Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux 2018 Tasting Vintage 2015

A new venue was provided by the organizer, Balzac Communications, for the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) 2018 tasting on January 25 at City View at Metreon, San Francisco with a spectacular view from the fourth-floor outdoor patio of the city below.  Walls of glass enhanced the view, and illuminated the tasting arena.  The many vintners, winemakers, and proprietors from Bordeaux who brought their 2015 vintage eagerly explained their wines and poured.  Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is an organization composed of 133 members, designed to promote Bordeaux Grands Cru wine.

Bordeaux, France means different things to different people.  Historically, Bordeaux and its surrounds played a role in the end of the Hundred Years’ War with the English back in the Fifteenth Century.  Architecturally, the Bordeaux wine country is dotted with multitudes of wine estates called chateaux.  Most are quite aged and date from the 18th and 19th Centuries, with architectural styles from their epoch.  Some have additional structures or ruminants far older, approaching a millennium.  To understand about how the term chateau came to be applied to the Bordeaux wineries, see the excellent book “Chateaux Bordeaux” by Michael Graves.

To my readers, the main focus on Bordeaux I am sure are the oceans and oceans of ultra-premium wine that flows out of the Bordeaux environs each year.  Seemingly endless quantities of superb wine, and in various flavors emanate from the area: dry red, dry white, and spectacular sweet white dessert wine known as “stickies” from Sauternes and Barsac.  Bordeaux welcomed six million visitors in 2016, and over half were involved in a wine-related activity.

The AOCs (appellation d’origine contrôlé) pouring wine at the UGC tasting were, from the Left Bank, Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines, Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Médoc, and St-Estèphe.  From the Right Bank were Saint-Émilion Grand Cru and Pomerol.

From the wines I tasted from the 2015 vintage I found for red wines the star was Pauillac, with wines that showed fine purity, elegance, and a classic demeanor.  For Sauternes and Barsac, well their roll just continues with magnificent, non-cloying, and beautifully balanced stickies!  Their liquid gold continues from stellar vintage to stellar vintage.  With Bordeaux being what it is, every AOC produced many excellent, high quality wines.

My Tasting Notes of the 2015 Vintage

97, Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac, 2015
The finest Pichon Baron I have ever tasted.   Astounding elegance and thrilling purity on a texture of satin.  Inside this sublime ruby-purple envelope lies a classically structured Pauillac.  Incredibly perfect balance of fruit, acidity, and fully integrated, structuring tannins.  The size is not apparent, but the character is riveting.  Great and instantaneous impact!  Notes of cassis, peony, lead pencil, and minerality.  The composition is almost four parts Cabernet Sauvignon to one-part Merlot.  Barely medium in weight with great purity of fruit, the impression is powerful.  Profound classicism and refinement!

94, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, St.-Émilion, 2015
The 2015 Canon La Gaffelière is composed of three parts Merlot, two parts Cabernet Franc, and the balance in Cabernet Sauvignon from organically certified estate grapes.  The organic certification simply adds to the progress that proprietor Stephan von Neipperg has achieved over time with this chateau.  This deep ruby St.-Émilion showcases a savory and delicious trait that spells hedonistic in style.  Boasting ripe blackberries, spicy dark plums, and fresh roasted coffee, this is a wine plentiful with rich fruit that envelope the ripe tannins.  Lightly textured, the acid level elevates the fruit.

94, Clos Fourtet, St.-Émilion, 2015
Pretty, semi-transparent ruby in color, is this blend of nearly 90% Merlot, with the balance in Cabernet Sauvignon and half as much Cabernet Franc.  Lightly textured and bright, the 2015 Clos Fourtet, is rich and lavish in character, delivering profuse savory fruit.  Aromas of blueberries and violets, with boysenberries. spice-box, and chocolate on the palate.  Well-structured with mild, ripe tannins.

94, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, St.-Émilion, 2015
The 2015 Larcis Ducasse is a very compelling effort showing plenty of elegance.  Nicolas Thienpont and Stéphane Derencourt have put together a blend approaching 90% Merlot, with the balance in Cabernet Franc offering fresh dark cherries, raspberry pie, dark plum and a nuance of cinnamon.  Reveals a smooth, light texture with rich fruit of excellent purity.  Ripe, well integrated tannins provide structure and the acid level creates lift.

92, Chateau Clinet, Pomerol, 2015
Toasted oak in the nose, along with black cherries and plum, with a deep-ruby color.  Plentiful rich dark quality fruit in the foreground.  The components are in balance, with acid lift and mild, well managed tannins.  Lush power, inviting, and well made.

93, Chateau Gazin, Pomerol, 2015
A big one is this dark-ruby 2015 Gazin!  Loads of opulent black fruit with in a forward style.  Black cherry, blackberry, with hints of roasted coffee and toasty-oak on the palate, the wine displays good balance, and delivers a delicious character.  The big, ripe, structuring tannins are fully absorbed into the rich, thick fruit.

93, Chateau Haut – Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, 2015
Deep ruby with purple highlights, delivers aromatic, perfumed notes of plum, black currants, with a blueberry touch.  Bright with elevated acid levels.  The 2015 Haut – Bailly boasts a delicious character with ripe sweet tannins, great purity to the rich dark fruit, and a certain precise bearing to its medium-body, all concluding in a lengthy finish.

90, Chateau Olivier, Pessac-Léognan, 2015
Transparent ruby-purple in color is this composition of nearly equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the former slightly greater, and a dollop of Petit Verdot.  Notes of red cherry, strawberry, and spice-box, with the ripe fruit enveloping the structuring tannins nicely, while the acid level lends refreshing brightness and lift.  Built on a solid frame.

91, Chateau Olivier blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2015
Pale straw in color with sparkling silver highlights is this blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sémillon.  Herbaceous aromas of dry/green grass, jalapeño, and gooseberry, while on the palate bright grapefruit and white peach.  This impressive medium-light-weight delivers a silky suppleness, impact, and precision in character.  Fine effort!

92, Chateau Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2015
Dark purple color, the 2015 Léoville-Barton is a blend of nearly 15% Merlot with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon.  The blend carries some weight while delivering notes of spice-box, blackberry, and lead pencil.   Great purity of fruit, outstanding balance, significant tannins that are well integrated into the fruit, and excellent length.

93, Chateau Léoville-Poyferré, St-Julien, 2015
Dark ruby in color, the 2015 Léoville-Poyferré shows a light richness with good flavor content.  The composition is about two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, a quarter Merlot, and a dollop each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  Offers black currant, blackberry, cedar, and graphite.  Delivers plentiful ripe fruit, a smooth character, fine freshness, and boasts a superb balance of fruit, tannin, and acid.

91, Chateau La Lagune, Haut-Médoc, 2015
Radiant ruby, the 2015 La Lagune reveals a delicious character, good flavor content, and rich forward fruit.  In the glass well balanced with a smooth texture, giving up black cherry, blackberry, spiciness, and cedar, all leading to a lengthy finish.

The Stickies

94, Château Coutet, Barsac, 2015
I have always found that one of the trademarks to Château Coutet’s fabulous sweet dessert wine is great balance.  The 2015 is no exception, and maybe that comes from experience gained since their first production in 1643.  The 2015 is one of the more substantial Coutets I have tasted recently, delivering plenty of honeyed richness and viscosity.  This medium-light gold Barsac showcases apricot, stone fruit, and lemon verbena, along with lift and good length.

92, Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes, 2015
The 2015 Chateau de Fargues, in the de Lur Saluces family since 1586, brings delicate but pungent aromas of white flowers, candied orange peel, honeysuckle, and mango.  On the palate, this medium-plus-weight, light-gold colored stickie offers a lightly-textured, viscous feel, notable intensity, and a persistent finish.

95, Château Guiraud, Sauternes, 2015
The 2015 Guiraud, certified for organic viticulture in 2011, displays a deep-bronzed-gold color.  Pure aromatic scents of Kamahi honey, candied lemon rind, and quince emerge.  Unveils precision in character, greater than mid-weight, notable textured viscosity, and excellent balance.

95, Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2015
A thrillingly aromatic nose of the purest aromas, lemon verbena, gooseberry jelly, fresh apricot, candied lemon rind, and quince.  This light gold Haut-Peyraguey delivers great purity of fruit, with an extraordinary elegance, on a light weight frame.  Great balance and length.  About 95% Sémillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc.

95, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2015
Pale gold in color and medium-light in weight, the nose of this Lafaurie-Peyraguey reveals aromatic white flowers, stone-fruit, and spiciness, with hints of butterscotch, and freshly cut lime and lemon in the mouth.  A lighter style with lift, elegance, yet plenty of intensity and impact.

95, Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, 2015
Viscous and rich is this radiant light gold, mid-weight-plus Suduiraut.  Showcases an intense, aromatic nose of fresh sliced apricots, acacia honey, and orange marmalade.  Great acid-sugar balance, fresh intensity, great impact, and fine length.  A real beauty!

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