Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux – the 2020 Tasting of Vintage 2017

The US tour of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) convened in January for 2020, as customary.  Organized by Balzac Communications, the Bordelaise vignerons 133-member wineries brought their wines from the 2017 vintage to City View at Metreon in San Francisco for the trade to evaluate.  The Metreon offers a breathtaking 180-degree panoramic view through glass walls and from the open-air patio to the city beneath.  The UGC, along with Balzac, visited several other major US cites as well.

The 2017 Vintage
The attributes of Bordeaux’s 2017 vintage for reds generally manifest themselves as less density, easy-going tannins, higher acid levels, and lower alcohol.  I find the Rockstar of vintage to be Saint – Estèphe, with Barsac and Sauternes runners up.  Pauillac vinified some worthy wines as well. The vintage in St-Estèphe delivered wines of solid structure, ripe fruit, and inviting complexity.  But bear in mind that 2017 seems to be a vintage of specific terroirs as opposed to entire AOCs.  So, individual selection is the key.  Vintage 2017 does not reach the outstanding levels of 2015 and 2016, but there are some very good wines to be found.

In 2017 Bordeaux suffered the worst frost since 1991.  Aggregate wine volume is about half that of 2016.  While quality levels could push one way on prices while lower supply might tug in the opposite direction.  In order to fill their fermentation tanks some vignerons were obliged to break practice and harvest different grape varietals simultaneously, which they normally ferment separately at different times.  Obviously, this could lead to atypical wines.  Whites and dessert wines were another matter, achieving fine focus, intensity, and concentration.

My Wine Reviews

91, Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
This pale straw-green 2017 is a bit more robust style than in the recent past, as opposed to subtle.  It’s all good, just pick your style.  On the palate tasty Bosc Pear, white peach, lemongrass, and gravel.  Refreshing focus, purity of fruit, while demonstrating succinctness.  Carbonnieux’s blanc is always delightfully unique.

91, Château Canon La Gaffeliere 2017 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Juicy and inviting, Canon La Gaffeliere’s deep ruby entry presents luscious aromatics of black and red cherries and currants, Damson plum, and blackberry pie.  The lush fruit provides a smooth texture and the ripe, well integrated tannins lend a nice grip on the lengthy finish.  An inviting hedonist’s wine.

92, Château Phélan Ségur 2017 Saint–Estèphe 2017
Inviting and intriguing, Phélan Ségur’s deep purple effort is packed full of complexity and dark fruit, all supported by a solid structure.  Dense with phenolics, copious quantities of black currant, fig, blue Damson plum, and blueberry present a delightful façade while tempering and integrating the not inconsiderable tannins.  Really special!

92, Château Coutet 2017 Barsac
Coujtet’s hallmark is all about balance, focus, and delineation.  Proprietor Aline Baly’s 2017 is no exception, and its focus is particularly razor sharp.  The emphasis of this vintage regarding sweetness is in the direction of moderation, although ample ripe fruit with great purity is presented.  This dazzling bright gold beauty is well-cut, polished, and delivers great impact!

91, Château de Pez Saint-Estèphe 2017
Deep purple with black hues, is this 2017 De Pez.  Densely packed with extract, and exceptional in character this muscular, mid-plus weight displays a stout frame of well managed tannins completely integrated with the ripe, dark fruit.  On the palate intense black currant\ and plum, fresh roasted coffee, walnuts, and cedar with notable complexity.  Smoothly textured, well balanced, quite approachable, and very appealing.


91, Château Guiraud 2017 Sauternes
Radiant light gold in color, Guiraud’s 2017 is compact and racy with a generous amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the mix.  Well tied together, this 2017 demonstrates good purity of fruit and vibrant, lifting acidity.  Balanced and well integrated, this is an animated and expressive effort.


91, Château Olivier Blanc Pessac – Léognan 2017
Very light straw in color with greenish hues is Château Olivier ‘s blanc.  Delivers great purity of fruit with excellent balance, the acid level lends a refreshing character while unveiling an elegant light structure and gentle touch on the palate.  Hints of Asian Pear, lemon grass, and gravel.

89, Château Olivier Pessac – Léognan 2017
This dark purple Château Olivier rouge is just past midway in weight.  Displays an earthy, textured character while the structuring tannins totally absorb the substantial ripe fruit.

89, Chateau Larcis Ducasse Saint-Emilion 2017
The lifting acidity and bright red fruit provide energetic refreshment in this mid-light weight 2017 Larcis Ducasse.  Aromas of peony, spice box, and tobacco leaf are followed by red currants and cherries in the mouth.  Nice balance and length.

Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac Léognan                                    Credit Chateau

92, Château Haut–Bailly Pessac–Léognan 2017
This vivid ruby with red hues Haut–Bailly delivers aromatics of violet and a note of cedar with plentiful complex ripe red berry fruit on the palate.  Quite an approachable effort sporting smooth well integrated tannins and oak lending to a nice mild grip.

91, Château Langoa Barton Saint-Julien 2017
Intense aromas of dark, rich ripe fruit open this opaque ruby colored, inviting Langoa Barton. Black currant, blue Damson plum, juniper, and a hint of walnuts follow on the palate.  Delivers complexity, good length, and a framework of structuring, well integrated tannins.

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