Grands Crus Classes of Saint-Emilion Review – Tasting Terroir Shifts in Two Years’ Time

A reference map was available at each table to enable the vineyard to show their precise location

 

25 vineyards from Saint-Emilion—an area that is approximately 6% of the Bordeaux wine region including the spot where the last battle of the Hundred Years War took place—came to the stunning Venue SIX10 atop the Spertus Museum on Michigan Avenue in the south end of the Loop. 

 

Unlike many other crowded wine events, Grands Crus Classes of Saint-Emilion were spacious and also afforded a wonderful view of Lake Michigan out the windows

 

All of these vineyards participating in this event are part of The Association de Grand Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion, a classification that was created in 1982 and last reviewed in 2012.

 

Different vineyards set up sampling tables

 

All of the vintners we visited began their pour of samples with the 2012 year, where heavy rainfalls in October proved that those vineyards that “…had picked (their grapes) early had made the right decision.  If any year illustrates the argument that good wine is made in good vineyards by good vignerons, it is 2012,” according to the Association’s program notes.

 

2010 wines were described as being excellent options for aging twenty or thirty years

 

How interesting to find so much variety in the 2012 samples from one vineyard to the next, some with the same proprietors, and located less than a kilometer apart in some instances.  This was “terroir” on display.

 

Thibaut Decoste, proprietor of both Couvent Des Jacobins and Chateau La Commanderie chided us in a congenial and good natured manner as we chatted about which of his samples were best that you cannot really choose, saying "...it's like comparing your children.."

 

2010 though was deemed by most of the Saint-Emilion vintners whose samples we tasted to be one of the best years for wine production EVER.  From all accounts of those we spoke to, 2010 was a year of excellent weather for winemaking. 

 

Marie Pourquet of Chateau Grand-Pontet smiled as someone came up and compared her 2010 vintage as the strong male and the 2012 as the female

 

It was nothing short of astonishing to taste the difference between the 2010 and 2012 bottles from the very same vineyards.  It is no wonder that the 2010 bottles were reported to cost an average of 30% more, although without doubt the 2012 bottles we sampled would all be considered high quality options for fine dining pairing.

 

Jean-Francois Quenin of Chateau de Pressar bought his vineyard in 1997 after a successful career selling appliances. He regaled us with an account of the history of the region, the introduction of Malbec there, and more

 

These vintners do not sell directly to the US or Chicago market but rather go through distributors, including ending up in discount wine centers like Binnys

 

Jean-Myrtil Laurent, Director and General Manager of Chateau La Dominique, commented that their vineyard's signature is "the purity of the fruit". Last year their vineyard welcomed fore than 40,000 visitors who came to sample the wine and food they now serve in their Brasserie, which was designed by famed French architect Jean Nouvelle

 

Many of the Saint-Emilion vineyards are set up for visitors, including during the grape harvest season.  Saint-Emilion itself is a renowned medieval village that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

 

Within a very short time the hall filled

 

For more information visit the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion website.

 

 

 

 

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