After warming up at my first-ever industry tasting of Brunello the week before (Speed-Dating Brunello, An Industry Tasting), I was anxious to see how an industry tasting of Bordeaux would compare as the Italians and French have distinct wine personalities.
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux hosted the unveiling of the 2014 vintage for almost 90 member producers at Cipriani, near New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. This opulent venue was fitting for the event, featuring wines from the region’s top producers (all but the First Growths, the top-of-the-top) from throughout Bordeaux: Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Saint Émilion Grand Cru, Pomerol, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Médoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, and sweet wine appellations Sauternes and Barsac.
While the Italian producers, owners, and representatives pouring wines at Benvenuto Brunello were effusive in their descriptions, and sometimes praise, for their wines, the Bordeaux pourers were predictably more reserved. However, not for lack of a good product, as some of the 2014s were already showing very well, despite (in one pourer’s words) that 2014 was not a “fantastic” vintage.
Bordeaux, Something for Everyone
As someone who prefers a ripe, fruit-forward (ok, sometimes fruit-bomb) wine like a Grenache-driven red from the Southern Rhône, Bordeaux has never been in my wheel house. However, this tasting provided an opportunity for me to explore a lot of different styles, for which I sometimes noted larger differences within AOCs from producers with vastly different styles than those across AOCs.
The White Bordeaux from Graves ranged from round and heavily oaked, to crisp and refreshing palate pleasers, while the Reds offered a similar diversity. The tasting also featured nine wines from the sweet wine appellations Sauternes and Barsac. These wines featured ripe stone fruit flavors like apricot and peach, with occasional floral aromatics, ranging from racy to dripping with sweetness.
Any wine lover could find something to love in this mix of Bordeaux.
White Bordeaux, From Plump to Crisp
Some of the most memorable wines from the day, for me, were the white wines from Graves/Pessac-Léognan. The White Bordeaux at the tasting had a wide range of styles—from the enormously oaky Cháteau de Fieuzal, to the more traditional, refreshing Cháteau Olivier, and the aromatic Cháteau Malartic-Lagraviére (pronounced grapefruit aromas). I was surprised by the diversity among the group of only 13 white wines at the tasting, and think my Chardonnay-loving friends would go wild for the Cháteau de Fieuzal or Cháteau Pape Clément (and to those in the wine world who think this is not a compliment, one should not discount the validity of consumer preference and the sometimes undeniably satiating buttery sip of wine).
Red Bordeaux, Bring on The Fruit (but only a little)
The same spectrum could also be seen with the Red Bordeaux at the tasting, of which there were 75-plus wines. I had a few favorites across AOCs (read, if you also like riper, oaky wines, you may like these too): Cháteau Kirwan from Margaux, Cháteau Beau-Séjour Bécot and Cháteau La Couspade from Saint Émilion, and Cháteau Léoville Poyferré from Saint-Julien.
While these wines are downright austere compared to my go-to Cote du Rhônes, they are significantly rounder than the traditional style of Bordeaux. Excellent examples of the more traditional (less oak) wines from the tasting included the Cháteau Giscours from Margaux and the Cháteau Léoville Barton from Saint-Julien.
So, if you have tasted a White or Red Bordeaux in the past that was not to your preference, revisit (and revisit and revisit) until you find a producer that matches your style. You are sure to try a range of excellent wines along the way!