And on the Third Day, We Tasted Wine

Day Three of #FancyInFrancey started like the rest; impeccable sunrise, coffee, croissants and cheese in the heavenly château, followed by the James Bond pickup in the Wi-Fi-enabled Mercedes[1]. That morning we were headed to the official En Primeur tasting organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at Bordeaux’s newest attraction, the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux[2].File May 02, 7 58 12 PM

The concept of the En Primeur tasting originated in Bordeaux. Though there’s a difference of opinion as to when it actually began[3], the premise is that châteaux owners invite négociants and critics to preview the most recent vintage before it’s ready, only six months after harvest, in order to get a sense of what’s to come. Deals are struck, prices are set, and most of the wine is sold during En Primeur directly from the châteaux to négociants[4].

File May 02, 7 58 48 PMSo here I was, little old Wine Esquire, standing in front of the looming Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, about to enter the world of En Primeur. Seeing as how I had been to approximately one (1) official wine tasting before, I felt pretty scared $hitless unprepared. I knew when I went on this trip that I’d be the most uneducated in terms of wine, and I was right[5]. But no matter, I was excited and ready to taste. On the drive in, my new friend Mike, who had been to En Primeur twice before, gave me a heads up about the real deal. This was going to be raw, intense wine. Spitting was a requirement, and you had be careful about brushing your teeth too hard after because the acid would be eating away at the enamel. He’d brought mouthwash with him to swish with after and I could have some if I wanted. Uhmmm, ok?

File May 02, 7 49 19 PMWe walked in, got our official press badges, our Riedel tasting glass and made our way inside. Typically when you taste wine in America, you go from light to dark, white to red, so that’s how I started and thought it odd when nobody else did the same. After our guide Fred from Millesima picked up on the white juice in my glass[6], I nonchalantly made the switch to the rouge[7]. I can assure you that Mike was not kidding when he said this was intense. This was like having tannins rip your mouth apart. My teeth were sore. My gums were sore. It was like Olympic training that I was wholly unprepared for. People around me were sniffing, swirling, sipping, spitting and furiously writing notes. Forget about detecting subtleties in each pour, I was just trying not to wince every time I sipped[8].

I can’t lie, this was way over my head. Looking back at my notes, it was clear I was overwhelmed. “Holy tannins,” “Powerful,” “Smells like toast,” and “Friends said this was really good,” was about all I got. I felt like a wine failure, but I quickly realized that it didn’t really matter; this was a once in a lifetime opportunity[9] and I was having a blast. I made the switch back to whites, which were far more approachable, and I continued on my merry way. I picked up a good tip from my friend Jeremy who told me about the four S’s of wine tasting: sight, smell, sip and savor. A good reminder on how to focus, or at least try to focus, on each pour.

File May 02, 7 30 50 PMIt’s important to note that my experience is certainly not a testament to the quality of the wines we were tasting, or even the vintage as a whole. The wines being poured were some of the most renowned and well-respected in the world. Those who know far more than I are saying this vintage is one for the ages, so my inability to get much from the tasting is not reflective of what was really going on.

File May 02, 8 40 20 PMAfter two hours of spitting tasting, Fred gathered our gang, took some photos and then we made our way back to the van. Off we went to Château d’Yquem[10] for lunch and a conference on the 2015 vintage put on by the University of Bordeaux. Little did I know, I was about to taste the most angelic wine I’ve ever experienced.

File May 02, 7 49 50 PMWe walked up to the gorgeous château and were ushered into a private tasting area with a small group of other guests. The setting was incandescent. The tulips, the lighting, the color of the Sauterne, it was literally like angels were singing, and I hadn’t even tasted the wine yet. File May 02, 7 51 07 PMI’d heard of Château d’Yquem, but I really had no idea what I was about to be drinking. When I say that angels were singing, I’m not exaggerating. The honey, the floral, the beauty of the wine is indescribable. And to think it’s not even ready for drinking yet is mind blowing[11]. Fred introduced us to the CEO and the winemaker, and we hob-knobbed with the Sauterne Royalty like the group of elite wine bloggers we were[12]. File May 02, 8 39 58 PMThe lunch was equally as amazing as the wine; the French take on Shepard’s pie: softly whipped potatoes over a bed of shredded duck; trays upon trays of crudités, charcuterie and cheese, delectable chicken salad sandwiches, a poached egg on a bed of butternut squash[13]. And all the while, bottle after bottle of the 2015 d’Yquem was poured. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.File May 02, 7 52 03 PM

Once we had gorged ourselves on Sauternes and snacks, we made our way to the conference being held on the grounds of the château. Though I admit I was a bit tired after our lunch, it was fascinating to hear how truly amazing this vintage was. It had the five key characteristics necessary to make an amazing wine: early and quick flowering and fruit set during warm and dry weather; the gradual onset of water stress stemming from a dry July; full ripening of grapes in August and September; and perfect weather for harvesting at optimum ripeness. These conditions hadn’t been seen together since 2005, a stellar Bordeaux vintage, so the world is anticipating another beautiful batch of juice.

File May 02, 7 33 23 PMWe were surprised to find that the conference included a blind tasting of eleven more wines. Our schedule for the day said we had another tasting following the conference, so when the blind tasting started, we assumed they had rolled it into one. We were wrong. Next up was a separate Sauternes tasting at a château down the road. I’ve never drank so much wine in one day[14]. But we’ll leave that to the next blog.

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #normal
[2] This translates to “New Stadium Bordeaux.” It’s apparently also known as Matmut Atlantique.
[3] Some say 200 years ago, some say 1982, others 1961. Regardless, it happened this year for the 2015 vintage.
[4] Check out this awesome graphic for a visual breakdown of how it works. edvin graphicHere’s also a great breakdown of the history and how it works.
[5] That also means that I got the award for Most Improvement at the end of the week. Not that there was an actual award. But if there was, I would have won it.
[6] “Oh, you’re starting with white?” #insidejoke
[7] #fakeittillyoumakeit
[8] #amateur
[9] Although I’m hoping to go back next year with a bit more knowledge and give it another go!
[10] Pronounced Dee-Kem.
[11] This did not stop me from drinking a whole lot of it though. It was just so good, I couldn’t help myself.File May 02, 7 52 35 PM
[12] Hahaha, that was funny.
[13] Or maybe it was pumpkin, we couldn’t really tell.
[14] Actually, that’s probably a lie.File May 02, 7 50 26 PM

Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun

Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in Queens[1], waiting for my Lyft to bring me to Bordeaux[2]. It’s almost inconceivable what I’ve experienced in the past seven days. Each day was jam packed with wine, châteaux, drones, caviar, foie gras and more wine, but no time for blogging, so hopefully you’ve been following along on Instagram and Twitter. Not to worry though, you can be sure I’ll be reminiscing about this for a long time to come.

For now, a few highlights:

Wine, wine, lots of wineFile Apr 08, 6 35 25 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 20 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 40 PM

Walking tour of Bordeaux with our hilariously epic and extremely knolwedgeable tour guide, Bruno Beurrier

Bruno in all his glory

Official Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) 2015 En Primeur tastings at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux[3]File Apr 08, 7 04 35 PM

Château d’Yquem[4]DSC_0376

Learning hands-on farming techniques[5] at Château Pape Clément[6]

DSC_0127 (2)

Caviar and Wine Tasting[7]

File Apr 08, 6 59 11 PM

Tour of the Garonne River with Bordeaux River Cruise


Crash course in wine blending at Château La Tour Carnet

File Apr 08, 7 11 40 PM
Winos hard at work

And more importantly, making five new AMAZING wine friends[8].

File Apr 08, 7 15 22 PM

I truly can’t say enough about how amazing it all was[9]. I’m already planning a trip back. Bordeaux is something Husband has to experience, and you really do too! I have so much to tell you about, but for now, I’m going to have to catch a few zzzz’s while I try to ease myself back into reality[10].

But before I go, a HUGE, MASSIVE, EPIC thank you to everyone at Millesima and Bernard Magrez for making this week an epic success. Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, Cheers, Santé, Tchin Tchin!


Lawyer Footnote
[1] And blogging.
[2] Clearly I live tweeted my Lyft adventure. It was my first Lyft and Rafael’s first day as a driver. We picked up a girl and her dog on their way to the nail salon. It was great.
[3] Note: when you’re blogging in a hotel room in Bordeaux, internet search results default to French. #languagebarrier
[4] Period. Full stop. End of story.
[5] #appropriatefootwearforthewin
[6] Also #peacocksFile Apr 08, 6 39 21 PM
[7] Yes. You read that right. I’ve never seen so much caviar in my life, and it was all on my plate.File Apr 08, 7 04 58 PM
[8] Newest members of the international division of #winesquad: Madelyn, Michelle, Jeremy, Mike and Toma!
[9] But since I’m a blogger, I’m going to give it the old college try.
[10] Having to do this twice in a span of thirty days is actually quite exhausting, but it’s a problem I’m willing to deal with!