Have you heard of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux?

This organization was first conceived by a group of small estate owners in Bordeaux interested in collectively forming promotional initiatives around the world. The idea grew, the Union was formed and today, in cooperation with distributors, brokers and merchants, they host 80 events a year in over a dozen countries.  The focus is to present their latest vintage to some 50,000 or so professionals and wine lovers.  The Union consists of 134 Chateau members.

On January 24, 2020 (in San Francisco) the 2017 vintage was introduced with more than 70 chateau owners and representatives pouring their wines.  There is a ‘trade only’ tasting in the afternoon and K&L Wine Merchants hosts a ‘public tasting’ in the early evening.  This event is listed on their website and sells out each year.

While the Union de Grand Crus does not encompass all Bordeaux area wineries, it is a fantastic representation of the area and the wines produced in the vintage being showcased.  The event is organized by appellation (Graves, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Margaux, Saint-Julien, etc.) so comparison tasting is very easy.  The Union produces a comprehensive Bordeaux guide which has commentary about the appellation as well as information on the Chateau represented.  In addition, there is a smaller booklet listing the wineries by appellation for note taking.  If you love Bordeaux or want to learn more about the area, this is the event to attend.

For the 2017 vintage, the Bordeaux area experienced late spring frosts that did much damage to the vineyards as it occurred during bud break and the early growing season.  Some producers lost all crop, some half and some suffered no losses.  Such is life in the world of agriculture but it can be devastating.  2017 was a dry vintage in Bordeaux and, thankfully, 80% of the top 150 Chateau experienced a good harvest.  A number of these Chateau are in Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estephe as they border the Gironde Estuary and enjoy its warming influence.  Saint-Emilion and its satellites did not fare as well. 

The following are a few wines that I enjoyed tasting and also talking with the Chateau owners/representatives. This is a very short list and is just meant to be a teaser for the vintage:

2017 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien

2017 Chateau Giscours, Margaux

2017 Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux

2017 Chateau Maucaillou, Moulis

2017 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac

2017 Chateau d/Armailhac, Pauillac

2017 Chateau Phelan Segur, Saint-Estephe

2017 Chateau Citran, Haut Medoc

2017 Chateau Talbot, Saint-Julien

Santé

Sudsy

3 thoughts on “Have you heard of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux?

  1. So Sudsy, what was your overall impression of the vintage? Which communes fared better? Suggestions on what to collect and rough guess on holding timed?
    And, probably most important, did you have a good time?

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    • The 2017 vintage has good wines but my impression is not across the board like in 2016. In really good vintages, wines from the Medoc and Haut Medoc are great values and do more than deliver ‘Wednesday Wines’. I found some of my favorite producers from these areas were not as nuanced as they were in 2016, for example. However, the 2017 Chateau Beaumont from the Haut Medoc was very nice at the $20 price point. Easy to drink and very easy on the wallet.

      The Pauillac wines were softer, lighter in color/intensity and more approachable in their youth than you normally expect from Pauillac. For example, I really liked the Chateau d’Armailhac as the Cabernet Franc element was obvious and gave the wine a charming brightness and flavor lift.

      The Saint-Julien wines. like Chateau Talbot, were very good and I felt presented no indication of a flawed vintage. I found Chateau Talbot and Chateau Gloria very nice wines and will add the 2017 wines to my cellar.

      Saint-Estephe and Margaux presented well, but I understand there are some areas of Margaux that lost crop. I always like the Cantenac Brown and Giscours and they did taste very well.

      I had a few wines from the Right Bank but as you can tell from the map in the article, Saint-Emilion and satellites were hit pretty hard. I did not extensively taste these but my impression was that they seemed variable.

      Since I am not purchasing First Growth wines but the more affordable bottles, I am pretty set on 5 to 10 years for aging so there is still fruit and life to the wines. However, from what I tasted from Pauillac, and I tasted many, I would not hesitate to enjoy them in the 3 to 5 year window. They were lovely and approachable.

      How could I not have a good time? I love this event and have used the venue to select wines to showcase at some of the events I do for the KOV and Wine and Food Society. What a wonderful opportunity to taste and the Chateau owners and their representatives are more than lovely. It is a fantastic event.

      Sudsy

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  2. I had a slightly different take on the wines. In general, I found the Pauillacs to be weak and thin-bodied, although I agree with Sudsy of the GPL, but @ $80 a bottle–yikes – not for me! The Haut Medoc, usually a favorite, struggled. The St. Estephes were the pick of the litter. Almost everything was priced too high except the Maucaillou, a $20 wine, and the Citran at $24. And the best wine of the event was the Suiduiraut–a classic, though pricey at $70/750 ml.

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