In April, a distinguished selection of Saigon’s wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs gathered at the Park Hyatt Saigon for the celebrated Grand Conseil de Vin de Bordeaux En Primeur wine tasting, the first time the prestigious event has been held outside French territory in over 60 years.
In April this year, a group of wine professionals, enthusiasts and connoisseurs gathered at The Park Hyatt Saigon. They met for an unusual and distinguished wine tasting, hosted by The Commanderie de Bordeaux Saigon Chapter of the Grand Conseil de Vin de Bordeaux, established by Henri Martin in 1952. Worldwide, there are 90 such commanderies of this prestigious Grand Conseil of oenophiles, with the Saigon Chapter established in 2015.
Bordeaux grapes are considered among the finest in the world, and the region is home to the world’s most skilful winemakers and vineyard managers. Each vintage produced is steeped in heritage and prestige, and wines from Bordeaux are undoubtedly among the most expensive and sought after.
To sell their wines, leading estates (Chateaux) from Bordeaux use an archaic yet unique and highly profitable system known as ‘en primeur’, or ‘wine futures,’ which enables collectors and consumers to buy a wine before it is released to wider consumers. Similar to purchasing an apartment off-plan, this allows for a discounted presecuring of the wine, as well as the potential for significant profits to be made once the wine is released. As an example, grapes picked in Bordeaux in September 2020 are aged until April 2021. They are then sampled to gauge initial impressions and quality of the vintage, but not shipped to customers until the summer of 2023.
By understanding this system of how Bordeaux wines are sold, we can recognise the exceptional nature of the Park Hyatt event. In normal years, wine journalists, connoisseurs and serious buyers would gather in Bordeaux in April for the initial tastings of wines from the current vintage. However, in a COVID world with significant travel restrictions, Bordeaux Chateaux have sent samples of the fresh 2020 vintage wines to key export markets for tasting. This is the first time in over 60 years the annual En Primeur tasting has been conducted outside of French territory.
Those fortunate enough to be invited to this distinguished event included representatives from some of Vietnam’s biggest wine importers, such as Warehouse, Celliers d’Asie and Viva House of Wine, alongside wine professionals like Catherine Guo and Jean-Bernard Baudron. Guests also included bon vivant Jonathan Dinh, Dutch entrepreneur Timen Swijtink, founder of Vietnamese coffee company Lacaph, and The Park Hyatt Saigon’s General Manager Frederic Boulin.
Mr. Maxime Dubois, a celebrated and certified sommelier from the Red Apron Wine & Spirit Company eloquently updated guests with an engaging presentation about the latest developments from Bordeaux and provided a unique perspective as to the quality of the 2020 vintage. In conjunction with Alain Cany, Maxime then led guests through a rigorous tasting of up to 30 different wines, supported by some of Vietnam’s most talented young sommeliers including Ms. Tran Thi Dung Tram.
Feedback from the event was unanimously positive with Alain Cany declaring Bordeaux 2020 to be a “fantastic and a very promising vintage”. Jean-Bernard Baudron talked about a “solar vintage, positively marked by the climate” showing impressive potential”. Jonathan Dinh commented on a “great-tasting and I’m so happy it happened in Vietnam” while Timen Swijtink shared how “the live tasting with Chateau Lascombes was fun; it felt a bit like I had a brief moment back, visiting Bordeaux again”.
Guests were obviously spoilt for choice, and trying to pick out some favourite wines from such an esteemed lineup was always going to be challenging. Eva Gottesman from Viva House of Wines picked out a top three of Chateau Croix de Labrie, Chateau Beychevelle and the sweet Chateau Doisy Daene as her stars of the show. Overall, a magnificent vintage with plenty of wines to watch out for.