Perhaps there was some variability in quality, largely due to the cool Fall and late rains, but I think it is fair to say that 2015 is going to be a very good to great vintage in Bordeaux. Very good, indeed. I found many of the wines to show a lot of freshness and finesse, and most with an air of accessibility, yet also with great potential to age.
Many winemakers try to compare the wine to other vintages–texture and fruit of 2009, focus, freshness, and finesse of 2010, underrated like 2011, quality of 2005, etc.- while many others claimed 2015 to be their best wines ever. I definitely saw variations among appellations (check out the alcohol levels in Pessac!!) and within appellations, which drove home the fact that terroir really does reign supreme in Bordeaux. This huge area of vineyard experiences a wide range of aspect, altitude, soil, and microclimate, and combined with differing wine making techniques, yields, and planting densities, etc., means despite similar cepage there really was a pretty broad dearth of styles in Bordeaux today. My favorites were the more elegant ethereal wines like Cos d’Estournel, Latour, and Lafite, but there certainly were some blockbusters with density and power like Palmer and Montrose.
The overall feel was that this is a year for Merlot which means strong showings in the Right Bank and also Pessac Leognan. I also found Margaux to be very consistent and personally I loved the wines of Pauillac. No matter the style you prefer, modern and flashy, or more restrained and classic, you will be able to find it in 2015.
WHAT THE CRITICS THINK
James Suckling was a huge fan of the 2015 vintage and awarded no less than 8 perfect scores. He is particularly partial to the wines of the Right Bank, Margaux, and Pessac Leognan, with top nods going to Canon, Lafleur, La Mission Haut-Brion, Margaux, Pétrus, Trotanoy, Pavie and Ausone.
Steven Spurrier calls it a modern vintage with plenty of fruit and none of the austerity we used to see 10+ years ago, where John Stimpfig of Decanter calls it far from homogenous (which is a word we kept hearing in Saint Emilion). James Lawther MW, also of Decanter, thinks 2015 is an excellent vintage although hard to compare this early with the spectacular 2005, 2009, and 2010 vintages.
I tasted over 200 wines during the 4 days of En Primeur, and despite it being my first taste of barrel samples, was very impressed with the overall accessibility and charm of the vintage. The Second wines all showed a lot of promise which is a great indication of a strong year, indeed.
The whites showed promise as well with tons of intensity and acidity across appellations. Some standouts include La Mission Haut Brion Blanc, Pavillon Blanc, Cos d’Estournel Blanc, Chateau Pape Clement Blanc, Chateau Malartic Lagraviere Blanc, Aile d’Argent, Cos d’Estournel blanc, and an extra shout to d’Yquem which was absolutely ravishing.
One thing that I found surprising was that the Bordelais taste reds before whites. The idea is not to strip your palate with the acidity of the whites, but I also suspect it has a little something with cleaning your teeth from the purple remnants of rouge. 5 pm Bordeaux is not a pretty place during EP week.
I was also surprised to find that the barrel samples were all taken either the morning of the tasting or the day before in the case of the larger UGC tastings. For some reason I thought they would all be pulled beforehand, but by and large they are pulled on demand.
Whether a symptom of the vintage or just my inexperience, but I was also surprised at how great the wines were now. There were plenty that were prime for enjoyment right now, especially among the second and third wines. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out when the bottles are released, but I am hopeful for a vintage that has a long window of enjoyment starting pretty immediately.
We still have another 2 years before the wines are released, but if I had to pick winners for reds I would highlight the following:
Chateau Haut Brion
La Mission Haut Brion
Chateau de Fonbel
Chateau Joanin Becot
Vieux Chateau Certan
Chateau Rauzan Segla
Chateau Prieure Lichine
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou
Amiral de Beychevelle
Chateau Gruaud Larose
Chateau Leoville Poyferre
Chateau St Pierre
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
Chateau Haut Batailley
Chateau Pichon Longueville
Chateau Cos Labory
Chateau Lynch Bages
Carruades de Lafite
Chateau Pontet Canet
Chateau Cos d’Estournel
Chateau Calon Segur
La Petite Leoville Las Cases
Chateau Leoville Las Cases
And incredibly (and more likely to the deft planning of our escorts and favorite negociants) we were lucky enough to begin and end each day on our absolute favorites of the day. 10 am and 5 pm found us giddy with excitement with some of the best of Bordeaux’s offerings.
Please read on tomorrow for a chronological account of my EP 2016 experience.