Me & Bordeaux: Tasting the 2008 Vintage

2011 Union des Grands Crus tasting

In Part 1 of this post I lamented that I was still a palate in training when it came to Bordeaux. To that end, as mentioned, I was thrilled to receive an invite to the Union des Grands Crus tasting that was recently held here in San Francisco to celebrate the 2008 vintage. Let me count the ways. First off I’ve never had a chance to try so many Bordeaux’s. There were a 103 tables set up. Reports were that there were 95 producers represented who poured 108 wines (including some Sauternes and a few whites). Now I’ve attended many tastings but none with this focus. Think about it. 100+ wines from the same region and the same vintage. I couldn’t imagine a better learning opportunity. Another reason this piqued my interest is that 2008 is my daughter’s birth year which means I’ll be looking to build her at least a little cellar of wines from this vintage. And lastly, given my limited knowledge I didn’t know more than a handful of these Chateau’s or their price points. Given how unbiased this left me I was almost anticipating running home to compare prices on my favorites…

Me & Bordeaux: Tasting the 2008 Vintage

Now let’s get back to the event at hand. As mentioned above this is not a small intimate event. This was serious business for most in attendance. Very little chit chat, just pour sip spit and move on. To some extent I started to reflect on traveling and got to thinking this was more like sightseeing than actually experiencing something but I’ll speak to that a bit more later. As well as to the fact that I have some learning to do on how to best leverage these tastings. One lesson I did learn is that you should certainly show up on time. I arrived quite late to this event and didn’t get to taste but 40 or so of the wines. So what did I think?

Again these are the general impressions of someone not well steeped in Bordeaux so you want to take them with a grain of salt. That said, all in all I thought the vintage was of the softer, thinner side and I am guessing not as ageworthy as many. These wines, if not ready to drink now, will likely be ready in short form compared to those from more esteemed vintages. Hopefully the prices will reflect that. K&L shared one such example in a recent newsletter with Calon-Ségur, St-Estèphe with the 2009 going for $110 a bottle and the 2008 a mere $60. Given that my guess is that this would be a vintage best suited for mining some gems for the long term and drinking in the short term. St-Julien seemed to show the best followed by St-Emilion, Pauillac and Pomerol.

2008 Gruaud-Larose, St-Julien

Now after tasting 40+ wines I like to retry my top picks and see if they still stand out. Most of the time they do. With that in mind here were my Top 10 picks from this event:

Interesting! Some cursory checking showed the wines at this event spanned a price range of $22 to $80. Given that my Top 10 were comprised of four on the lower end, three in the middle and three towards the top of the spectrum. Interested in hearing what others had to say? Check out these takes:

  • 2011 UGC Bordeaux Tasting: 2008 Vintage by Richard Jennings – for those that don’t know Richard is one of the most prolific tasters I know and I highly respect his knowledge, palate and opinion. Furthermore he manages to take notes on nearly every wine he tries. His favorite red of the tasting was the “very distinctive” Gruaud Larose, which he rated 93+ pts. Glad I caught that one as well ;)
  • Thoughts on the 2008 Bordeaux Reds by Fred Swan – Fred does most of his writing over at but took a day off to spend some time with the French. He thought the St. Julien and Pauillac wines showed the best and amongst his favorites were the Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Lagrange and Chateau Leoville Poyferre.
  • 2008 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Chicago by David Honig – For those that don’t know David he is the publisher of Palate Press, the Online Wine Magazine, and offered rather extensive notes across all the regions recommending 10+ wines.
  • 2008 Bordeaux Vintage Tasting by Adam Japko – Adam, who writes over on, is relatively new to me but garners the respect of many of my friends and thus has mine. His favorites were the Troplong Mondot, Leoville Barton and Pichon Lalande. He also list 15 more of his top picks.
  • Thoughts on tasting Bordeaux by Steve Heimoff – Guessing most know Steve for his work with the Wine Enthusiast but he also manages to find some time for blogging. He shares some passing thoughts on the wines (he was a fan of the Lynch-Bages as well as some perspective on the tasting.

Oh and did I mention they had 10 or so Sauternes on offer. A very nice way to finish a nice tasting. My favorites of the bunch were the 2008 Guiraud, Sauternes ($23/375ml) and the 2008 Suduiraut, Sauternes ($30/375ml). I thoroughly enjoyed this tasting event. It was perfectly organized, very enjoyable and extremely educational. Thanks to the folks at Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux for visiting and to the all those at Balzac Communications for the invitation. I most certainly look forward to attending in the years ahead!

*photos courtesy of Palate Press, and Interest In Wine.

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4 thoughts on “Me & Bordeaux: Tasting the 2008 Vintage

  1. I can tell you from experience that Bordeaux takes time to get used to, it doesn’t hit you like a Napa Cab that is relatively more likable right off the bat, at first it’s so much more subtle. But, before long you’re hooked. It becomes an addiction. Just an observation. I have had 20-25 different 08′ Bordeaux and I have a few recommendations if you’re so inclined.

  2. Hey Jason. Finally getting around to those 08′ Bordeaux recommendations. The first 2 on this list are both 08′ Bordeaux, and under $25 the first one here is probably my favorite under $30 Bordeaux: Also here are my notes from a recent Bordeaux tasting I attended that included wines from 1995-2008 I hope you find something of interest for you in these wines Also check out the @PlanetBordeaux ( Live tasting that will be taking place on twitter Friday 3/18 I will be taking part in it, you should sign up and taste along!

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