Story and Cipriani photo by Manos Angelakis

Union des Grands Crus Tasting 2020 wines at Cipriani 42nd street

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

After an absence of a few years because of COVID, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux had its yearly tasting at the converted bank hall that is now New York’s Cipriani restaurant on 42nd Street, across from the Grand Central Station. The tasting was organized by Balzac Communications from California.

Most of the wine producing communities of Bordeaux were represented and a large number of the Premier Cru, the Deuxieme Cru etc. wineries were there; 117 altogether, though most of the Grand Cru vintners, I guess, felt they did not have to have a presence. Only 2 Grand Cru wineries were there and a third, even though they were registered as participating, was not actually there.

Be that as it may, the event was mobbed and practically every sommelier, wine buyer and wine writer from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area was present. Hundreds ot people tasting the 2020 vintage, which was the vintage featured.

It was a cold, rainy day and the long line of waiting individuals that showed up at the show’s opening went practically around the corner of Lexington and 42nd Street, before the doors opened!

In Bordeaux, a mild but rather wet winter in 2019 and 2020 resulted in an early bud burst. The spring had unusually warm days in March and April, as well as some torrential rains, while the summer included two heat waves at the end of July and early August. These climatic extremes made for interesting wines, but many are in need of long aging. The Merlot grapes did exceptionally well while the Cabernet Sauvignon had smaller than usual berries with high acidity.

After sampling the wines present from Saint-Émilion, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Pomerol, Puilac, Pessac-Léognan, the Médoc villages, Margaux, Graves and Sauturnes and Barsac, the top wine regions of southwestern France, my overall impression on the 2020 vintage is: now, many of these wines are too acidic but with silky tannins. Give them a few more years to age in bottle in a well controlled cellar and they could be stellar!

The only ones that I felt were ready or almost ready to drink now were the sweet wines from Sauternes showcasing honey and rich tropical fruits. A few days ago I had just opened my last bottle of 1982 Château Suduiraut, and 40 years later it was a pure delight! If you have any of that vintage still left, open it and have it with a grilled or pan fried slab of foie gras and it would be an unforgettable experience!

But I digress!

The following were, as far as I’m concerned, impressive bottles even now, in their very youth.

From Pessac-Léognan: The château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Latour-Martillac, Malartic- Lagravière and Pape Clément.

From Saint-Émilion: Château Cheval Blanc, Beau-Séjour Bécot, La Tour Figeac, and Soutard.

From Pomerol: Le Bon Pasteur, La Conseillante, L’Évangile and Gazin.

From Moulis-en-Médoc: Château Chasse-Spleen and Maucaillou.

From Haut Médoc: Château Belgrave, Cantemerle and Coufran.

From Margaux: Château Angludet, Brane-Cantenac, Desmiral, Giscours, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine and du Tertre.

Most of the Puillac samples.

From Saint-Estèphe: Château Ormes de Pez and de Pez.

From Sauternes and Barsac: most were outstanding, with the exception of La Tour Blanche, Coutet, and de Fargues that I would classify as just above average. I loved the Doisy-Daëne and the Suduiraut.

I found out that a few of the more adventurous Bordeaux vintners are actually starting to age wines in terra cotta jars (amphorae). German, Italian and Spanish wineries started using amphorae about 25 to 30 years ago resulting in better, more concentrated wines without the heavy oaky taste that barriques, barrels and tonneau usually impart to ageing wines. I’m happy that this very traditional and resistant to change industry is finally joining the 21st Century!

But, if you buy any of the 2020 vintage wines, cellar… cellar… cellar!




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