by: Daniel Čečavac, November 6, 2017
Last October I had an honour to be invited at Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting event at Westminster’s Lindley Hall in London. Established in the 1970s, UGCB is a Bordeaux wine association which today counts 135 Châteaux and focuses on promotion of its members through 80 events each year around the World. From en primeur week to international wine tasting events, UGCB plays a major role in Bordeaux wine trade and opening up new markets. On October 17th more than 100 Châteaux presented the 2015 vintage which will appear on the market beginning of 2018.
Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at Lindley Hall, London
Being a Bordeaux enthusiast for a couple of years now, I wanted to taste as many Bordeaux wines as possible,. Thanks to Patricia Riber dipWSET who happened to attend one of my wine and food pairing workshops two years ago in Makarska, Croatia, I found out about UGCB event in London. Patricia was so kind to share with me information about events such as UGCB which could contribute to my knowledge in Bordeaux wines. Although we lost touch for a while, I was so thrilled to meet her again and taste wines together at UGCB in Lindley Hall. I was also happy to meet my good friend Mario Tomeković, a head sommelier at London’s Smiths with great knowledge in wines and wine regions.
Patrica Riber dipWSET and me ready to sample 2015 Bordeaux
Tasting schedule was tight as the event started at 2pm and finished by 6pm. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to taste 60+ wines from the 2015 vintage, but somehow overlooked Sauternes and Barsac. I was a bit disappointed that couple of Châteaux like Château Cheval Blanc, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Château Canon, Château Branaire-Ducru where missing even though they were originally announced. Many wine trade experts and writers participated the event, like Steven Spurier, Jancis Robinson, Gerard Basset, Oz Clarke, Neal Martin and others. UGCB in London is certainly a great event to taste exceptional wines but also meet many wine professionals and exchange contacts.
Jancis Robinson tasting and taking notes at UGCB 2017
2015 vintage in Bordeaux was very successful and definitely the best vintage since the legendary 2009 and 2010. Many Châteaux directors describe the 2015 vintage as being a crossing between 2009 and 2010 or even 2005. But then again, the 2015 has its own identity. It is very much fruit driven with supple tannins and good acidities. As Steven Spurier stated in Decanter’s 2016 June edition: ‘It’s not like Bordeaux 10 years ago, when tannins could be hard as nails.’ Overall, the wines have lots of charm, elegance and freshness. They are very approachable but could be kept for another two decades. All the appellations did well in 2015, but the general opinion is that the Right bank is a bit favoured over the Left bank. There was excellent ripeness in Merlots coupled with freshness and fragrance from the Cabernet Franc.
Véronique Sanders of Château Haut-Bailly
And while I was impressed by the wines from St-Emilion and Pomerol, as for 2015 vintage my heart goes to Pessac-Léognan. Both reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan were outstanding with depth and precision. Here are my 10 favourite wines from the 2015 vintage tasted at UGCB in London.
Château Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan)
This is probably the best wine I’ve tasted at UGCB in London. So powerful and structured yet elegant and sublime. Speaking 10 languages. 2015 Château Haut-Bailly is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot with 3.75pH and 13.6% alcohol. It was aged in 55% new oak. Deep dark intensity with tons of blackberry and violet character. It delivers plenty of fresh ripe fruits, thick mid palate and persistent finish with fine grained dusty tannins. Lovely freshness and subtle spiciness from Petit Verdot. Concentrated, structured and bursting with fruits. Attractive now, but definitely made for the long haul. Drink 2025-2045.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan)
Another stunning wine from Pessac-Léognan with a new black and gold label to celebrate 650th anniversary of the Chateau along with 25th vintage of the latest owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard. It is packed with 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot with 13.75% alcohol and 3.7 pH. Aged in 65% new oak. Very opulent, delivering plush fruits of dark cherries, strawberries and blueberries. Floral and mineral driven with precision and intensity. Balanced and concentrated with fine tannins and freshness. Excellent. Drink 2030 – 2045
Great Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, the current president of Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux
Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan)
Domaine de Chevalier is one of my favourite estates in Bordeaux. Not only they have been making wonderful wines and are constantly improving, but also with very reasonable prices. The 2015 delivers plenty of ripe fruits, extraordinary finesse and elegance. A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot with 13.5% alcohol. Perfumed with graphite, cigar box, toasted oak and dark fruits on the nose. It was aged in 35% new oak. Suave and smooth tannins. Lovely freshness followed by long, sweet and peppery finish. Drink 2023 – 2035
Christian Seely, managing director of AXA Millesimes and Château Pichon Longueville Baron
Château Pichon Baron (Pauillac)
A real stunner at UGCB in London. 2015 Pichon Baron delivers a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot with 13.55% alcohol and 3.65 pH. Very deep dark colour. Although a bit reserved at the moment, the nose brings beautiful freshness, violets and ripe dark fruits. Incredibly rich structure and concentration. Very classy. Silky and smooth texture. Exceptional fine dusty tannins and a lovely finish. Highly recommended. Drink 2025 – 2045
Emeline Borie, co-owner and marketing director of Château Grand Puy Lacoste
Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac)
Château Grand Puy Lacoste is one of the best value wines in Pauillac. Why? Very simple, it is always consistent, charming and reasonably priced. 2015 is true to the GPL character, packed with ripe fruits, freshness, structure and finesse. It has a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc with 3.68 pH and 13.5% alcohol. Aged in 75% new oak. Lovely mid-palate that combines elegance and boldness followed by intense minerality of wet stones. Full bodied and earthy. Pauillac power. Grainy tannins and long lush finish. Drink 2025 – 2040
Clos Fourtet (Saint-Émilion)
Alongside Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion appellation notably made outstanding sexy wines. Clos Fourtet was one of the highlights from the UGCB tasting in London and possibly a contender for the best 2015 wine made in Right Bank. A blend of 88% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc, with 14% alcohol and pH of 3.70. Attractive and intense nose of blueberries, plums, dark chocolate and liquorice. Seductive. Very exotic and opulent. Delivers a beautiful balance and sweet fruits. Chalky and spicy. Fine velvety tannins. Fantastic. Drink 2022 – 2035
Julien Barthe of Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
Château Beau-Séjour Bécot (Saint-Émilion)
St. Emilion is on fire! What a great wine from Château Beau-Séjour Bécot! Comes from a 20 ha vineyard. The wine is packed with massive amount of plush dark fruits. Very ripe and voluptuous. 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon with hefty 15% alcohol 3.6 pH. It was aged in 70% new French oak barrels. Creamy texture. The palate is juicy, smooth and rich with plums, bramble and dark chocolate. Incredibly silky tannins. Super. 2024 – 2035
Magali Malet-Serres, Château Canon-la-Gaffelière’s communications and marketing manager
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière (Saint-Émilion)
Another St. Emilion stunner. Château Canon-la-Gaffelière has been certified as organic since 2014. Very sensational and concentrated. A blend of 55% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfumed, aromatic freshness of Cabernet Franc with violets and red currant. Aged in 55% new oak. Very mineral. Rich fruits coupled with spiciness. Beautiful fine tannins. While it is approachable, it will only get better with time. Drink 2022 – 2035
Château Clinet (Pomerol)
Along with Clos Fourtet the most impressive wine from the Right Bank 2015 vintage I’ve tried. This 8 ha estate delivers plenty. Extremely concentrated with deep ripe fruits, crème de cassis, plums, mocha, graphite and dark chocolate. 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc with 14.3 % alcohol and 3.7 pH. It was aged in 75% new French oak. Very dense and powerful with silky tannins. Pure velvet. Drink 2025 – 2045
Château La Conseillante (Pomerol)
Amazing depth. Very floral and perfumed. Combines 81% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc with 14.5% alcohol. Chewy and firm with good grip. Aged in 70% new oak. Great fruit purity and elegance. Lush and rich in flavour with black currants, plums, dark cherries and coffee beans. Concentrated but elegant with grippy but fine tannins. Silky lingering finish. Lovely. Drink 2023 – 2040