Sunday, March 06, 2011

2008 Bordeaux Wine Tasting
Union Des Grand Crus de Bordeaux
Great Wines of Bordeaux
USA Tour - New York City

Each year the UGC of Bordeaux tours the US to offer samples of the new vintage to the trade and consumers. The tasting represented most of the sub regions of Bordeaux with many classified and unclassified Chateau.  2008 was not an exceptional vintage, but a pretty good one.  Especially for the American palate that likes a little more fruit in their wine.  I like it better than 2002, 2004, 2006 and a notch better than 2001.  It is also the MOST affordable vintage in many years as prices in the US were released in the midst of the fallout from the 2008 economic meltdown.  

However this does not mean you can throw a dart and pick a good wine, you need to do a little homework.  By writing this I feel I have done a lot of the legwork for you the reader to choose confidently any of these wines, especially if you have experience with Bordeaux wines.

I list my 10 favorites first followed by the villages in group order.

Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Solid, the best wine for me at the 2008 UGC tasting in NYC as it was perfectly in balance and had all of the right components: beautiful aromas in the nose, wonderful flavors (though packed tightly b/c of youth), and stoic tannins that will allow this to age well for years, plus the right amount of acidity to keep things fresh.
Color: medium to dark red, crimson edges
Nose & palate: Coffee bean, licorice, blackberry and black cherry. The nose was a little tight, but still pretty generous. The tannins were so perfect for what you want at this stage, ripe and big but not too strong. Great texture and purity of flavor....very well done, I bought some the day after the tasting. (95 pts.)
90% Merlot
5% Cabernet Sauvignon
5% Cabernet Franc

St. Émilion Grand Cru
My second favorite wine of the night, exceptional balance and purity, everything was showing extremely well.
Color: dark red to lighter gradation at the edges
Nose & Palate: A superb perfume with a long and full nose. Juicy with structure, a beautiful fruit filled cornucopia of cherry, cassis, currants and plum, concentrated and pure, with great focus from the ripe tannin and fresh acidity. Long finish. (94 pts.)
50% Merlot
45% Cabernet Franc
  5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Libournais, Pomerol
I initially thought this started out slow but with a few minutes in the glass the wine's aromas and flavors grew and expanded nicely. Ripe cherry, plum, floral notes, and some toasty mocha all wrapped up in a superbly balanced wine that is nicely concentrated and finishes long and silky. (94 pts.)
85% Merlot
12% Cabernet Franc
  3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Good concentration and showing very well, deep black flavors of cassis, cherry, tar, toasty oak with big tannins, a touch of mint lingers on the finish. It may be big with fruit but the wine comes into balance with the tannins. (94 pts.)
48% Merlot
48% Cabernet Sauvignon
  3% Petit verdot
  1% Cabernet Franc

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Deep red and blue fruits, big but supple and silky tannins, currant and cherry wow the palate and help to provide a full aroma that also shows earth, sweet tobacco, a touch of mocha and a splash of spice. As usual super, silky and supple Angelus. (93 pts.) 
58% Merlot
42% Cabernet Franc

2008 Château Malescot St. Exupery
Médoc, Margaux
A very impressive effort here and tops in Margaux on this night. The nose was singing fresh roasted toasty coffee beans, lush currants and black cherry, flowers and a spicy streak. On the palate raspberries joined the currants and cherry, to fan out over the palate in a full bodied and silky display of pure Margaux. The acidity finishes this clean while the tannins add structure and what would seem a nice ability to age. (94 pts.) 

2008 Château Lascombes
Médoc, Margaux
The other top Margaux of the night, this was a solid wine with a wonderful perfume of currants, flowers, smoke, and earth. The palate was full and round, with a clean finish from nicely held acidity that buttresses the deep fruits and minerality. It was so fresh I had to go back for more! (93 pts.) 

Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Superb concentration and length, this wine was an early blockbuster in the night's lineup. Meaty and cherry notes, some scorched earth and charcoal, smoky and toasty oak, ripe and full tannins. Great wine especially at $40! (93 pts.) 


Médoc, Pauillac
This seemed to have the most terroir of all of the grand vins of the night. Some funky notes of earthy barnyard mixed with concentrated floral currants, black cherry, roasted coffee, herbs, crushed rocks, and kirsch. This was very complex and intriguing as it was throwing quite a few layers of flavor and aroma. Medium to mostly full bodied, this was a remarkably fun wine to smell and taste. The tannins are big, but round and ripe with well balanced acidity.
63% Cabernet Sauvignon
29% Merlot
5% Petit Verdot
3% Cabernet Franc (94 pts.)


Médoc, Haut-Médoc
Another solid wine from the Haut MedocCantemerle.  Violets from the Petit Verdot jump from the glass and enhance the pencil lead and currants from the cab and Merlot. Good depth and a nice 30 second finish. (92 pts.)
60% Cabernet Sauvignon
25% Merlot
15% Petit Verdot


Médoc, Haut-Médoc
This Chateau is on a hot streak, even in 08 they deliver superior Bordeaux quality at a great price.
Color: Dark red core with vibrant red edges.
Nose: Smoky and toasty oak, coffee bean, currants and black cherry, a touch of oak
Palate: Medium to full bodied with chocolate, ripe bing cherries, currants. Nice structure with good tannins and very fresh acidity. Very well done.....back up the truck! (91 pts.)  

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Plum and blackberry, tobacco and black tea, tannic with full on ripe tannins.
Color: Black with red edges
Nose: Ripe, full of blackberry and ripe dark fruits, black tea aromas, lush
Palate: Juicy and ripe fruits of plum and blackberry, kirsch, but the terroir still comes through with notes of earth and minerality. Its a ripe wine with concentrated flavors but not heavy on the palate so its not fatiguing. (91 pts.) 
89% Merlot
14% Cabernet Franc
2% Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Bright and full fruits that had a silky and inviting perfume that got better with a few minutes in the glass. Cherry, currants, spice and great texture with fine but full tannins. (92 pts.)
BLEND: As usual 1/3 Cab Franc, 1/3 Merlot, 1/3 Cab Sauv
St. Émilion Grand Cru
A pretty wine with restraint and elegance, bright and juicy red fruits merged with obvious mineral notes. This was a very highly rated wine by Parker and I thought it was not up to his score, but thats fine, it was still a good wine but did not match my expectations.  Maybe it was in a sleepy phase as I felt the nose and the palate were a little shy.
Color: More medium red than the others, with lighter red edges
Nose & Palate: Elegant red fruits and acidity, tighter and more angular red cherry and flowers, lots and lots of minerality, very terroir driven wine (89 pts.)
84% Merlot
16% Cabernet Franc

2008 Château La Gaffelière
St. Émilion Grand Cru
Lots of raspberry and cherry, with the tannins in full bloom, feeling quite structured but still some suppleness and roundness from the fruit. (91 pts.)
Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Supple and elegant, this was a little shy compared to the other wines but was in great balance. This wine passed over the palate with the texture and feel of silk.  Deep red fruits in the nose and palate drew you in to keep trying this more, very complex and tight, this was not showing as well as I would have hoped, but the hints are there as well as the pedigree. (92 pts.)

2008 Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Lots of tannins, big fruits of cherry and raspberry with a toasty oak frame, not too much of course but just enough oak. (90 pts.)

2008 Château Beauregard
Libournais, Pomerol
Very full nose with sensual red and dark fruit aromas, toasty smoke and a touch of sweet oak. The palate is full and expansive, with silky cherry, sweet plum, a little earth and tobacco. Silky textures and a long easy finish with smooth and supple tannin. Very nice start to the Pomerol lineup. (91 pts.)

2006 Château La Cabanne
Libournais, Pomerol
The 2006 was being poured as this chateau lost all of their 2008 to fire, the 2006 was showing more animal and barnyard funk as well as more tannins, as you would expect, from 2006. A nice wine showing terroir and more strength than some of the fruity and plush 08s. (88 pts.)

2008 Château La Conseillante
Libournais, Pomerol
Nice and pretty, a little less oomph than the other 08 Pomerol, but a very elegant wine showing supple red fruits and silky tannins, with a touch more acidity than I'd like given it's lighter structure. (89 pts.)
Médoc, Margaux
Lots of cab notes of green pepper, tobacco, piney, silky textures and a supple finish. Nice wine with more masculine aromas.
65% Cabernet Sauvignon
30% Merlot
  3% Cabernet Franc
  2% Petit Verdot (90 pts.)

2008 Château Branaire (Duluc-Ducru)
Médoc, St. Julien
A pretty wine with elegant textures and purity to the red fruits and a zesty freshness. Good length and texture on the palate and the finish. (90 pts.)

2008 Château Lagrange St. Julien
Médoc, St. Julien
Classy and elegant, this was a nice wine with good balance and structure. Cherry and cassis wove neatly into a medium bodied palate with sturdy tannins and good acidity.
72% Cabernet Sauvignon
26% Merlot
2% Petit Verdot (89 pts.)

2008 Château Gruaud Larose
Médoc, St. Julien
With nice depth and a fine elegance this was a good wine with nice fruit and perfume. Blackberry, currant and cassis meshed nicely with flowers, violets and spicy plums, a medium bodied palate with fine grained tannins and a touch of leaner acidity. (88 pts.)

2008 Château Saint-Pierre
Médoc, St. Julien
A lovely wine with bright red raspberry, cherry, flowers and spice box, very fresh on the palate, this medium bodied wine finished pure and clean. The 2005 is still the best frequent years,though this is a nice runner up that vintage. (91 pts.)

2008 Château Lynch-Bages
Médoc, Pauillac
A big and lush nose of black fruits, herbs, licorice, and spice. The palate was very giving upfront but the mid palate tightened too much and the finish clamped down with acidity and tannins shutting out some length on the finish. Too young or starting close down? Good potential however... (90 pts.)

2008 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron
Médoc, Pauillac
A very ripe and expressive nose, plush mocha and roasted coffee beans mixed with currant and cassis fruit. Lots of oak, surprising though how it finishes so long and full, the Bordeaux really know how to use oak in the right way. Good acidity keeps things in line too.
71% Cabernet Sauvignon
29% Merlot (92 pts.)

Médoc, St. Estèphe
Pretty and simple but so great because of that simplicity. Very straightforward offering of red fruits like currants and so ice in a nice package of tannin and acidity. Good value wine. (87 pts.)

2008 Château Phélan Ségur
Médoc, St. Estèphe
What a bargain, this wine came across very classic in Bordeaux in style. Smoky and toasty oak aromas mix with ripe red fruits for a fresh nose of fruit and tastiness. The tannins were big, but ripe and perfectly fit for this wine. (91 pts.)

SAUTERNES (sweet wines)

Chateau Climens - Lisa had this and together with the Suduiraut, was the best of the stickies being poured that night. Climen is a little low on the radar, but is getting the word out by pour at events like this and scoring well in the critics cirlce. (92-95 pts.)

Chateau Coutet - Another under the radar producer generally speaking, the Coutet was very nicely balanced with peach, honey, fresh and sweet citrus acidity, some floral notes with a solid long finish. Great value. (91-94 pts.)

Chateau Fargues - Very classic in flavor, aroma, and texture, this sweet wine started with candied citrus notes, honey, and had a long and full finish. (91-93 pts.)

Chateau Doisy Daene - More citrus and ripe fruit, more acidity, less complex but still quite delicous. (88-90 pts.)

Chateau Guiraud - Good texture and lenght, this wine started with honey and stone fruits, peaches galore and a sweetness that was quite amped. (88-90 pts.)

Chateau Latour Blanche - corked

Sigalas Ribaud - Excellent, with a little more of a petrol aroma to the stoen fruits, a liuttle spice as well, cirus oil and honey add more complexit. Great value here as well. (89-91 pts.)

Chateau Suidaraut - We had dinner with the winemaker in Bordeaux last June, so there is a little bit of an attachment to this wine, but it is a very well made and consistently delicous producer. Lisa also has this one and was the best of the night. (92-94 pts.)

In summary the 2008 was not an exceptional year, but a good year in that many fresh tasting wines were produced with good acidities and full flavors and tannins from the long hang time achieved as most Chateau did not finish picking until mid to late October. I find it more approachable than 2006, but more flavorful and more charm than 2004, 2002 and 2001. This is also hands down the best priced vintage on the market, with many wines well under $100. In fact if you focus on the $25-55 you will find many, many fantastic wines available. But please try to remember that vintages are a decent indicator of quality but not the ultimate indicator. Going to tastings like these allow you to be the judge.


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