This organization was first conceived by a group of small estate owners in Bordeaux interested in collectively forming promotional initiatives around the world. The idea grew, the Union was formed and today, in cooperation with distributors, brokers and merchants, they host 80 events a year in over a dozen countries. The focus is to present their latest vintage to some 50,000 or so professionals and wine lovers. The Union consists of 134 Chateau members.
On January 24, 2020 (in San Francisco) the 2017 vintage was introduced with more than 70 chateau owners and representatives pouring their wines. There is a ‘trade only’ tasting during the day and K&L Wine Merchants hosts a ‘public tasting’ in the early evening. This event is listed on their website and sells out each year.
While the Union de Grand Crus does not encompass all Bordeaux area wineries, it is a fantastic representation of the area and the wines produced in the vintage being showcased. The event is organized by appellation (Graves, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Margaux, Saint-Julien, etc.) so comparison tasting is very easy. The Union produces a comprehensive Bordeaux guide which has commentary about the appellation as well as information on the Chateau represented. In addition, there is a smaller booklet listing the wineries by appellation for note taking. If you love Bordeaux or want to learn more about the area, this is the event to attend.
For the 2017 vintage, the Bordeaux area experienced late spring frosts that did much damage to the vineyards as it occurred during bud break and the early growing season. Some producers lost all crop, some half and some suffered no losses. Such is life in the world of agriculture but it can be devastating. 2017 was a dry vintage in Bordeaux and 80% of the top 150 Chateau experienced a good harvest. A number of these Chateau are in Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estephe as they border the Gironde Estuary and enjoy its warming influence. Saint-Emilion and its satellites did not fare as well.
The following are a few wines that I enjoyed tasting and also talking with the Chateau owners/representatives. This is a very short list and is just meant to be a teaser for the vintage:
2017 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
2017 Chateau Giscours, Margaux
2017 Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux
2017 Chateau Maucaillou, Moulis
2017 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
2017 Chateau d/Armailhac, Pauillac
2017 Chateau Phelan Segur, Saint-Estephe
2017 Chateau Citran, Haut Medoc
2017 Chateau Talbot, Saint-Julien
Claire L. Torbeck, Certified Sommelier