Every April hundreds of journalists, wine experts and wine merchants descend upon Bordeaux for En Primeur. It’s the event where the wine world gets their first taste of the most recent vintage, straight out of the barrel. While it’s a fascinating couple of days tasting wine until your teeth and fingers are quite literally stained purple, it’s never been one open to the public. Le Week-end des Grands Crus, put on by the Union of Grands Crus Bordeaux, is the general public’s opportunity for exclusive tastings of grands crus, visits to châteaux and the opportunity to dine in a château.
It’s not often that wine lovers have the opportunity to taste such a large number of Bordeaux wines from more than 100 châteaux and across many of the appellations all under one roof. Le Week-end des Grands Crus brings together châteaux owners and oneologists from all across the Bordeaux wine region.
Located on the quayside, the tasting event takes place in Hangar 14. Fittingly, France’s premier wine museum, La Cité du Vin, is just a short walk or tram ride away. Visitors have the opportunity to taste two different vintages from all of the participating châteaux just as wine professionals do during En Primeur.
You receive a glass and tasting notebook as you enter. The châteaux are grouped according to appellations, with the left bank appellations like Margaux, Paulliac and Saint-Estèphe lining the left side of the hangar and right bank appellations Saint-Émilion and Pomerol lining the right. A Bordeaux tasting wouldn’t be complete without Saunternes, the sweet wine produced in the region.
If you’ve ever looked at a Bordeaux wine label, a lot of information is presented. The year, appellation, château, level of classification and a wealth of other information and legal requirements are present. But one thing you won’t find on a Bordeaux wine label is the blend.
As a regular person not required to rate and write about Bordeaux wine, you might wonder why you should care what the blend is. Actually, when you taste so many Bordeaux wines in this type of setting, you can really determine your own preferences.
You’ll discover if you prefer the left or right bank wines, as the left bank uses mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and the right bank uses mainly Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with just a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Some years, like 2016 in which it was very hot, was a great year for some of the other grapes sometimes found in the blend like Petit Verdot. Even just 2% of Petit Verdot in the vintage will give it a spiciness in the finish, which is a quality I particularly enjoy.
You’ll also be able to discover particular vintages (the year the grapes were harvested) that you really enjoy. I always aim for trying the older vintages, because most Bordeaux wines simply need time to age. Anything younger than 2010 is really just too young to drink, even five years on in 2017.
The wine is the star, but there are other exhibitors and entertainment when you need a break from the seemingly endless tasting. I particularly enjoyed talking with a bookseller who was quite a collection of the comical dictionaries by French author Marc Lagrange.
And since this is France, these events always have a little pop-up café on site where you can purchase food. The café is set up on the terrace, and is worth a visit for the view over the Garonne River alone.
Le Week-end des Grands Crus Events
Aside from the all-day long tasting event right in the heart of Bordeaux, Le Week-end des Grands Crus organizes a dinner at a château, visits and tastings at various châteaux on Sunday and this year there was even a golf event and visit of La Cité du Vin with a lunch cruise.
We only had time to attend the tasting, but look forward to attending the full weekend next year. It’s truly a great event and unique opportunity to taste like the professionals. Just don’t forget to put a toothbrush in your purse or pocket, because after 20 wines your teeth will be purple.
Know Before You Go
We were guests of Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.