A Preview of Bordeaux’s 2011 Vintage

How’s this for a job?  You live where history has been and will be made, where your neighbors each own castles and dozens (if not hundreds) of acres, you’re intimately involved with the production of luxury items, and you travel the world marketing your product in locales others only dream of visiting.  On top of all of that, you get to drink some of the world’s finest wine on a daily basis – AT NO COST!  The line forms to the right to apply.

This is the life of the Bordeaux representatives of dozens of chateaux (wineries, in English) who travel literally the world pouring their libations to clamoring devotees.  The umbrella organization for this endeavor, the Union de Grand Cru de Bordeaux (or, UGC), held their annual tasting in Los Angeles on January 24th.  The vintage poured was the 2011.

Over 90 wines were offered.  My strategy was to see what other critics had said about the wines in the vintage and then narrow it to 25 or so to try.

Bordeaux wineries can use any combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot.  The genius of the winemaker is magically blending one, some or all of these different varietals to make a consistently delightful wine.  Some have been so successful with this over the decades that their wines cost more than $500 a bottle, while others can’t fetch more than 10% of that.

Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte produces not only a tasty red with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot (with a bit of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot), they also have an amazing white composed of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and equal parts Semillon and Sauvignon Gris.  The red had a great bouquet and tasted of spices, cherry and mint.  But it was the white that stood out.  It was creamy with big fruit and apricot flavors.  It reminded me of bakery dough and was amazing – the hit of the show.

One of the highlights of the UGC is tasting the Sauternes – a unique wine truly found only in Bordeaux.  Sweet but balanced with acid, tasting of stone fruits, crème brulee and almonds, it is the ultimate dessert wine.  My favorite was Guiraud.  Pictured here with Terry is Laure Planty, owner Xavier Planty’s charming daughter.  My wife and our son, Scott, and I visited Guiraud in 2011 and Laure led an informative and enjoyable tour and tasting.  Our experience was that the French are friendly and warm, much like their wine.

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