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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Thursday
Feb102011

2008 Vintage UGC Recap

The 2008 Vintage UGC Tasting in the Grand Ballroom at San Francisco's Palace Hote.The annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting rolled into San Francisco on Friday, January 21st, and since the trade tasting wasn’t coming to Los Angeles this year, I took the day off and flew up to San Francisco to taste the 2008 vintage. After the trade tasting K&L sponsored the consumer tasting. The event was held in the luxe Grand Ballroom at the Palace Hotel, which was more than enough room to handle the more than 350 consumers who came to the tasting. After speaking with some of the customers myself, and getting more feedback from Ralph Sand’s customers, the consensus seemed to be the tasters were blown away by the wines. The 2008 vintage took a beating early on as it was the third consecutive vintage that was good to very good. In a decade that already saw four great vintages, “good” seemingly has become a disappointment. But these wines are far from disappointing.

The wines of 2007 and 2008 are very different, but according to Bill Blatch’s famed vintage report, the weather in both vintages was very similar, with monthly temperatures and rainfall nearly identical. The “2007 and 2008 are more like father and son vintages rather than twin vintages,” writes Blatch, with the weather in 2007 causing the vines to produce less fruit in 2008. The already low yields were further lowered by frost damage, poor flowering, mildew, green harvest and dehydration, which resulted in the lowest yields since 1991. But this “paid untold dividends on the quality of the harvest,” Blatch adds. Low yields, along with dry weather conditions in September and October, allowed the surviving grapes to fully ripen while retaining higher acidity due to cool nights.

I really enjoyed the wines on the whole. They showed fantastically fresh acidity and more tannic structure than I was expecting, along with nice dark fruit. I really liked the wines from Margaux, St-Julien the best, but I also enjoyed the wines of St-Emilion and Pomerol. The whites were elegant with bright acidity and fat fruit. I also thought the Sauternes showed the great acidity of the vintage, with sweet fruit. (Apparently the yields for the sweet wines were even lower than the reds, so jump on them when you have the chance.)

When I asked Steve Bearden, from our San Francisco store, what he thought of the vintage, this is what he wrote:

I thought the vintage was impressive.  Most wines seemed to have rich mid-palates, decent length and ripe tannins.  The Left Bank wines showed stronger tannins than the Right Bank, but they were very sweet. Were the St-Juliens a touch more elegant than usual?  Kind of seemed so. I also thought the reds from Graves showed a bit more weight than they have in other vintages. St-Emilion continues to come on strong, and I thought many of those wines were quite complete within their respective styles.

A few standouts for me were:

Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan (Waiting List Only, PA $27.99) I always like this property.

Angélus, St-Emilion (PA $169.99)

Canon-La-Gaffelière, St-Emilion (PA $54.99)

Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux (PA $49.99) The Margaux as an appellation showed well.

Beychevelle, St-Julien (Not currently available.)

Beaumont, Haut-Médoc ($12.99) Always an amazing value.

I also reached out to David Rickenbaker, who also works at K&L San Francisco. He wrote:

As a vintage 2008 seems to be elegant and surprisingly drinkable. Two of my favorites were the Beychevelle, St-Julien, which I noted displayed red fruits, tobacco and earthy flavors with loads of finesse on the long finish. And I also really liked the Lascombes, Margaux (Wait List Only, PA $49.99), which was more tannic than the Beychevelle and had darker fruits, licorice and spice box notes. It could easily be put down for 15-plus years in the cellar.

A handful of 2008 Bordeaux are already in stock, and there are more arriving all the time. Shop our site for the newest arrivals, or get a jump on the wines from your favorite châteaux by buing Pre-Arrival 2008s. You will also be able to find more staff reviews of specific 2008s in the upcoming March issue of K&L’s newsletter

Steve Greer

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Reader Comments (2)

Wow, were we tasting the same wines? I had heard that 2008 was a good vintage for Bordeaux, but my experience at the same tasting that you are writing about showed the reds almost undrinkable at this stage. The tannins and spice are so strong that the greatness is left to one's imagination. The wines showed quite severe. I think with time they may turn out ok, but running out and buying them now seems unlikely at this point, especially with 2009 and 2010 in the wings - vintages that will likely pressure the prices of the 2006-2008 vintages down.

As mentioned at the end of my post here: http://www.chevsky.com/2011/01/three-decades-of-opus-one.html:
The top 3 members of the Union were notably absent - Cheval-Blanc, D'Yquem, and Mouton-Rothschild. The rest were all well-known names at the lower rungs of the Grand Cru hierarchy, with Figeac and Angelus being perhaps the more famous from the right bank and Talbot and Lynch-Bages (5th Growth) from the left. While Lynch-Bages to me was the best of the show, generally I didn't enjoy any of the 2008's. Very tight and ungiving, many with greenish character, tons of smoky wood and soapy spice, dark black fruits, extremely tannic and masculine at this point. I will come back to them in a year or two for further judgment.
February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGary "Iron" Chevsky
Thanks for your comment, Gary. That's the great thing about wine, everyone experiences it differently. I think this is especially true of some of the world's greatest wines, which are often unbelievably wound up early in their lives, only hinting at their potential. The first vintage I tasted at UGC was 2005 and I had a hard time believing any of the oak and tannins would integrate, some of the wines made me feel like I was drinking sandpaper. Yet now, just a few years later, some of those same wines have already softened (though many are still brooding monsters), making it easier for me to see what good others were finding. That said, 2008 may never be for you. Only time will tell. --Leah, K&L
February 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterUncorked Blog Administrator

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