Bordeaux 2008-2011: Union des Grands Crus Tasting

Yesterday, three of our team were lucky enough to taste at the UGC tasting, hosted at the Somerset House in London. Sixteen of the leading Châteaux in Bordeaux showed their wines from the 2011 vintage, as well as the 2010-2008 vintages.

This was a great opportunity to see how the 2011s are coming on a month after the En Primeur tastings, as well as giving them the chance for some excellent comparisons. Firstly, directly comparing 2011 with 2008 (the vintage most likened to 2011 in terms of quality) and then comparing 2010 with 2009, arguably two of the greatest vintages of the last decade.

Al Luffingham, Paula Hunter and Hayley Wright give their opinions below:

“Well the good news is that the 2011s are showing even better than they did a month ago. With the exception of Léoville-Poyferré (which was very drying), all the 11s seem to have softened and fleshed out. They are still showing the same vibrant fruit and floral/violet notes, but the tannins are less aggressive. It was fascinating to compare them with their 2008 siblings. In general the 2008s showed well, with very attractive fruit, soft tannins, freshness and elegance. With the exception of Pontet Canet (a monolithic beast of a wine), I would happily drink any of the more-ish 08s now. The 11s in general seemed to have more concentration and if they continue to improve, seem set be superior to 2008. There were of course exceptions to this, for instance 2008 Château Bellevue, was an incredible wine and really quite close to 09 and 10 in terms of quality. Overall though I would come down in favour of 2011. The best 2011s in the room were Rauzan-Ségla, which they believe is close to 2010 (I see no reason to disagree) and Pontet-Canet which is a truly thrilling wine and definitely of First Growth quality.

Now, as well as the 2011 and 2008 wines showed, there is no doubt that the 2010 and 2009 wines are in a totally different league. I was rarely disappointed when tasting a 2011, but found without exception that when I tasted a 2010 or 2009 I was just blown away. It is a strange feeling to first taste a wine that is balanced, juicy, has excellent mouthfeel and good length, but to then taste a wine that absolutely blows the first wine out of the water.

This happened time and time again. I guess this is what 2010 and 2009 wines have – an almost indefinable wow factor. They have such concentration, such ripeness, such freshness, perfect harmony… but more than this they are just down right delicious. You would think that, given the overall high standard of wines in 2010 and 2009, it would be difficult to pick a favourite, but it turns out that it wasn’t. It is fair to say that I bit of a reputation in the office for loving all things Pontet-Canet and I can’t deny it. So it will come as no surprise that my pick of the day was Pontet-Canet. It wasn’t however the 100 point 2009 vintage, but the spellbinding, incredible, words-cannot-describe-how-much-I-love-this-wine 2010. Simply a different class!

Asked to pick a preference between 2010 and 2009 vintages, I would just about come down on the side of 2010 (they show a touch more detail), but anyone lucky enough to own wine from either vintage is a lucky person indeed.”  Al Luffingham

 “This tasting was a fabulous opportunity to re-visit the older vintages and taste the 2011s once again. It is a shame that the 2011s are getting such bad press, as I thought they showed very well, although obviously some more so than others! One of my very favourites of the tasting was 2011 Château Rauzan-Ségla, which showed great balance and depth, with an enticing nose and seductive palate.

2011 Château Pontet-Canet, was a dream: graceful, elegant, but with an underlying power. It was an absolute privilege to taste this vintage, followed by 2010, 2009 and 2008 Pontet-Canet. The 2008 blew me away, dare I say I liked it more than the 2009!

One final 2011 I really must mention was Château Branaire Ducru, which showed notes of wonderful sweet dark fruits and was plush, rounded and fresh, very appealing indeed.” Paula Hunter

“This was my first vertical tasting and I found it absolutely fascinating.  The 2011s showed much better than a few short weeks ago inBordeaux, with Angelus, Léoville-Poyferré and Pontet Canet standing out for me in particular. In general I found the 11s outshone the 08s with their vibrancy.  Other stars of the tasting for me were 2009 Rauzan-Ségla, 2010 Branaire Ducru, 2010 Léoville-Poyferré and 2009 Pontet-Canet – simply stunning wines.” Hayley Wright

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