Editor’s Note: While Carl is busy trying to get the wine bar up and running, we’ve asked Tom Welsh, the new manager of the 530 Wine Bar, to fill in for this week’s blog. Thank you, Tom!
By Tom Welsh
I’m pleased to be back contributing a blog entry to TiedemannOnWines.com. As with my first opportunity to do so, I’m sharing some of the wine-related experiences I had on a recent trip to France.
The trip was planned around an annual tasting event in Bordeaux of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, an organization of 131 Châteaux from 13 of the premier appellations of Bordeaux. There were several other events built around the tasting, which ran for seven hours on Saturday (September 18, 2021).
One of these events, which I attended on Friday evening before, was a wonderful dinner at Château Lagrange in St. Julien (France). The menu is pictured, mainly to show the great selection of wines that accompanied the meal. But the meal was exceptional so if requested, I’ll be happy to translate the full menu next week! Château Lagrange is about an hour’s drive north from the city of Bordeaux…of course through beautiful vineyard countryside. The event organizers provided coach service to and from a meeting point in Bordeaux.
Included here are a few photos from the dinner and winery tour, which speak for themselves. A good time was had by all, needless to say.
The following day at the tasting, 112 of the 131 members of the UGCB were represented, each offering two wines. I managed to taste close to half of them! Everyone had their 2018 vintage to taste, along with an older vintage to show the potential evolution of the younger wine. The oldest second wine that I tasted was 2008 and throughout the day I tasted every successive vintage through 2017, with the exception 2009, from various different producers.
2018 is regarded by the community as an exceptional vintage, but following a very difficult beginning to the growing season. The weather was wet and cool through early July and at that time most thought it would be a disastrous vintage. Most producers lost a significant percentage of their crop to mildew infestation during the spring and early summer of 2018.
But the weather turned ideal for the rest of the season and the remaining crop was harvested in perfect condition. The result of a long, hot summer was that they were able to harvest later and riper than usual, making the wines softer and fruitier, most suitable for earlier drinking, but also with the balanced structure to enable long aging. Of course, due to the early crop damage, production quantity was significantly reduced but the quality of what did survive is excellent.
The consensus was that 2018 produced superb wines from the basic regional level to the top level Grand Cru Classé wines. I certainly didn’t taste anything that was disappointing. I noticed more stylistic variations than in previous Bordeaux tastings (prior to Covid, this organization would bring this event to several U.S. cities each year, including Chicago), with some producing a lighter, more delicate style, while others were riper and more fruit driven. Everyone felt that the high quality would continue with the 2019 and 2020 vintages, with 2019 being in a more traditional style and the 2020 somewhere in between that and the more opulent 2018.
Thanks to Carl for letting me share these experiences with you. In the coming weeks I will write more about my time touring Bordeaux vineyards and following that, a few days back in Burgundy. I look forward to sharing my adventures with you all.
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Until next week,