Saturday, 2 April 2011

UGC Primeurs week 2011

Today I set off bright and early for one of the most interesting week's work of the year. It is the week of tasting in Bordeaux organized by the Union des Grands Crus as well as various Chateaux and other syndicats and negociants.
The week is an opportunity to taste and evaluate the 2010 harvest in Bordeaux, which was picked 6 months ago. The wines have finished their alcoholic and malo lactic fermentations and will now be aged for another 12-14 months in barrels before bottling. Therefore this week is a good time to get a snapshot of the quality and style of the 2010 vintage. However the wines are mere babies and far from the finished product. So it can be quite difficult (and not always pleasant) trying wines that have high tannins, alcohols and searing acidity.
It is a fun time to be in Bordeaux, as there are many international buyers and journalists. It is a great time to meet new and old friends. Every year there seems to be more interest in these tastings (which are for members of the wine trade). A few years ago there seemed to be hundreds of Russian buyers and more recently there seems to be many Chinese and Far Eastern attendees. It just adds to the wonderful diversity and reach of the Bordeaux wine market.
Many of the Chateaux will receive between 1-2000 people in the next week....mainly with pre planned appointments. So it is a big logistical exercise to accommodate everyone. Certainly the top Chateaux (First Growths) need major planning and appointments from many months ago.
A few years ago I started working alongside Bill Blatch of the negociant Vintex. They have an association with Chateau de la Riviere (with whom I have worked for many years as an agent). Bill is a delightful English man who has lived in Bordeaux for many years. He started his own negociant business in 1982 and he is a great authority on the wines of Sauternes and Barsac as well as most other areas. Bill is a charming chap and widely respected throughout Bordeaux.
Here is my working schedule for the next week:

Sunday: Big Tasting at Vintex...over 200 wines on show from dry whites, reds and sweet whites. A great entry point for immersing oneself in to the style of the vintage. This tasting always shows the good, the bad and the ugly.

Monday: Several Tastings to attend in Saint Emilion and Pomerol. The fantastic Salle des Dominicians in Saint Emilion is a great bright airy venue to taste virtually all the top Saint Emilions. Top wine consultants/oeneologists Michel Rolland and Stephane Derenoncourt also host different tastings, as well as an interesting event in Pomerol.

Tuesday: Chateau 'hopping'...tastings at specific Chateaux..Pavie, L'Arrosee, Larcis Ducasse, Canon, Cheval Blanc, Vieux Chateau Certan, L'Evangile and La Conseillante as well as the large (usually 30-40 wines on show) UGC tastings at Ch. La Couspaude (Saint Emilion), Ch. La Pointe (Pomerol) and then a zoom over to Ch. Malartic Lagraviere to taste a selection of Graves.

Wednesday: early start at 8am tasting Ch. Calon Segur followed by Phelan Segur, Montrose, Cos Labory, Cos d'Estournel, Mouton Rothschild, Grand Puy Lacoste, lunch at Pontet Canet, then afternoon at Pichon Lalande, Leoville Lascases, Ducru Beaucaillou followed by large tastings at Branaire Ducru (Saint Juliens) and then a monster tasting of Cru Bourgeois at Ch. d'Agassac....with finally a tasting at Ch. Citran

Thursday: another early start at 8.30am tasting La Lagune, then Giscours/du Tertre, d'Issan, Brane Cantenac, Margaux and Lascombes followed by more Margaux wines at the UGC tasting and a quick visit to Lafite in the afternoon.

Friday: tasting Haut Brion at 8am! then Pape Clement, Domaine de Chevalier, Climens, Yquem and Suduiraut...then home to a cup of tea and a lie down.
An interesting, fun and challenging week ahead.

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