For the first time, the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, an association of 133 grand crus estates in the Bordeaux area of France, has made a stop in Vancouver for their North America wine tour. Held at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, this ticketed event gave participants an opportunity to have an advanced tasting of the 2013 Bordeaux release that will be available at BC Liquor Stores this October.
Speaking with the winemakers at the event, 2013 wasn’t a typical year for the Bordeaux region. Winter 2012/2013 was cold and wet, bud-break was delayed, and it wasn’t until July when it really started to warm up. The summer was short-lived, only resulting in perhaps just two-thirds of usual yield at the end. The reds were the most impacted. That being said, years and years of experience combined with careful technique, the winemakers were able to make a decent lineup, producing fruitier reds with softer tannins. It was pretty apparent as each estate was pouring its 2013 vintage as well as an earlier vintage. The mouthfeel was quite different.
In contrary to the red wine production, 2013 was a great year for whites. The Graves and Pessac-Leognan areas are known for their whites. 2013 whites should have intense fruit flavours and would be great for aging.
2013 Bordeaux Reds
Here are a few that I quite liked from the tasting:
Chateau La Dominique (Saint-Emilion): 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chateau de Lamarque (Haut-Medoc): 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot. The 2010 vintage is more round, and has a deeper red hue.
Chateau La Lagune (Haut-Medoc): 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of the growing condition as explained above, this 100% Cab Sauv red has much soften tannins than expected.
Chateau de Pez (Saint-Estephe): 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot.
Chateau Maucaillou (Moulis-en-Medoc): 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot.
Chateau La Tour de By (Medoc): 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. The 2013 vintage was in 25% new oak barrel, versus 30% new oak for the 2011 vintage.
I chatted with Barbara Philip, the Category Manager of European Wines for BC Liquor Stores, also the first Master of Wine in Western Canada. Every year, she would join a delegation to visit the Bordeaux region for some wine tasting, then hand-pick a selection of wines to be available at the BC Liquor Stores every fall. It was back in Spring 2014 when she tasted the 2013 vintage. She was very excited about this rare opportunity for Vancouverites to preview the upcoming Bordeaux release as early as January this year.
Barbara suggested the following for me to try:
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (Pessac-Leognan)
The Blanc: 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon Gris (for boldness & flavours). It has a prominent apricot/white peach note. This could be aged for 5-6 years, or if you can’t resist the temptation, you can drink it now.
The Rouge: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. The winemaker suggested to age this for a couple of years so it becomes more round and has softer tannins.
Chateau Leoville Poyferre (Saint-Julien): 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot. This estate has a long history in wine making, dating back all the way to 1638.
Chateau Pichon Baron (Pauillac): 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot.
2013 Bordeaux Sweet Whites
The biggest discovery at the tasting? Sweet white wines! Using mostly Semillon, yield was higher in 2013 than 2012 for sweet whites. Perhaps they’re not as sweet as other years, but the Sauternes & Barsac areas were able to produce some great sweet whites in 2013. I was lucky to try the following four estates:
Chateau Suduiraut (Sauternes): 94-5% Semillon, 5-6% Sauvignon Blanc. Sweet vanilla note.
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey (Sauternes): 92% Semillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Muscato. After aging for an extra couple of years, the 2011 vintage became less sweet than the 2013 vintage. What caught my eye was the actual bottles. The estate went through a new ownership in 2013 so they changed the bottle design.
Chateau de Fargues (Sauternes): 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Oh wow, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the 2005 vintage, but the years of aging has made the wine less sweet, while bringing forward complexity in flavours. Not only would this be great to pair with some strong cheese, this could also be paired with spicy food, like a regular white wine!
Chateau Coutet (Barsac): 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscato
While 2013 may not be the best year for Bordeaux reds, I actually thought this vintage is more easy drinking. I’m a huge fan of Bordeaux style reds, but sometimes the tannins could be quite harsh especially with a heavier proportion on Cabernet Sauvignon. The softer tannins, fruitier reds from 2013 may just be more suitable for general wine lovers. Look forward to the official release in October!