Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
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Sitting at a table by ourselves with mask wearing wine waiters for company took away the chit-chat I enjoy so much when attending an event of this nature. I wasn't sure about the cardboard spit-bucket that seemed to become full rather quickly. I so wanted it to be emptied quicker and would have done it myself if I'd have been allowed to head towards the bin, but this was not on and
brought stern looks from all.
After about an hour, my waiter got into his stride and it was possible to get through the wines quicker. You know the sort of thing I'm writing about; quick look, quick sniff, quick taste, quick revisit and then away it went. In another section I've listed six I really enjoyed (with descriptors) and five worthy of mention, but this article would have to be a lot bigger if I was to mention all those I actually tried (30 out of 130).
Wishing to get through the wines quickly made me realise that I needed to make notes quicker and my tasting notes became almost vague sketches of a wine and its potential.
To help I colour coded them on my computer so that it was easy to build on my first impressions.
The event was three hours, and in no time I was looking about and noticing that there were only about six of us left. Still, it did mean that the wines came even quicker. This tasting was much shorter than the event would have been in France, where we would have been bused to the different regions of Bordeaux where our tastebuds could have specialised in each area over a three day period.
Looking back on the event I felt that the 2018 vintage was above average as a whole and that the left bank produced a finer clutch of wines. My notes inform me that this is where the greater complexities lay among a greater range of wine.
Once again I must state that this is only a vague notion because out of the 130 wines available I was only able to manage 30 so the sample is not as conclusive as I would have liked.
What I do know is that I'll, hopefully, be heading to Bordeaux next Easter where I'll be able to really do the vintage and the UGCB justice.
As I travel to the UGCB tasting of the 2018 vintage in London, I realise that this is not only the first time I’ve been on a train since March, it's the first time I’ve been in London since we were sent to bed without supper for this supreme beastliness ruining our lives.
To say I’m excited is an understatement because I’ve been dying to attend a UGCB tasting all year and so far I’ve had no luck. I was due to go to Bordeaux in April for the En Primeur releases but that was not on. Then I thought that the summer might be the time, but no. Finally I’d got a trip to Bordeaux lined up in mid-October, but you all know what happened.
So attending this London 2018 vintage tasting organised by the UGCB is such a welcome diversion and a chance to ride the wine horse again that I’m positively beaming under my mask as a ride into London on a eerily quiet train.
Before we go any further I've written a brief piece about the UGCB at the bottom of this page and hope that it helps. If it doesn't then can I suggest that you search out their informative website presence.
Right, that’s the lesson out of the way. I’m a man who has been without a good glass of Bordeaux finest in his hand for too long and I’m hoping to be able to seek out one or two splendid wines that I can recommend to you as keepers and drinkers.
I remember going to the Decanter Tasting last year and writing how disappointed I was at the lack of a tasting booklet to allow planning before I arrived. This made my tasting choices more rushed and disparate than I like.
Well UGCB have avoided that by sending our links to allow us to print the brochure and wines beforehand. They also give you a copy when you arrive. So far, so pleased! You can bet that there are one or eight that I’m eager to sample.
The UGCB have also sent out a list of rules and regulations that we need to follow and I can’t see any problem. Don’t come if you have Covid, and don’t bother if you’ve not a mask seem perfectly sensible. Keep your belongings with you, each of us have our own seat and tasting table, and the wines will be brought to us (where we can take our masks off. Tasting with a mask on might be option, but stupid). The essentials will be provided, but alas the wafers are absent (I often find them an afterthought when tasting and prefer water as my palate cleanser).
The original venue was in another location but this was changed to the present religious destination because it couldn't hold all those who wished to attend the various sessions that would be taking place over the two days. I attended on a Wednesday because I couldn’t make the Tuesday press tasting, and from what I gather there will be about thirty of us seated. It reminds me of my first day of secondary school; I think I know what to expect but I’m sure it will be quite different in the flesh, so to speak).
I'm through security, sat at my place, looking over the offerings while giving their promotional video a cursory glance and thinking that this is all rather organised, but then I notice that everybody else seems to be getting served before me. Perhaps I'm giving off some hidden vibe, I look studious or they just can't see me.
At last I order the first three glasses and start the process. The light wasn’t conducive to exploring the colour of a wine in great depth so it's up to the other senses to do more of the work, and over the three hours I was there they haven't worked this hard in quite a while (or since March to be precise). .
WHO ARE THE UGCB
The Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux are a pivitol organisation in the wine industry. They bring together over a hundred and thirty Chateaux members, visit fifteen countries every year where they put together a variety of tastings that bring together over fifty thousand professionals and wine enthusiasts to taste and discuss the merits of the wines of Bordeaux, particularly the yearly en primeur campaign when vintages are rated and future prospects are assigned.
Of course there is so much more to this organisation, and its efforts to promote Bordeaux through it's wines are legendary. For me it is the tasting ticket of the year and though there have been one or two people who have questioned the organisation of the en primeur system, there can be no doubt that among the First Growths and legendary names one tries, there are plenty of smaller growers and interesting wines that would miss out on the sort of recognition that being a member of The Union of Grand Crus of Bordeaux brings. Surely that is more than cause for celebration?
2018 Vintage Tasting