Lacoste) to Charlotte Denjean (of Lagrange), the experience was just fantastic.
Perhaps the surprise of the evening was the time spent in the Pessac-Leognan region. Once we made it upstairs and tasting the first wines, we quickly realized that we needed to spend some considerable time here. We first started with Smith Haut Lafitte, and were immediately impressed with both of their wines (red and white). The SHL representative, Ludovic Fradin, was very nice and kindly invited us to visit the chateau. Pape Clement served up an impressive red, but more impressive white wine. But perhaps the highlight was speaking with the kind Paulin Calvet of Picque Caillou. I enjoyed hearing his passion about his wines; I look forward to tasting these wines in the upcoming years, but his 2012 wines were quite enjoyable now.
And finally, we visited with Berenice Lurton of Chateau Climens. We had attended a private tasting on the previous night, but had not tasted the 2012. The 2012 Climens is a must-buy for those who enjoy Sauternes wines. Sauternes had a very tough vintage in 2012, with extremely reduced yields, but it seems that Berenice weathered the storm. The same could be said for both Guiraud and Doisy-Daene, who both produced rich, enjoyable wines.
Overall, this event did not disappoint. From the atmosphere at LIV to the consistently excellent wines, this was one great evening. Total Wine, who had organized the event in Miami, pulled it off with flying colors. Hopefully, the UGCB will return to Miami next year.