Last Monday was the annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting, this year featured the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux. Why is this one of my favorite tastings of the year? Other than the obvious world-class wine?

   It is because this is how I imagined wine tasting as a child: marble floors, marble columns, twinkling chandeliers, stereotypical overblown elegance. French men with unpronounceable names and French women with sharp, die cast looks, all pouring French wines with unpronounceable names. Tasters in button-up jackets swirling their wine glasses and proclaiming the virtues of the vintage. It's stuffy but fun, and it's intimidating being surrounded by people that surely have more insight, more illuminating things to say than I do.

   What about the wine?

   I started with the Left Bank, mostly because it was closest to the in door and not crowded when I arrived. There's some good stuff here, but the general theme is dry and tannic, weedy and closed. Still, 2008 shows better than the '07s we tried last year.

   My money is on the Right Bank, or it would be if I had any. These are characterized by more plush, weightier fruit that fills in the space and balances out the still present tannins. Favorites include the serious Angelus and the promising Pavie Macquin.

   What really stands out in my mind, though, are the dry whites and the sweeter wines. Chateau Climens shows the most complexity, but all from Sauternes and Barsac that I tasted are delicious as usual. The dry whites are exciting: Carbonnieux's refreshing tropical and herbal notes, Smith Haut Lafitte's funk (in a good way) and grass, Pape Clement with its modern, streamlined, spicy wonder.

   So I was getting worked up about these white Bordeaux when a friend who has been in this industry a long time gave me some advice: "Enjoy it; you won't see it again." I guess he's right, but it is some consolation to know that the reds are pretty good too.