Waiting for Bordeaux: Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux in Miami

Wine is a waiting game. From bud break in the vineyard to barrel and bottle aging, the journey to your wine glass has just begun. When it comes to Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux wines, even once you bring your prize home, it’s often best to wait months and sometimes years before you drink it. These wines can challenge our patience and our pocketbook. However, wine aficionados say that it’s well worth the wait.

And also worth waiting for was the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux tasting event that finally made it to Miami’s Design District in June after a six-month COVID delay. Industry professionals and members of the media had a chance to taste an extensive and exceptional selection of wines from the 2019 vintage, representing about 100 of the 130 Chateaux in the Union.

Xavier Veilhan Le Corbusier sculpture Miami Design District
Le Corbusier by Xavier Veilhan in the Miami Design District © Lisa Morales

Research and often proper training are about the only ways to fully understand Bordeaux wines. Most importantly, it requires tasting and comparing as many quality wines as possible. For this reason, I was delighted to receive the invitation to attend and taste Grands Crus—”the best of the best” from the 2019 vintage!

Pursuit of Knowledge

The pursuit of Bordeaux knowledge may seem like a labyrinth of facts, but I guarantee that this pursuit of knowledge will satisfy anyone who is an explorer nerd like me. I found that understanding the terroir (soil, topography, climate, and natural environment aspects of where the wine is produced) is a great place to begin.

Below are some area facts that you should know, followed by a list of wines I tried at the event. I’ve focused on the soil types since they are key to understanding the variances of wine produced with the same grape varieties. In fact, wines from neighboring vineyards can be dramatically different. It’s fascinating!


The name Bordeaux originates from “au bord de l’eau” or “along the water.” The Gironde estuary divides Bordeaux into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The Left is directly south of the Garonne river and the Right is north of the Dordogne river. Generally, the Left Bank wines are dominantly made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Right Bank, Merlot. Wines from both sides are usually blends.

Maritime Climate

The Atlantic Ocean is east of Bordeaux and thus, the area has a maritime climate. Its location at the 45th parallel, between the middle of the equator and north pole, is the ideal position for wine growing.


Sand Dune Bordeaux France Pyla
The Dune of Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe and is 65 km from Bordeaux.© Wikimedia Commons

Landes Forest located southwest of Bordeaux is the largest man-made forest in Europe. The decision to drain the marshes in the 1800s and plant the forest made the land suitable for farming and timber production. The forest also blocked salty air from damaging grapevines and cold Atlantic breezes, keeping the area consistently warm.


The Dune of Pilat or Pyla is the tallest sand dune in Europe and is 65 km from Bordeaux. Like the forests, it can buffer cold and salty air from the Atlantic. However, movement inland due to climate change can also pose a threat to inlands.

Bordeaux in the Glass

Bordeaux wine region map
Bordeaux wine region map. © Union des Grands Crus de Boardeaux

Here are some of the wines I tasted at the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux. All wines are from the 2019 vintage. Most wines that I tasted were under $75 — a reasonable price for Grand Crus.

The Left Bank (from north to south)


Saint-Estephe is located near the center of the Medoc and very close to the Gironde estuary. The area is scattered with quartz, pebbles, sandy soil, and some parts limestone. Its rugged terrain allows for excellent natural drainage.

Chateau Lafon-Rochet   
Fourth Growth: Grand Cru Classe in 1855
65 Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc
Chateau Phelan Segur red wine bottle wine glass
Chateau Phélan Ségur
58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 1.5% Cabernet Franc and 1.5 % Petit Verdot


Pauillac is just north of St. Estephe and St. Julien. There are two large areas. The northern part has higher elevations with deep gravel on top of the sand, marl (mixture of clay and silt), and limestone. At the southern tip, there is a greater concentration of larger, gravel rocks and stones with more clay beneath.

french wine bottle wine glass

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
71% Cabernet Sauvignon; 23% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc


Margaux is 15 miles (25 km north) of the city of Bordeaux and in the Haut-Médoc (left bank). Château Margaux is eponymous with the appellation. In the late 18th century, other vineyards became aware of the value of their land and soon introduced production and aging methods that led to the rise of these Grands Crus. The soil is made up of large deposits of gravel, limestone with pebbles, rocks, white gravel, and a minor amount of clay. The terroir can vary from chateau to chateau because of its size.

Chateau Dauzac Margaux French red wine

Chateau Dauzac
Fifth Growth: Grand Cru Classe in 1855
73% Cabernet Sauvignon; 27% Merlot

Chateau d’Angludet
45% Cabernet Sauvignon; 43% Merlot; 12% Petit Verdot

2019 Chateau Cantenac Brown
68% Cabernet Sauvignon; 32% Merlot


Haut-Médoc accounts for two-thirds (about 60 km) of the Médoc. The area is defined by layers of gravel determinately from the Garonne, and hilltops made up of pebbles and gravel cemented by clay-rich sands. This prime position ensures that the vines get better sunlight, and the soils drain well.

2019 Chateau Belgrave Dourthe
62% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 3% Petit Verdot

French red wine at wine trade tasting
Chateau La Lagune 2019
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot


Some of the best sweet wines in the world come from Sauternes. The soil is a combination of gravel and pebble on limestone with clay veins. To further understand these wines, it is imperative to understand the area’s weather, Botrytis cinerea (Noble Rot), and how the grapes are harvested.

Sauternes wine bottle
Chateau Sigalas Rabaud
First Growth. Premier Cru Classe in 1855
95% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc

Chateau La Tour Blanche
First Growth. Premier Cru Classe in 1855
95% Sémillon, 9.5% Sauvignon Blanc, 0.5% Muscadelle

The Right Bank


Pomerol is located on the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela (Camino de Santiago). The terroir is a gravelly and sandy rock surface mixed with iron oxides called “crasse de fer.”

2019 Chateau La Pointe
76% Merlot; 24% Cabernet Franc

Pomerol red wine

2019 Chateau Beauregard
70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc

Note: Pomerol does not have an official classification system nor is it part of Bordeaux’s classification systems. However, don’t let this fool you! The area produces some of the most sought-after right bank wines, including the iconic (and house with the most expensive wine in the world) Château Pétrus. The blue clay soil of Petrus is at least 40 million years old. It is so dense that the roots cannot penetrate deeper than 24”–31” (60 to 80 cm) and grow sideways. Generally, the area can be divided into three parts: the plateau, the slopes alongside the plateau, and the flat parcels following the slopes. The plateau’s soil is made up of different types of clay, gravel, and iron deposits.

The representative of Chateau Beauregard told me, “If it’s not Pomerol, it’s not wine.” Although this was a bold statement when presented with so many outstanding wines, I have to say this wine was one of my favorites.


Saint-Émilion is built in a half-circle on hills opposite the Dordogne. Vines are grown in gravelly soils, slopes, and a limestone plateau.

wine industry walk around tasting wine bottle

2019 Chateau Clos Fourtet
First Growth B. Premier Grand Cru Classe B
90% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; 3% Cabernet Franc

Chateau Pavie-Macquin
First Growth B. Premier Grand Cru Classe B
78% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon

I hope you to the find the path to Bordeaux enlightenment a satiable one. To know more about the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux, visit its website: www.ugcb.net/en/home.

Lisa Morales

Based in South Florida, Lisa Morales is a marketing and publication relations director by day and by night: writer and editor-in-chief for Live in Italy Magazine. She holds an Honors B.A. in Cinema Studies and English Literature from the University of Toronto, and a certificate in Business Administration and Radio and Television Arts, from Ryerson University. Lisa is WSET 2 certified with distinction, loves to cook, and take photos. Follow @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape.