A Grand Tasting of Bordeaux Grand Crus

Bordeaux is a famous wine region in France that is mostly associated with red wine blends. But it also produces some delicious Sauvignon Blanc white blends and Sauternes. The Gironde Estuary divides the region into a Left Bank area and a Right Bank area. Each region has different terroir, style and character.

  • Left Bank red wines tend to have more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot in their blends
  • Right Bank red wines tend to have more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends.

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We were fortunate enough to spend a few days in the region during crush in 2015 which allowed us to visit and taste wines from many of the wineries (which they call Châteaux). Since it is not feasible to frequently travel to the region to see what is new and exciting, we did the next best thing. We attended the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2019 tasting in San Francisco.

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is one of the primary ambassadors of Bordeaux wines. The organization represents 133 of the region’s most important chateaux and sponsors over 80 educational and tasting events over the course of a year worldwide. In January of each year, it sponsors an annual tour of American cities. The recently completed 2019 tour hosted tastings in Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco focused on the 2016 vintage. Attendees had the opportunity to taste close to 200 2016-vintage Grand Cru (Great Classified Growth) wines from more than 120 estates.

The tasting is organized by appellation, beginning with Graves (primarily Sauvignon Blanc-based white blends), progressing through Right and Left Bank reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, etc.) and ending with more than a dozen Sauterne dessert wines (Semillon-based, often with Sauvignon Blanc and possibly Muscadelle). The event provides not only an opportunity to taste these incredible wines, but also to speak with wine makers or distributors who are more than happy to discuss their wares.

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We cannot even begin to mention, must less describe, the many wines that we enjoyed. And this includes a surprising number of Grand Crus that are quite affordable and drinkable today. Among a few of our personal favorite estates from each of the appellations were:

Graves Dry Whites

  • Graves: Chateau Ferrande and Chateau Rahoul
  • Pessac-Leognan: Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion, Chateau Latour-Martillac

Graves Reds

  • Pessac-Leognan: Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte

Right Bank Reds (typically Merlot-based)

Saint-Emilion:

  • Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle, Chateau Cap de Mourlin, Clos Fourtet
  • Pomerol: Chateau
  • Clinet, Chateau L’Eangile

Left Bank Reds (typically Cabernet-based)

  • Listrac-Medoc: Chateau Clarke, Chateau Fonreaud
  • Moulis-en-Medoc: Chateau Maucaillou
  • Haut-Medoc: Chateau Belgrave, Chateau de Lamarque
  • Medoc: Chateau Durort-Vivens
  • Margaux: Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Prieure-Lichene
  • Saint-Julien: Chatau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Talbot
  • Pauillac: Chateau Croizet-Bages; Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Chatau Pichon-Baron
  • Saint-Estephe: Chateau Lafon-Rochet
  • Sauternes and Barsac Sweet Whites
  • Chateau de Fargues, Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey

A Must-Do Event for Bordeaux

The event is a wonderful learning experience for anyone interested in French Bordeaux. Where else can you explore so many wonderful wines in one afternoon? The only issue was that after tasting so many wonderful wines, we wanted to book another trip to Bordeaux.

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