Sniff, Swirl, Sip, Spit, Repeat; A First Timer’s Bordeaux En Primeur
Millesima Blog Awards 2017 – En Primeur Week in Bordeaux
Thanks to all you dear readers who voted, I recently went on a wine enthusiast’s dream trip: a week in Bordeaux during En Primeur. What’s En Primeur? It’s the yearly event wherein buyers and wine writers from all over the world converge on Bordeaux for a week of intense tasting of the brand new “baby” vintage, in this case 2016. Major importers and distributors make their decisions on what prices they’ll pay and how much wine they’ll buy based on tasting the wine that has only just finished its fermentation and has not yet been through final aging and blending. It seems crazy, but in the high demand, limited supply world of Bordeaux, it’s how business is done.
For a first timer, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming! Our Millesima hosts warmed us up with a single Chateau Tasting of Chateau Haut Bailly.
Note: in this photo-heavy post, I suggest you click on the first photo, enjoy the first slide show, then hit “escape”, then cruise to the next set of photos. Enjoy!
The event was held in the new La Cité du Vin in a beautiful room exclusively designed for wine tasting
Top and second wines, all babies
A room designed for tasting, white tables, brilliant white light, built in spit buckets!
Release those aromas with a good swirl
Shh! We’re at work
Buyers from all over the world converge on Bordeaux for En Primeur
Just me and those glasses…
After our warmup on Sunday, Monday dawned bright and early and we were off for 2 hours of En Primeur tasting with the entire Union de Grand Crus de Bordeaux. A strategy was needed, as there was no way to taste everything! I decided to use this first event as a tour through all of Bordeaux. I sampled wines from the Left Bank (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends )from North to South, sampled wines from the Right Bank (Merlot dominant blends), then finished up sampling some Sauternes (sweet white dessert wines).
Ready to enter the grand tasting, take a deep breath! Photo courtesy of Frederic Lot, Millesima
A big hall, arranged by community, so it was possible to take a mini-tour of the whole regions’ wines in two hours.
A clean glass, just waiting for you.
This big tasting was not intended for lots of discussion, just swirling, sipping and spitting. Spit buckets everywhere!
A well arranged booklet for notes for each wine.
Famous Bordeaux AOC’s marked by their banners
It seems a shame, but ALL of the wine is sampled and spit out!
Simply no way to try them all
After our introduction via the Grand Tasting, we felt we were getting the hang of how this En Primeur thing works and how to approach it. Every day we attended at least one tasting of a whole community’s AOC such as Margaux, Saint Julien or Pomerol. Held at a host winery, only the wines from that community were shown. This was a great way to dive deeper into the individual identities of the communities.
This isn’t a modern art gallery, it’s the barrel room at Chateau Talbot in Saint-Julien
No dusty cellars here, they are all works of art
Our blogging crew at Chateau Talbot. Photo courtesy of Frederic Lot, Millesima
On to Chateau Kirwan, for the Margaux tasting
Fascinating decoration at the front door of Chateau Kirwan
Margaux was one of my favorite appelations on the Left Bank
The wineries were spotless and just beautiful.
As the week progressed we all got more comfortable with photos! Courtesy of Frederic Lot, Millesima
Chateau La Pointe in Pomerol
The now familiar beautiful event space filled with pouring stations and spit buckets
I hope Lisa doesn’t mind, she’s showing great spitting technique
Big buying decisions are being made every minute
A favorite of mine at the Pomerol tasting
At the village level tastings, there were opportunities to chat with the Chateau representatives
Finally, we had the opportunity to taste individual wines at the Chateau. In some cases it was just our group with the winemaker or technical director, nice!
Château Mouton Rothschild, anyone?
This may be the closest I ever come to Château Mouton Rothschild!
Beautiful tapestries make a nice background for wine photos
Our group of bloggers studying the wines of Château Mouton Rothschild
True to form, beautiful artwork everywhere at Château Mouton Rothschild
Château Léoville Las Cases
Michael Georges, the technical director of the Chateau for the last 15 years explained the winery’s approach and poured for us. What a treat!
We start early, tasting at 9:30am!
Many chateaus have more than one vineyard. This is another site within Saint-Julien.
The grand vin and 2nd wine of Château Léoville Las Cases. To keep the top wine at its absolute peak, a second wine is often made. These can be noble wines at a more approachable price.
A beautiful spring morning at Château Léoville Las Cases
Château Pichon Baron was our base of operations for much of the trip, what wonderful hosts!
The estate vineyards often surround the Château
Our first tasting at Château Pichon Baron was the En Primeur tasting
It’s a shame to think of all that wine spit out! Still, it’s the only way. Photo courtesy of Frederic Lot, Millesima
Baby Pauillac, a wine meant to be aged for 20+ years
If you’re thinking: “that’s a lot of spitting!” you’d be 100% correct, and we had the purple teeth to prove it! Stay tuned for more posts on our memorable week in Bordeaux. I’ll be sharing some of the individual visits, tastings and dinners we’ll remember forever. Who knows, you might be tempted to add them to your trip to Bordeaux. You are planning a trip to Bordeaux, right??