Every year the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) vintners graciously bring a vintage of their wines for tastings to several cities in the USA. The particular vintage usually has three years of age, and this year the 2014 vintage was exhibited. On January 27, I attended the tasting at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco. The rest of the 2017 tour also encompassed Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto, Canada.
The UGC, founded in 1973, consists of 134 top wine estates located near Bordeaux in southwest France. Wine estates that attended the tasting came from Bordeaux appellations that included Médoc, Haut-Médoc, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, and Barsac from the so-called Left Bank of the Girond Estuary, and Saint-Émilion and Pomerol from the Right Bank.
Bordeaux is a considerable wine kingdom, having both magnitude and quality. The total wine production from Bordeaux in an average vintage is staggering, roughly 60 million cases (720,000 bottles). That includes common table or carafe-wine, as well as wine from the top wine estates. Overall hectares under vine nears 150,000 (over 350,000 acres). AOC vines number over 50,000 hectares (nearly 150,000 acres). The highly rated UGC estates are in the range of 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres).
Several varieties of grapes are grown in the Bordeaux region. Red grape varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and infrequently, Carménère. On the Left Bank Cabernet Sauvignon predominates, while on the Right Bank Merlot leads, with some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon often in the mix.
The most commonly found white grape varietals are Sauvignon Blanc, mainly in Pessac-Léognan, and Sémillon with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc in the botrytised dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Muscadelle occasionally joins in the mix.
My tasting notes
95, Château Haut-Bailly, 2014, Pessac-Léognan
Beautiful deep purple in color with red hues. The beguiling aromas of ripe fruit with great purity are framed by hints of cassis, spice box, walnuts, and a trace of dry earth. The wine opens in the glass immediately and distinctly, but also subtly. A complex, medium-weight that sports a seamless texture with a supple, agile character. This 2014 displays an elegance integrated to its core. The rear palate boasts fabulous dark fruit flavors with clinging grip. The persistent finish expressively shows notes of delicious, fruity-dark chocolate. Haut-Bailly keeps exceeding!
91, Château Carbonnieux blanc, 2014, Pessac-Léognan
Château Carbonnieux continues to produce lovely white wine. Pale green-gold, this 2014 opens slowly in the glass, but its character begins showing through as hints of citrus, lime, and mineral appear. The wine has purity of fruit and is well-structured with an assertive but pleasing firmness. This is a well-balanced entry, with a fresh and crisp character, while simultaneously showing some roundness. A well-made wine that is definitely ready to enjoy now, but a little time in bottle will only add. Stay tuned into this sleeper!
90, Château Pape Clememt, blanc, 2014, Pessac-Léognan
This white wine, straw in color with faint green hues, opens a bit monochromatically in the glass, but quickly evolves. Possesses a nice oily character along with structured firmness, and significant complexity soon becomes evident. Shows quality fruit with a lingering finish. This is a wine to watch.
92, Château Talbot, 2014, Saint-Julien
Radiant black-purple in color, this 2014 shows an aromatic nose of ripe blackberries, cassis liqueur, and a hint of milk-chocolate. This medium-bodied wine shows touches of opulence with rich fruit, extract, and a smooth, supple feel. The ripe tannins provide a well-integrated, significant structure. With intensity in flavor and character, this wine is also elegant, expressive, and complex. Very good now, this is definitely a wine to watch as it evolves.
92, Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, 2014, Saint-Émilion
Another very approachable entry from this Château. The wine’s juicy, easy entry belies its precision and structure. Good balance graces this harmonious, red-purple offering. Fragrant violet with ripe black and red berry aromas upon entry, join rich black-cherry, raspberry, fig, and dark plum jam on the palate with just the right intensity. Canon-La-Gaffelière’s successes continue!
90, Château La-Gaffelière, 2014, Saint-Émilion
Purple with red hues. This wine brings an aromatic nose of dark fruit. Cassis and cranberry notes show on the palate, with a refreshing vein of acid in the background. A little bottle time will soften the few tannins on the finish.
94, Château La Tour Blanche, 2014, Sauternes
Pretty pale-gold in color. This 2014 demonstrates excellent overall balance, and delivers quality fruit. Offers a pleasing oily texture with medium viscosity and fine delineation. The light-honeyed pear and dried white peach, supported by the lifting-freshness of yellow citrus, carry through to the lingering finish. Good complexity is clear, as is purity of the fruit, but the keyword for this delicious sticky is elegance!
95, Château de Fargues, 2014, Sauternes
Prominent pure and crisp aromas of candied fruit with a citrus and lemon-lime bias immediately brings Sauternes to mind, as of course it should. Candied fruit flavors are set within a lovely oily and viscous medium in which the parts are in perfect balance. Rich and complex, delineated faucets of flavor and character reach out in all directions. Former Château d’Yquem owner Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces has been producing some highly-rated stickies at de Fargues since he arrived in 2005. However, de Fargues is not exactly new to him. His family has owned it since the 13th Century, about eight hundred years.
94, Château Guiraud, 2014, Sauternes
The 2014 Guiraud opens with very well defined aromas of candied citrus fruit. Has high viscosity on a well-structured frame, and still displays the sophistication that Guiraud usually does with its often generous content of Sauvignon Blanc. The wine also shows excellent sweetness, great balance, and a persisting finish.
91, Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes
A sugar-bomb! This sweetie opens in a burst with compelling aromas of crisp fresh fruit, and candied-tropical fruit. Medium-light gold in color, a fine, oily texture is apparent on the palate. The wine possesses quality fruit, has excellent balance in concert with its sugar, and shows a long finish.
94, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2014
Everything is spot-on with this 2014 entry from Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Light-gold in color, the wine shows excellent balance overall with a nice oily texture over its very elegant total. Luscious flavors of sweet candied and dried tropical fruit including hints of papaya and apricot. A fine effort!
94, Château Suduiraut, Sauternes
The light-gold color of this sticky contradicts the fact that it is packed with notable power and intensity. The tangy, tropical, candied-fruit flavors present a finely-honed focus and precision. Excellent, well-balanced effort with a persistent finish. Watch this one.