Bordeaux Tasting

Sometimes it seems like the karmic powers of the universe are balancing each other out. For instance, if you have a high-intensity week at work and a pest control problem at home, maybe that's the week you'll also win a radio giveaway of free tickets to the largest Bordeaux tasting in the world.


Which is what happened to me this week when I was the lucky winner of two tickets (courtesy of LA Radio Station KCRW) to the Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 40th Anniversary Bordeaux Tasting, sponsored by Wally's Wine & Spirits and hosted by the Hyatt Regency Plaza in Century City.


The Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux was founded in 1973 – it consists of 133 grands crus estates from the Bordeaux region. They were all present at the Hyatt's California ballroom to present their finest vintages to thousands of tasters. The $100 entry fee (thank goodness for radio giveaways!) got attendants access to thousands of dollars worth of free wine samples, a slick full-color bound book with the origin story of each of the grand cru estates, and a spiral bound tasting notebook organized by estate. High round cocktail tables with discard pails and water pitchers dotted the carpeted floor. Two tables piled high with gourmet cheeses, crackers, and candied orange slices were there to satisfy the hungry.


Thousands of attendants wandered along the tables grouped by appellation. The vintners graciously answered any questions about their estates, their growing techniques, and the quality of the terroir that gave each wine its unique characteristics. I learned about the mineral-rich terroir of the Chateau Bouscaut in Pessac-Leognan, which produced a very strong mineral-y tasting white wine. Or the particular semilion grape that gave the Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere's white wine a honey/apricot/melon bouquet.


I'm just getting into wine tasting, so I was a tad trepidatious (even after several tastings!) about voicing my observations to these revered and experienced wine growers with their lovely French accents. But each time I ventured a guess with a comment like “grassy notes” or “this bouquet reminds me of lilacs and magnolias” they would nod their heads and validate my findings by explaining what soil characteristic or grape variety gave the wine that quality. Even if they were just graciously humoring the American, I was happy to learn more about terroir.


I tasted 18 different wines out of the 100+ that were offered, from the dry, meaty Chateau Troplong Mondot from Saint-Emilion, to the incredibly fragrant and sweet Chateau Coutet whites of the Barsac region. My favorite red was from Chateau Villemaurine of Saint-Emilion. Its bouquet was warm and comforting, and its taste was tannin-rich but fruity and simple at the same time. My favorite white was Chateau Guiraud's of Sauternes. It was smooth and sweet, with an incredible finish. Not as much of a floral bouquet like its Barsac companions, but it had strong honey notes.


UGC is hosting many tours and events this year, including Le Week-end Des Grands Crus, a series of hosted dinners at the Grands Crus estates on May 17 & 18, 2014. KCRW is holding a sweepstakes for a 7-day river cruise on the River Royale through the Bordeaux region.


Wally's Wine & Spirits holds Saturday tastings at their Los Angeles store, and they are hosting more events this spring, including a Grand Marque Champagne tasting in Santa Monica in June.